As I mentioned in my earlier review about my Nokia 928, the Windows Phone app store leaves a bit to be desired – no Robot Unicorn Attack? That said, I stumbled upon an app yesterday that completely blew my mind. It isn’t every day you find an app that can read foreign languages better than you can.
Enter the Bing Translator app. The general idea of this app is simple – it works to translate between different languages based on various input. The two forms I played around with were voice and camera.
When you launch the Translator app, you are presented with different options for input. The first one I tried was the camera input, which prompts the user to hold the camera up to a sign (presumably in a foreign language) and then overlays the screen with the translated text. The choices that you can translate to are varied, but the input options were a bit lacking, sticking with standard options like English, Spanish, French, and Chinese Simplified. I picked a sign on the train to translate from Chinese, and to my amazement, the screen quickly dimmed and showed me the text in English. I tried a few options, changing from English into French or Spanish, and the video translator was surprisingly accurate.
I’m the first to admit that my French leaves a bit to be desired, but I figured I’d give the voice translator a try, too. I was a little disappointed that the phone didn’t automatically speak back to me in my selected language, but it turns out it wouldn’t have made much of a difference – the voice to text translation was ridiculously off. Maybe my accent is just that bad. Instead of speaking the translation that the phone comes up with, it just displays the text on the screen in both the selected languages. This would still have been incredibly useful when I was in Thailand.
When I went back to the camera translator, I tried translating a couple of signs written in English to see how well they translated that – it seems like this app would be incredibly useful for foreigners coming to the US. I’d love to take it and test it out in another country sometime, to see how much it really helped – but it’s definitely an app that’s fun to play with. If you’ve got a Windows Phone, I definitely recommend downloading it to at least give it a try, especially if you like to travel or speak other languages!