There are plenty of applications and websites that can translate text to other languages, but if you're looking at a sign or something, you'll have to type it into a translation app. What if, instead, you could take a snapshot and have an app translate the text in the image? That's the idea behind Word Lens, and it seems to work.
The caveat is that for now, the app only works from Spanish-to-English and vice versa, and it is also an iOS only app.
It took 2 1/2 years for founders Otavio Good and John DeWeese to develop the app, which is free. However, each language pack is $4.99 (as an in-app buy), and that means to have it work both ways it would cost $9.98.
Using OCR, the app translates the text and draws them back, in the image, on the screen. Here's how Good described it:
“It tries to find out what the letters are and then looks in the dictionary. Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation. The translation isn’t perfect, but it gets the point across.”
For some translation, like "restrooms," that would be good enough.
Naturally, Good is looking toward other languages. Hopefully the algorithm can be translated to Android easily. In the 2 1/2 years that they have been working on this app, Android has overtaken the iPhone globally.