Net giant buys smartphone sign translator


Google has bought a startup whose software allows smartphone users to wave the device at road signs, menus and newspapers in a foreign language and get an immediate translation, Google said Friday.

The purchase of Quest Visual means the technology used in its Word Lens application will add to Google’s own work on automated translation, such as the online Google Translate service.

The companies did not release purchase terms.

The Word Lens software uses the image from a phone’s camera to read words in one language and translate them into another almost instantaneously, without the need for an Internet connection.

Versions have been tailored for smartphones powered by Apple or Android software as well as for Google Glass eyewear linked to the Internet.

Earlier in the week, Google put Glass kits, priced at $1,500 each, on general sale in the United States. Google says it will offer cheaper models together with designer frames.