Google released a new version of its Translate app on Wednesday, that promises to be far more powerful, with features that include rapid real-time translation and the ability to translate images like street signs.

While Mountain View points out that the new update is in a testing phase, Google is getting closer and closer to science fiction. The impressive, ambitious features have been teased in earlier versions, but the new app attempts to take them to a higher level.

Translate for Android has provided real-time translation for some time, but the process was undeniably slow. The new update brings the app closer to the speed of actual conversation.

“When talking with someone in an unfamiliar language, conversations can ... get ... realllllllly ... sloowwww,” notes Google Translate product lead Barak Turovsky in a blog post published early Wednesday morning. “While we’ve had real-time conversation mode on Android since 2013, our new update makes the conversation flow faster and more naturally.”

Google’s real-time translator feature attempts to mask the fact that the speakers are talking into a smartphone. A user taps a microphone icon and starts speaking, then taps the icon again. Google automatically determines what languages are being spoken and then provides close-to-instant translation without any more work from those conversing.

While Google’s app already had an image translator, the latest update is far more versatile and doesn’t require snapping a photo. By switching to camera mode, the new app instantly translates whatever is pointed at the camera, even without a data or wireless connection.

Currently, the quick image translation works only for a handful of languages – English, French and Russian, amongst others – but Google is working to expand the capabilities. 

According to Turovsky, the updated app will be rolling out in the next few days for devices running Android or iOS — the first time these advanced Google Translate capabilities will be available for the iPhone. 

Anadolu Agency