This is the first in a series of articles about technology, culture, and the Deaf. If you have any good tips about new technology that is beneficial to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, please let me know.
Word Lens is a iPhone application that does one thing, and one thing well — it is an augmented reality application that uses the built-in iPhone camera to translate languages on the fly. It’s really simple to use; launch the application, hold up your iPhone and watch as your iPhone shows you translated text in a live video feed. The best way for you to understand Word Lens is to see it in action.
Imagine the possibilities. One of the biggest challenges travelling as a deaf person is understanding the language in one’s environment since communicating directly with hearing natives of various countries can be difficult. Word Lens makes it possible for you to be self-sufficient in a foreign environment, translating signs, posters, and instructions on the fly!
Empower yourselves to take charge of communication. For example, while I was in Taipei, Taiwan, I often ordered from the menus of various restaurants (which were in Chinese and no English) by pointing at items from random, or by miming various animals. If I had Word Lens, I would know the difference between Lamb Testicles (true story) and Lamb Shanks. I should be able to point to a menu with confidence in any country!
It also translates in the other direction. If you need to, you can write English clearly on a piece of paper and point your iPhone to the paper and show the translation to the cute guy (or gal) at the beach bar, or the caballero or señorita helping you tour the Alhambra. Currently Word Lens only supports English, Spanish, and French. So if your future plans include a jaunt to Paris or Madrid (or even sunny Cancún) then pull out Word Lens and translate away. ¡que bueno!