Google Goggles Could Add Optical Character Recognition and Real-Time Translation to Android Phones

Can the search giant make sense of foreign menus?

Just Like Mama Used To Make
Satan's Laundromat, via Flickr.com

The Google Goggles Android app can already copy business cards directly into the address book and provide augmented reality overlays for restaurants. But now, Google has unveiled a prototype of a real-time optical character recognition system, providing the menu translation we Chinese-food-obsessed gwailo have been craving.

Yesterday, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Google scientist Hartmut Neven debuted this new feature by translating a German menu. The system parses the text from photos of a menu, and then converts the German phrases into English using Google's translation engine.

So far, this service is only available for German-to-English. But as soon as it begins to incorporate logosyllabic alphabets, diners will never have to suffer through the confusing Engrish of mistranslated menus ever again.

For a fuller demonstration of this new advance, check out this video, where Neven displays and explains the system: