By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher for Forbes
Heading to a place where you don’t know the language? One of the handiest apps in any traveler’s toolbox is Google Translate, whose instant camera makes translating the world as easy as pointing your smartphone camera at foreign text on street signs, menus, shop flyers and more.
Google just upgraded the app by adding support for an additional 60 languages, including Arabic, Hindi, Malay, Thai and Vietnamese, which now brings the total number of supported languages to an impressive 88. (Here’s a full list.)
But it gets better. Let’s say you’re visiting a region with multiple languages and you’re not even sure which one you’re reading. нема проблема. That means “no problem” in Serbian. Just select “detect language,” point your camera at the words and get a translation in your native tongue.
The secret sauce that powers the app’s instant camera is Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology, a type of machine learning that models the sequence of words and produces translations that are more accurate and natural than previously possible. Google says NMT reduces errors by 55 to as much as 85 percent in certain language pairs.
There’s also a new look with three features on the bottom of the app. “Instant” translates foreign text when you point your camera at it. “Scan” lets you snap a photo and highlight the text to be translated with your finger. “Import” lets you translate text from photos already on your camera roll. Google has also managed to get rid of the flickering that often made translated text difficult to read.
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For many languages, Google Translate even works when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi or using cellular data, but translations are more accurate when your device is connected to the internet.
So whether you want to locate a pharmacy in Greece (φαρμακείο), find a restroom in Denmark (badeværelset) or take the road to the beach in Bali (pantai), just point your camera and let Google Translate guide your way.