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Google acquires Quest Visual, makers of Word Lens visual translation app

In a move aimed at bolstering Google’s translation service online, the company has acquired Word Lens app maker, a startup specializing in using smartphones to translate signs, billboards or other written words in real time.

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Quest Visual and the technology built into its Word Lens application will become part of a Google team devoted to developing translation features and services.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed and Google declined to make any comment on the record.

“With Word Lens, we’ve seen the beginnings of what’s possible when we harness the power of mobile devices to see the world in your language,” Quest said in a blog post.

“By joining Google, we can incorporate Quest Visual’s technology into Google Translate’s broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future.”

“As a thank you to everybody who supported us on our journey, we’ve made both the app and the language packs free to download for a limited time while we transition to Google,” it says in a post.

Word Lens uses smartphone video cameras to “read” words in one language and translate them into another almost instantly without need for network connections.

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

While Word Lens only functioned in translating the major Western languages, such as Spanish, English, French, German, Russian, Italian and Portuguese, Google Translate supports over 340 languages. Combining the technical skills of Quest Visual’s team could help Google better update their translation platform.

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