With our most recent update to Google Translate for Android, we’ve added an experimental new input feature: handwriting on your touchscreen.

Maybe you’d like to see if three 木 make a 森, but you don’t have a Japanese keyboard installed? Just use the handwriting icon

Our goal is to break down the language barrier, all the time, everywhere. By adding handwriting input directly into our Android app we hope to help you get translation done even more quickly and easily. Sometimes you don’t know how to say what you want translated, sometimes you can’t type it, and sometimes it’s easier just to write it. We think of handwriting on the touchscreen as another natural input that you may want to use to complement the keyboard, microphone, or camera.

This is still an experimental feature. It’s available in Chinese and Japanese, and you can enable it for English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish if you like. (We currently only support single-character input for Chinese and Japanese.) Just as with speech recognition and our translations themselves, our handwriting recognition happens in the cloud, allowing us to continually improve accuracy without requiring you to download new versions of the app.

Download Google Translate in Android Market — it’s available for tablets and mobile phones running Android 1.5 and up. Then, you can easily find out whether 自 really means ‘server rack with a Wi-Fi antenna’.

Posted by Daniel Keysers, Software Engineer