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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:

Google Translate Blog

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