Last spring, tour and travel industry professionals throughout the world took notice when Waverly Labs in New York announced that it planned to have a real-time language interpretation device available in the second half of 2017. Since that time, updates from Waverly has been most about the start-up’s progress in raising funding and in advance sales of its device, called Pilot, which will use ear buds. The latest report indicates that more than 21,000 units had been sold at $249 per unit.
While the industry waits, however, Google has expanded the capacity of its visual translation service. The company recently announced a new translation feature that will make it easier for travelers who don’t speak the language to go on a trip to a Japanese-speaking destination.
Google Word Lens—a service available through Google Translate on Android and iOS devices—allows you to point your phone’s camera at text, and it’ll show the translation on the screen in real time.
According to Masakazu Seno, a software engineer for Google Translate, “The Google Translate app already lets you snap a photo of Japanese text and get a translation for it in English … but it’s a whole lot more convenient if you can just point your camera and instantly translate text on the go.”
It is interesting that, when Andrew Ochoa, founder of Waverly Labs, discussed Pilot last spring with Forbes magazine, he made specific reference to the Japan market, telling the publication, “We don’t want to make any promises or references that this is incredibly real-time or that we could give you an earpiece and drop you off in the middle of Tokyo. That is not what we’re trying to convey at all.”
The Google app already offers translation for hundreds of languages, and the most recent addition to the live translation, Japanese, also works offline, so users don’t need to have a Wi-Fi connection to use it. But they will need to download a file for each language they would like to translate. For any languages that aren’t included in the live functionality, users can still take a photo of the text in the app and highlight what they want translated.
The initial version of Waverly’s real-time spoken translation, when available, is supposed to be support some European languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian), with others to be added. So far, funding has not been a problem for Waverly, which reports that it has raise $4 million via Indiegogo, the San Francisco-based crowdfunding website.
For those wishing to find out more about Waverly Labs and its Pilot, visit www.waverlylabs.com.
Also, a good background piece on Waverly and the Pilot can be found at: