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Google Goggles 1.1 translates words from foreign before your very eyes

Point Goggles 1.1 at a sign, menu or toilet door and everything becomes clear, as it translates everything you see into your native tongue. We've tried it out

Visiting a foreign country can be like linguistic Russian roulette: every menu, every signpost, every toilet door becomes a brain-mashing challenge. But, if you have a phone running Google's Android operating system, help is at hand: Google Goggles 1.1 has added the option to translate words written in foreign, right before your very eyes.

Goggles works by taking a photograph, and then working out what you've snapped and searching the Web for more information. If it's a landmark or other object, it searches the Web for more information on that object. If it's a sign, a menu or something else containing text, it will use optical character recognition to work out what the text says. The new version, announced in a post on the Google Mobile blog, now takes foreign text and instantly translates it for you, right there on your phone.

Goggles reads English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, and translates into assorted other languages. Non-Latin languages like Chinese, Hindi and Arabic are also on the way.

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We tested out the translate feature on our Google Nexus One. It's hit and miss in these early days. Handwriting -- even in large capitals -- foxed the text recognition. Screen flicker means translating from a screen is patchy, but Goggles got most of the words in our test. A train-departure screen may be doable.

Printed words worked perfectly, however. Goggles struggled with fancier fonts, but, if you make sure the phone is parallel to the text, you should be okay.

Even if this is a work in progress, it's still incredible. As if Goggles wasn't gobsmackingly clever enough in the first place, the translation capability proves that we really are living in the future.

Other features in Goggles 1.1 include improved bar-code recognition, a larger body of searchable artwork, recognition of more products and logos, and the ability to Goggle images in your phone's photo gallery. To get the latest version of Goggles, point your Android phone's bar-code scanner at the QR code above, or download the app from the Android Market.