According to a recent article on CNN, of the 308 million-plus citizens in the United States, only 30 percent have passports! While this number has practically doubled in recent years, 30 percent is still low compared to Canada’s 60 percent and the United Kingdom’s 75 percent. So, why are Americans seemingly less inclined to travel abroad?
One of the biggest reasons for this phenomenon is the language barriers Americans face when traveling to countries like Spain, France, Italy or Germany where everything from street signs to restaurant menus is utterly foreign. The prospect of being somewhere totally unfamiliar with no way to communicate or get around can be downright terrifying for Americans. Paper dictionaries and electronic translators are too slow and clumsy for our fast-paced American culture – there’s got to be an easier way!
Enter Word Lens, an instant translator app for your smartphone that brings understanding foreign languages straight to your fingertips. Simply by pointing your smartphone’s camera at the text you wish to be translated, Word Lens uses a series of complex computer algorithms to produce its presto change-o effect. According to a recent BusinessWeek article, “the app employs optical character recognition, a technology commonly used in document scanners, to pick out letters from whatever the phone’s camera is pointed at. It then matches words and phrases to a database of translations that [the creator] assembled by comparing transcripts from sessions of the European Parliament, which are available in multiple languages.”
Currently Word Lens is only available on the iPhone in Spanish and costs $10 per language, with French due to be coming out soon, but for those traveling abroad in the near future with fears of language barriers, the investment seems well worth it. Could Word Lens inspire more Americans to get a passport and travel abroad? What do you think; would you use an app like this?