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Google’s Now on Tap is adding near-instant translation to Android

Google’s Now on Tap service is adding translation to its ever-growing list of options. After the latest update, Android users will be able to translate any screen of foreign text — in both apps and web pages, including pages with multiple languages — into their native language. While it can seemingly translate from any language that Google Translate supports, it’s only supported on Marshmallow phones whose default language is set to English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, or Russian.

Using Google Translate on a phone is nothing new. This spring, a new Android feature let users highlight text in a foreign language and get a pop-up option to translate it. But Now on Tap should ideally make the process near-automatic — as with other Now on Tap functions, it’s activated by holding down the phone’s home button. It eliminates the sometimes awkward process of moving the cursor around a section of text, and it translates entire pages, not just selections.

This latest Now on Tap update also adds a few other features. This includes support for scanning barcodes and QR codes with a phone’s camera — if you scan a product in a store, for example, Google will show you details and reviews for it. Again, this was already possible to do on a phone, but the process was often awkward or obscure. There’s also what Google calls a new “discovery mode,” which brings up “a stream of visual content related to what’s on your screen” instead of simply running a straight search — like a feed of NASA pictures and videos if you’re looking at an article about space. While Now on Tap doesn’t have the conversational skills of Apple’s Siri or Google’s unnamed assistant, it’s still clearly aiming to be something that can tell exactly what you want to do on your phone at a given moment — then do it for you with a button press.


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