The Google Translate app for Android now has the ability to translate text found in the real world instead of only text entered in by the user. This can be accomplished by taking a photo of the take you want translated and then highlighting the text you want translated with a swipe of your finger.
Only Android users have access to this new feature (for now). It works with most of the languages that are supported by Google Translate. The app doesn’t have the ability to automatically detect what language is captured in an image, so the user needs to know the language they’re looking at, but the feature otherwise works on any high-contrast text. Stylized or low-contrast text might trip it up.
Users also need to fit the entirely of the text into a single image, so the feature will only work on small samples that can be easily photographed in one shot.
Despite these limitations, this new feature is a major leap forward. Typing in a phrase from a foreign language can take some time and is subject to typos. Taking a photograph is quicker and more accurate.
You can try the feature out yourself by downloading or updating the Google Translate app. You will need Android 2.3 or newer to use the latest version.