Is Google Glass a threat to translators?

June 3, 2014
Is Google Glass a threat to translators?

The possibilities of Google Glass are still being explored, but one of the most exciting developments thus far has been the discussion of the smart-glasses’ translation capabilities.

For those visiting a foreign country on holiday, living overseas or simply needing to check the label on an imported food product in their local supermarket, the translation capabilities of Google Glass open up some exciting possibilities. 

The death of the travel guide?

With functionality that can provide maps, hotel and restaurant reviews and train timetables across the world via the internet, one might imagine that the invention of Google Glass has sounded the death knell for the traditional travel guide. 

Now, even those handy pages at the back of the average travel guide can be dealt with via Google Glass. In much the same way that smartphone users can point an app at a piece of text in a foreign language and receive an instant translation, Google Glass will enable users to look at a block of text, verbally request a translation and then read the text on the display in their own language. 

Although holidaymakers need never be confused about what they have ordered from a restaurant menu again, they could still be stuck for words when looking to express themselves overseas – although it is rumoured that Google Glass will have a way to assist with the translation of spoken words as well!

Changing the way we search

Google users are currently limited to searching on a single country’s site, such as or With the translation capabilities of Google Glass, it should be possible for the device to search all Google sites at once, translating the search phrase into multiple languages and then producing the best results, regardless of which country they come from. 

As well as providing a handy means for those who speak multiple languages to search the various Google sites all at once, the change will have all manner of implications for companies with a web presence, as essentially they will suddenly need to compete for attention globally rather than just on their home country’s Google.

Professional uses for Google Glass 

From a professional translator’s point of view, Google Glass has a long way to go before it replaces the traditional method of learning and using two languages. Though computerised translation tools are becoming ever more sophisticated, they are still far from being able to incorporate the linguistic curiosities that make text flow naturally and freely. 

At best, machine translations provide a starting point that requires a great deal of refinement before it achieves the flawless quality of copy that has been translated by a human. Given that Google Glass will be working with existing computerised translation tools and apps as its base, the smart-glasses’ use on a professional level is likely to still be years in the future – if, indeed, such sophisticated linguistic translation technology is ever developed. 


While Google Glass’s capabilities are still being developed, it is safe to conclude – at least based on our present knowledge of the technology’s capabilities and limitations – that professional translators don’t need to worry about being put out of business by Google Glass any time soon. 

Google Glass provides a convenient and fast way of translating snippets of text, in much the same way that many smartphone apps already do, and is tipped to revolutionise the way we search for information online, but despite these handy and interesting features, the professional translation community can rest easy in the knowledge that sometimes the old ways are the best ways. 

Have you trialled Google Glass’s translation capabilities? What did you think? Share your comments with us via the box. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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