iPhone app "Word Lens" translates languages on-the-fly via camera

There are days when you come across something cool and you think, "Wow, we really are living in the future!" I got that feeling today because of a new iPhone app called Word Lens.

What the app allows you to do is point the iPhone's camera at text in a foreign language, and it will translate that text into your native language in real-time and transpose that information where the foreign text used to be. It's a bit hard to explain, so check out their promo video to see it in action:

Pretty neat, huh? What's even nicer is that the app itself is free, but you will have to pay for language packs via in-app purchase. Currently the app only has language packs for Spanish-to-English and vice versa (both of which are 50% off until Dec. 31st, 2010) but they are sure to include more in the future.

There are also some other fun built-in features if you don't feel like buying any language packs at all, such as the ability to take the text you're looking at and have it spelled backwards.

The developer (Quest Visual) gives a disclaimer in the app's description that this technology is not perfect and is meant to be used only on clearly-printed words instead of someone's personal handwriting. Still, this technology has huge implications for international communication and travel in the future. It could also be a very useful learning tool for you budding polyglots out there.