Google Goggles is a nifty little app that attempts to help you identify products by pointing the camera of your Android phone at them and snapping a picture. At least that’s what it’s supposed to do. But let’s be honest, basically after snapping a few pictures of your cat to see if Goggles can detect her breed, you’ll probably figure out that there’s little you can do with Goggles that you couldn’t also with Google Shopper, an Android app that lets you scan barcodes to find the best prices for items online.

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But today Google rolled out a killer new feature for Goggles. Google has been working on allowing you to translate text in photos using Goggles for a few months, and today the feature is available to the public.

Here’s how it works: Just point your phone at a word or phrase, use the select tool to narrow the region, and snap a picture. If the app recognizes the text, it will give you an option to translate to your default language.

This could come in handy whether you’re trying to read a book that has a foreign word in it, trying to negotiate a menu at a French restaurant, or looking for a bus stop in a foreign country.

Unfortunately the Goggles translation feature is far from perfect. I often found I had to snap several pictures before the option to translate would come up. And if you’ve ever used Google Translate, you know that you’re going to have to put up with a fair bit of computer-translated gibberish. But that’s a small price to pay for not having to actually learn a new language just to get the gist of foreign language text.

Google Goggles 1.1 is available for phones running Google Android 1.6 and newer. It’s available as a free download from the Android Market, or you can scan the barcode to the right to get started.

You can check out a short video of Google Goggles’ new translate feature in action after the break.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...

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