Google Translate gets live translation of conversations and text

The new features lets Google Translate catch up with Skype, which released its live translation tool last month

Google can now translate conversations as you have them, in an update to take on Skype’s limited version of the same feature.

The update also makes the app able to instantly recognise text and translate it into a range of languages.

To use the app to translate conversations, one person just taps the microphone and starts speaking. They tap it again to show they’ve stopped – then the phone recognises the language and translates it.

Once the app has recognised which two languages people are speaking, it doesn’t need to be touched – “it’ll be ready as you need it”, wrote Barak Turovky, product lead on Google Translate.

Skype unveiled a similar feature last month, but it only allows for translation between Spanish and English, has received mixed reviews and is only in limited release.

The Google Translate app – using Word Lens technology recently acquired by Google – already allows users to take a picture of text and have it translated into 36 languages.

But Google has improved the app so that it will offer live translation, by just pointing the camera at the screen. It can even do the translation without a data connection.

The instant translation works for English to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Google is working to roll it out to even more languages. 

The updates for Android and iOS will be rolling out in the next few days. That will let it beat Skype in many ways – since that only allows translation between Spanish and English and is only in limited release for the time being.

More than 500 million peope use Google Translate every month, the company said.

“Today’s updates take us one step closer to turning your phone into a universal translator and to a world where language is no longer a barrier to discovering information or connecting with each other,” said Turovsky.

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