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Word Lens

Cool new iPhone app

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Human language is so varied and complicated that a linguist can spend a lifetime studying just one. The older we get, the more difficult it is to learn to speak or read languages other than our native tongue. That inability to understand another language shouldn't prevent a person from traveling to a foreign country--especially not for iPhone owners visiting a Spanish- or English-speaking country.

Word Lens ($4.99 per language) by Quest Visual is a visual dictionary. It looks and works like a camera: Launch the app and then hold your phone up to any sign and see it translated on the screen. It's so immediate and smooth, it looks fake. We downloaded the free demo version, which doesn't translate text but reverses it, and it works.

It's not perfect. Stylized fonts and handwriting are difficult if not impossible for the app to recognize, and a frenetic series of words flip across the tiny screen like Sesame Street on fast forward. It only translates English to Spanish and Spanish to English. Granted, both languages are widely spoken across the planet but that leaves a lot of people out.

On questvisual.com, Quest Visual founders John DeWeese and Otavio Good left a statement that they will continue with European languages and "won't stop until we get all the way across the globe!"