Google recently unveiled a smart-phone app that can translate German text into English just by scanning it. And even though we're a long way from Hitchhiker-like Babelfish, the universal translator of Star Trek lore is closer than you think.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google revealed a German-to-English text translator that utilizes Google Translate and character recognition programming. Even though Google did not specify a release date for the text translator, the company is broadening their research in both voice and text translator. According to Franz Och of Google Research:

"If you look at improvements on machine translations, speech recognition and optical character recognition, I'm very optimistic in the near term future those will work well enough that people will find them useful on a mobile phone but not limited to a phone."

Although the military has been using one-way translation devices over the last decade, a two-way consumer translator has yet to be realized. Och estimates that voice translation technology is only mere years away.

[via The San Francisco Chronicle]