There's a fight brewing in translation-ville. In one corner, Google, which has done a great job of beating many established players with its fairly useful Web-based translation tools (apps, too). In the other corner, Microsoft, which feels that the market of people needing apps that can translate one language to another is far from saturated just yet.
The solution? Microsoft has officially released its new Microsoft Translator app for iOS and Android. The app works with smartphones, tablets, and Android Wear smartwatches—as well as the Apple Watch. It's pretty easy to use, too. Pull up the app on the device of your choosing and either type or talk the word or phrase that you need a translation for. Wait a moment, and boom. Instant translation.
"Wearables are a fascinating place to understand user experiences for translation. No other type of device allows people to interact with so little physical intrusion from the device itself— PC's, tablets, and even phones can be occasionally awkward and unnatural in the middle of a conversation. With these smart devices, we want to learn how people use the apps and how effective the translation experiences can be. By integrating translation capabilities into devices that are instantly on hand (pun intended), we hope to continue to break down the last barrier in human communication— language," reads a blog post from Microsoft.
The app can do a little bit more than just raw translation, too. If there are certain translations that you find yourself always needing—"I don't speak [language]," for example—you can pin then within the app itself for easy access. You can also pull up a history of words or phrases you've previously translated, in case you want to go back and do a bit of learning while you're killing some time on the train / bus / wherever. The app supports 50 or so languages in total, which is nearly double the amount currently supported by Google's Translate app. (Google's app also doesn't work on Android Wear, oddly enough; Microsoft's does.)
However, Google's app does have one impressive feature Microsoft's lacks: The ability to point your smartphone's camera at something (like a street sign) and receive an instant translation of whatever it is you're looking at.
"Our researchers are continuously looking at the most effective ways to bring down linguistic barriers by solving significant technical and interaction design challenges. Today, we have a number of ways in which Microsoft Translator is accessible to our users— on the web, as part of your search experience, through many experiences built by our developer community, via Office and more. Most recently we worked closely with our friends in Skype to deliver an entirely new interaction model for translation by enabling long distance real-time speech translation. Like we did with Skype Translator, we have been thinking about how wearable technology might affect language and translation experiences. The new wearable apps we are releasing today are part of this exploration," reads Microsoft's blog post.