Google buys Word Lens maker to boost Translate

The tech titan buys Quest Visual, which makes the Word Lens written-word translation app for Android, iOS, and Google Glass.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
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Word Lens translation
The user's view of the Google Glass Word Lens translation app. James Martin/CNET

Google has purchased Quest Visual and its well-received translation app Word Lens for an undisclosed sum, the company said Friday. The Quest Visual team will join Google Translate, according to a post on WordLens.com.

"By joining Google, we can incorporate Quest Visual's technology into Google Translate's broad language coverage and translation capabilities in the future," the statement said. "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."

Google and Quest Visual CEO Otavio Good declined to comment on the deal.

The Word Lens app for Android, iOS, and Google Glass translates printed words instantly. Point your device's camera at a street sign or menu, and Word Lens will replace the text in the image with a translation. Language packs had been sold as in-app purchases.

The app, which 9to5Mac.com noted had recently been featured in an iPhone ad, received a prominent demo last year when Quest Visual unveiled the Word Lens app for Google Glass at a press event where the Glass Development Kit was announced.

At the time, Good told CNET that Word Lens was working on introducing new features to the app that included reading technology to assist the visually impaired. The app's main translation function alone is enough to see why Google would be interested in integrating the technology into Google Translate, but it's not hard to imagine how a reading option would make it even more appealing.