Today, Google Glass got a big makeover. Once a standardized design that said little more than “Look at me—I’m tech savvy!” the frames now come in four new looks, each worthy of a spot in Warby Parker’s lineup. Along with the upgrade is a practical twist, too: the new models can be fitted with prescription lenses, making the frames (which cost $225) eligible for insurance reimbursement. It’s a huge move for the product, which is expected to hit mass market by the end of the year. And as Google gears for the big launch, Glass is kicking it up both with style and substance, introducing a slew of new apps—some perfectly suited for travelers.
Our favorite new Glass app (or Glassware, as they call it)? Word Lens (above). We’ve long loved the smartphone version of this translation app here at T+L, but having it on Glass elevates the experience. With no typing to slow you down, the app lets you simply look at words written in another language, only to change the very letters into their English translations before your eyes. Deciphering a menu in French? Poulet rotiwill be translated into "roast chicken" in seconds. Navigating the streets in Brazil? The language pairs are customizable, and span all the primary tongues of Europe and South America. Bonus: if the words in question have various meanings, Word Lens will toggle between possible translations so that you can find the one that makes the most sense in context. Pretty nifty.
All that said, the app is still a work in progress, and until it’s finessed further, glitches do occur. Some translations confuse the program (in one case, a sign asking me to offer my subway seat to the disabled was translated into jibber-jabber about rabbis). And the rotating definitions do require you to focus on what you’re seeing, making this an unsafe option for, say, translating signs as you’re driving. But the technology here is unparalleled—and sure to become indispensable.
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.