Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt swaggered onto the Mobile World Congress stage tonight, and with good reason. He was about to demo new speech translation tools, and new technology to let Google phones read written words with their cameras, and translate them in seconds.

The new tech, dubbed Google Goggles Translation, uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology to turn photos of text into a Google search. It’s then a few short seconds before the search giant has translated it.

Schmidt used his demo to show Google Goggles Translation turning a German menu into English. If it can do the same at our Cantonese curry house, we’re sold.

Google Goggles Translation hasn’t yet rolled out to the public, but it looks almost ready for mainstream use. Schmidt also showed Google’s existing voice search working just dandy with German voices. Again, when it can translate cockney, Google should give us a call.

Most interesting was a quip from Schmidt while explaining the power of Google’s servers. “I’ve got Google translate, which can translate 100 languages to 100 languages,” he said. “So why can’t I just speak on the phone to someone who doesn’t speak my language? Well, we’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming. Soon.”

Sounds great. The potential for transcontinental prank calls just went through the roof.

TBC | £free | Google

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