The Google Translate app can be a godsend for travelers and language learners. And it just got even better.
In January, the mobile app debuted a feature that let you instantly translate printed text by simply aiming your smartphone camera at the words. The original version supported seven languages, and now the feature is adding support for 20 more.
Let's say you're traveling abroad in a country where you don't read or speak the native tongue. If you come across a road sign, just hold your smartphone up so that the image of the sign appears on the display, and let the Google Translate app show you what the words mean in the language of your choice.
The feature is now offering support for Bulgarian, Chinese and Ukrainian, among others, and will be available on Android and iOS devices over the next few days.
The function doesn't need WiFi or data to work. It'll translate stuff offline via your smartphone camera if you download Google's 2-megabyte language pack for each language you want to use.
There's also an option that lets you snap a photo of text and translate it from 37 languages, but you need a WiFi or data connection to do so. Here's what that looks like on the iOS version of the app:
We took a photo of a piece of paper with Chinese text on it, and asked the Google Translate app to show us what a small selection said in English.
The update also features an improved voice conversation mode, which enables faster and more natural-sounding, real-time conversation translations -- even on slower networks.
Otavio Good, a software engineer at Google Translate, told The Next Web that the team is working toward documenting more "difficult" languages, such as Arabic.