In brief: Google has updated its Translate app with more AI smarts, a less jumpy live camera translation, as well as a more intuitive UI. The highlights of the revamp are the addition of many new language pairs and the ability to detect languages during live translation.
When Google demoed its latest iteration of Google Lens at Google I/O earlier this year, it highlighted its ability to recognize food in restaurant menus and even pull recommendations and reviews from the web. The more interesting improvement, however, was in the live translation department with text auto-detect.
The company is now bringing that same functionality to the Translate app along with a simplified UI and more languages. Google says the update should go live for one percent of users, but everyone will have it in the coming weeks. The interface now has a bottom bar with three modes: Instant, Scan and Import.
If you selected 'Detect language' as the source language, Instant allows you to point your camera at text and have the app recognize the language and translate. This should prove particularly useful if you travel to places where multiple languages are commonly used and have difficulty with restaurant menus and road signs.
Scan mode will allow you to take a picture and manually highlight text, but you can also use Import to do the same with pictures you've taken with other apps.
There's also support for 60 new languages, including Hindi, Arabic, Thai, Vietnamese, Malay, Slovenian, Welsh, Samoan, Latvian and Estonian – to name a few from the full updated list of 88 languages.
Google says this upgrade has its Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology baked in it, so the quality of the instant camera translations should be significantly better than before. The new translation models were able to reduce errors by up to 85% in some cases, and there are more offline translation packs for situations when you won't have an internet connection - albeit without the added smarts that NMT can provide.
Along with the facelift, the new feature has received much-needed performance improvements. Where the app used to have a stuttering UI and flickering text during live camera translation, Google says it's more stable and responsive. Instant live camera translation is just one of the company's projects. Earlier this year Google revealed a speech-to-speech translation system that can carry your voice tone over to the result, but there's no word yet on when it might launch for the public.