(Credit: Rosetta Stone Inc.)

For many years, Rosetta Stone was the de facto language learning software, primarily found on Windows and Macs. But with the rise of free mobile language apps that crowd into its educational territory, the company has had to come with new and inventive ways to maintain its customer base and establish a presence beyond laptops and desktop PCs.

Today, VentureBeat spotted a new announcement from Rosetta Stone about its iPhone and iPad app, and it wasn't just the usual bug fixes and performance improvements. With the latest update for the iOS version, you can now use your phone or tablet's camera in an augmented reality mode to get the translated names of nearby objects.

SEE: Best language apps for learning how to speak French in 2019

In this mode, the Rosetta Stone app can use artificial intelligence-powered image recognition to identify whatever item is in your vicinity, like a chair, desk, table or window. Then if it recognizes the object, it can provide its name in English, French, Latin American Spanish, Italian or German.

This new feature is called Seek & Speak, and it's currently in beta. The Rosetta Stone team adds, "We'll continue to add the feature to more languages throughout 2019."

As you might imagine, this feature is handy not only for learning a new language but also for filling word gaps when you're traveling in a foreign country where one of the aforementioned five languages are spoken. Instead of awkwardly asking around for an object's word in the native language, you can just fire up the app on your iPhone and find out yourself.

In that setting, Rosetta Stone could be a handy tool for travelers, as well as one for educators and language learners.

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Other updates coming to the Rosetta Stone app

While augmented reality and AI object recognition is very cool, it's not the only interesting update coming to the Rosetta Stone mobile app. In this announcement, the company also says that you can now long-press on a word during an immersive experience lesson, and you will get a definition for it in your language.

Like Seek & Speak, this new feature is enabled for English, French, Latin American Spanish, Italian and German, with more languages planned "throughout 2019." Additionally, the mobile app is getting offline support for its phrasebooks that contain over 160 common phrases, also covering the aforementioned five languages.

However, one new feature is coming to all 30 languages that Rosetta Stone teaches: Support for teaching accents. The company touts machine learning and an audio recording archive at the heart of this "TruAccent" feature, which it says is an improvement over the "simple pattern recognition" offered by its competitors.

Takeaways

  • Rosetta Stone announced that the iPhone and iPad version of its language learning app can now use augmented reality to identify objects that are viewed through the camera on your phone or tablet.
  • This feature can give you the native word for an object in English, French, Latin American Spanish, Italian or German, with more languages planned for 2019.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.