Cool Idea #10: Word Lens

The video says it all, but blogger Judith B. Herman’s says it all when she says your phone can translate signs. Word Lens is an augmented reality app that translates text within the view of a device’s camera. It does so without requiring phone/data reception, too, making it perfect for travelers.

As you can see in the video, the app is fast and the view is clear. And according to PC Mag, it works as shown in the clip except when translating long paragraphs or fast-moving text.

Word Lens is available for free, but translation packs are a premium feature. To see the app for the iPhone or iPod Touch, start here.


Idea #12: A voice-activated iPhone camera app

I don’t own an iPhone and I’ve decided to hold off on buying an iPod Touch until it includes a camera, but it seems to me that there’s an inherent problem with putting a camera in any device that thin and light. Because pushing the button (or tapping the screen) has much more of an effect on movement than it would on, say, a digital SLR, shots likely come out with some shaky blur. Unfortunately, the final photos are usually not pretty.

The Concept:
Beautify iPhone photos by creating an app that takes pictures just as the iPhone does, but without the shaky pictures. Except in cases that involve the subject moving too fast for the camera’s shutter, blurriness is usually caused by the natural jerky motion that people create when they press and release the button that takes the photo. Some of that motion is inevitable, but a large part of it comes from the specific act of pressing the button. Instead of doing things that way, build an app that listens for a distinct sound (such as a key word or a very loud noise such as a yell). That sound triggers the camera to shoot.

The Pros:

  • Because this idea is an app, there’s no extra equipment required. Just the iPhone (or another camera) and the app.
  • This has applications for moments that would usually require a tripod. For example, if a person needs to take multiple shots (say to create, an HDR image), he/she needs to keep his/her hands still, or else the pictures will be very hard to edit together due to “frame shift.” Using this method, though, no contact needs to be made with the device, so jittery hands are not an issue.
  • This opens up a whole new dimension of photography on the iPhone.
  • I’m just throwing this out there, but a sound-activated camera may also be useful for surveillance or animal watching. For example, a specific birdsong could act as a trigger.
    • The problem is that the sound may come from any source, whether it’s in the camera’s view or not. A bird chirping behind the device would trigger a shot without the actual bird.

The Cons:

  • There’s a photographer-camera coordination issue here, so this isn’t a great idea for self-portraits, unless there’s a self-timer. Without one, the photographer/subject will be in pictures that feature his or her mouth wide open.
  • This won’t do much to reduce blur in pictures of moving objects.

There are several tips concerning shaky photos written specifically for the iPhone. Check out one of the more comprehensive lists that I found at