Google adds instant Japanese translation to Translate's iPhone camera-based Word Lens

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2017
Google Translate has received an update that adds support for Japanese to the iOS app's augmented reality Word Lens feature, one that allows users to see Japanese words and phrases replaced by English equivalents when viewed through an iPhone or iPad's camera.




The Word Lens function effectively allows for instant translations via the camera, with recognized text overlaid in the camera's live view by another selected by the user. The app is extremely useful for travelers needing quick translations of signs and menus, with translations all performed on the mobile device without requiring a data connection.

Google advises the app was previously capable of performing translations from Japanese to English via the camera, but only by taking a photograph and highlighting text areas that need to be translated. In today's update, this option is still available, but enables the live Word Lens function for the language.

The feature is meant for brief phrases and words, to convey the general meaning of the message rather than an exact translation. It is possible to get a live translation for a long passage of text, but the translation is likely to be inaccurate and disjointed when viewed in this way.

Word Lens was originally its own standalone app, but Google acquired developer Quest Visual in 2014 before quickly incorporating the app's technology into Google Translate. Shortly before the acquisition, Word Lens was promoted in an ad for the iPhone 5, with the "Powerful" commercial briefly demonstrating the app translating a road sign for the user.

The addition of Japanese support means the app can now translate text live through Word Lens in 30 languages. Google Translate is also able to translate a total of 103 languages by typing, and has offline translation abilities for 52 languages.


Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,965member
    This is really cool! Japanese is a very complex language to read and write. The Kanji characters can have different readings depending on how they are used or combined while you can look up a character doing so in even a semi-efficient manner requires a basic knowledge of the characters, meaning translation is all but impossible for someone who doesn't know the language. Automating this via optical recognition is a pretty impressive feat
  • Reply 2 of 7
    anomeanome Posts: 1,533member
    Must dig out Word Lens, and check the language packs. Non-roman languages are something I might find it more useful for. I've only had to use it a couple of times in Germany or France, and the problem then was network connectivity when travelling.
  • Reply 3 of 7
    Sukebe7Sukebe7 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Because, 'I gotta pen…i gotta apple' translates to: phuq you English, we're never going to learn you.
  • Reply 4 of 7
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    Sukebe7 said:
    Because, 'I gotta pen…i gotta apple' translates to: phuq you English, we're never going to learn you.
    Nice of you to barge in. 
  • Reply 5 of 7
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    MplsP said:
    This is really cool! Japanese is a very complex language to read and write. The Kanji characters can have different readings depending on how they are used or combined while you can look up a character doing so in even a semi-efficient manner requires a basic knowledge of the characters, meaning translation is all but impossible for someone who doesn't know the language. Automating this via optical recognition is a pretty impressive feat
    It's probably the easiest language for a computer to translate however because the nature of the language, and if AI has been used to drive it, people still use google translate to line-by-line read Japanese games.

    - Kanji - Japanese Names, Nouns and Verbs that have direct meanings. Some Kanji have multiple meanings, which is why context matters.
    - Katakana - Foreign Names and sounds
    - Hiragana - Everything but Foreign Names

    So if it detects Kanakana, it knows to try and and sound out what the word is. Most Japanese sentences are a mixture of Kanji and Hiragana, and the younger the reader targeted, the less Kanji there will be. Try using this to read print shoujo/shonen manga, I bet it would get enough right.

    Getting the nuances of the language however, AI is unlikely to get. This is why translating something like English or Korean tends to be a crapshoot, because of words like "their,there,they're" , "your,you're" and "its,it's" because these sound the same, and people use the wrong words all the time (especially online) so without knowing what that word sounds like in the context of the sentence the AI has to read the entire sentence to determine a meaning. With Kanji, we know Kanji isn't going to be used for onomatopoeia, and can be translated typically two-characters at a time.

    (I've amateur translated stuff before, and while Japanese IS hard for a human to learn, English is in fact harder because of the tendency to use idioms and metaphors. So an AI is more likely to be mislead in English than it is with Japanese. However the one thing I did find in Japanese that neither Google or Bing could figure out, are phrases that roughly mean "I will do my best today" with an obscure dialect.)
  • Reply 6 of 7
    I've used this plenty around Europe and it's generally been brilliant. Great for restaurant menus and finding your way around a city with signs etc.

    I try not to use google services due to the data collecting and ads but translate and maps are unbeatable at the moment imho, for my needs anyway.
  • Reply 7 of 7
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,380member
    Doesn't seem to be all the accurate...

     http://www.onenewspage.com/video/20170126/6666019/SM2398-Google-Translate-Japanese-03.htm

     Note that in the last part of that video, the toilet part that is mistranslated VIDEO should actually be translated BIDET. With those toilets being so common everywhere in Japan and with "BIDET" being written on them too, it's rather surprising that translation was so wrong.
    edited January 2017
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