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App-mazing

One of the best uses of smartphones is for so-called 'augmented reality' apps. Unlike virtual reality, which older readers will remember sought to replace the real world with an immersive alternative, augmented reality seeks to add to the real world with virtual information. In practice, that means you look at the world through your iPhone's camera and see additional information such as the direction to a destination, compass bearings, or labels of businesses and landmarks.

Or translate the world into Spanish. Yes, that's right. WordLens - a crazy new iPhone app released today - uses OCR technology to 'read' signs and displays of writing seen through the phone's camera. It translates those words into Spanish and then - here's the remarkable bit - replaces the text seamlessly with the translation. It's amazing, but hard to explain, so check out this video.

Um, wow, right? No word yet on whether it'll come to Android, or whether it'll be extended to do more than Spanish-English (and vice versa) translation. But still, as a glimpse at the terrifying power of future tech, it's pretty impressive. (And just think - when the iPad 2 and its camera come out, you'll be able to use it to read books in Spanish.)

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