You know the feeling. You're in a foreign country, but you haven't mastered the foreign language, and you just want a quick, easy way to translate signs and menus.
An iPhone app released to Apple's App store Thursday now has a solution.
Taking translation tools to a whole new level, Word Lens uses the iPhone's built in video camera to translate printed words in real-time.
Just pull up the application and look at the words you want to translate through the iPhone. Instantaneously, the words appear on the screen in the language you understand.
The application itself is free, but the in-app dictionaries cost $4.99 each. At the moment, the app offers only Spanish to English and English to Spanish. (It's compatible with the iPhone 3Gs, the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch with video camera.)
Even though the application has only been out for about 24 hours, it's already scoring rave reviews.
A Wired magazine reporter said it was "quite honestly, one of the most amazing things I have ever seen."
TechCrunch likened the application to "magic."
"This is what the future, literally, looks like," it said.
The app's founders, Otavio Good and John DeWeese, took two and a half years to build the app, which relies on Optircal Character Recognition technology, TechCrunch reported.
"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," Good told the popular tech blog.
If you're planning to head out of the country -- or just out of town -- for the holidays, a slew of smartphone and Web applications want to help make your travels as painless as possible. Check out seven of our favorite travel apps below.
Apps Help Travelers Survive the Holidays
After his own frustrations with airline baggage limits, frequent flier Luke Dudley decided to create a Web tool and iPhone application to help travelers avoid airline baggage fees.
Luggage Limits is a simple calculator that lets users type in their airline, departure airport and arrival airport to figure out how much checked and carry-on luggage they can bring for free, and compare costs for excess baggage across 175 airlines. It includes information for all ticket classes (not just economy), including frequent flier club members.
"Every time I'm at the airport, I see someone rummaging through their bags on the floor, trying to adjust the contents so they won't be over the weight limit. Frazzled travelers are a captive audience for airline baggage fees because there's not much else they can do at that point other than pay the fee," Dudley told AOL News. "You can't just leave your bags behind."
The Web-based calculator is free and the iPhone application is $2.99.
If you want to minimize your time talking to TSA agents at the airport, download the agency's free iPhone application and take a look before you get in the security line.
The application lets travelers look up the approximate wait times for the security lines at their airports, as well as see airport delays across the country.
It also includes a "Can I Bring?" search tab that helps fliers figure out what they may and may not bring on board.
Smartphone Application Manages Travel Itineraries, Shares Plans With Friends
For the traveler who needs some help staying organized, TripIt makes it easy to manage itineraries for several trips at once.
All you do is send the free service the confirmation e-mails from any of 1,000 travel companies (including airlines and hotels) and TripIt transforms the information into easy-to-navigate lists and tabs. It automatically includes necessary directions and relevant maps.
A recently-added feature synchs with Gmail so that travel messages sent across Gmail or a Google Apps account are automatically imported into TripIt.
TripIt also helps you share your travel information with friends and family in Facebook, LinkedIn or your TripIt network. You can opt for automatic sharing or scale back so that items are shared only when you want to go public with your plans.
The application can be accessed online and through free iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps.
For long layovers and flight delays, Gate Guru is a must-have application for the iPhone.
The free application provides information about all the businesses near your gate or in your concourse or terminal, along with user reviews, maps and pictures. It offers information for the top 86 airports in the U.S. and 12 in Canada.
Instead of walking aimlessly around the airport, hefty bags in tow, you can just pull up the app and find out the best places for a cup of coffee or a decent meal.
It may not be the cheapest app in Apple's app store, but for travelers prone to getting lost, it could be among the most valuable.
The navigation application provides updated maps, turn-by-turn directions and traffic information for the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Mexico and Brazil, depending on which package you purchase.
The U.S. application costs $49.99 and the company says it includes a million more miles of roads than applications offered by competitors.
Just hop in the car wherever you are, pull up the application and type in your destination. The application provides voice directions while still letting drivers take and place phone calls.
Keep Track of Flights With Smartphone App
You know the feeling: You're so excited finally to find a parking spot that, once you walk away, you completely forget to notice where you've left the car.
For 99 cents, Car Finder will help you remember where you parked.
Once you get out of the car, just take a picture of the location. The phone's GPS technology stores and maps the parking spot, so that if you forget, you can just pull up the application for directions to where you left it.
The app also lets you set a timer to help remember when the parking meter expires.
Flight Track Pro
If you want a simple, reliable way to keep track of flights on a multi-leg trip, check out Flight Track Pro.
At $9.99, it's among the more expensive iPhone apps (other flight tracking apps are priced around $5). But the application has been applauded by the New York Times, Forbes, TIME magazine and several application reviewing websites.
Just type in your flight information and Flight Track provides details about each leg -- arrival and departure times, terminals, gates, flight maps, altitude, weather, speed and more.
You can choose to have flight changes buzz through to warn you of gate changes and delays (even if you were in mid-podcast or phone call). And, with one tap, you can e-mail flight changes to anyone planning to meet you at the airport.
Flight Track also comes in a $4.99 version that does not include push notification, information about FAA delays and closures or terminal maps.
The app is available for the iPhone, Android phones and BlackBerry.