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02 May '15 | Debjyoti Paul

German Shoppers: Meet Them in the Fast Lane to Phy-gital

15 January '15 | Ralf Reich

Shoppers Will Share Personal Information (But They Don’t Want to be “Friends”)

15 January '15 | Anil Venkat

Modernize or Perish: Property and Casualty Insurers and IT Solutions

14 January '15 | Manesh Rajendran

Benelux Reaches the Phy-gital Tipping Point: Omnichannel Readiness is Crucial

13 January '15 | Anil Gandharve

The New Omnichannel Dynamic: Finding Core Principles Across Industries

13 January '15 | Debjyoti Paul

Technology does not disrupt business – CIO day 2014 Roundup

02 December '14 | Anshuman Singh

Apple Pay – The Best Is Yet To Come

02 December '14 | Indy Sawhney

Digital transformation is a business transformation enabled by technology

01 December '14 | Amit Varma

3 Stages of FATCA Testing and Quality Assurance

06 October '14 | Raman Suprajarama

3 Reasons why Apple Pay could dominate the payments space

18 September '14 | Gaurav Johri

Beacon of Hope: Serving Growth and Customer Satisfaction

05 August '14 | Debjyoti Paul

The Dos and Don’ts of Emerging Technologies Like iBeacon

30 July '14 | Debjyoti Paul

What You Sold Us On – eCommerce Award Finalist Selections

17 July '14 | Anshuman Singh

3 Steps to Getting Started with Microsoft Azure Cloud Services

04 June '14 | Koushik Ramani

8 Steps to Building a Successful Self Service Portal

03 June '14 | Giridhar LV

Innovation outsourced – a myth or a mirage or a truth staring at us?

13 January '14 | Ramesh Hosahalli

What does a mobile user want?

03 January '14 | Gopikrishna Aravindan

Lost in Translation? Not Anymore

Posted on: 12 July '11

A tourist in a foreign country can only dream of knowing the local language beforehand. Problems arise at the airport itself when signboards are of no help, and the problems extend all the way to the local transport, making it tough for tourists to reach places or communicate with cab drivers. Tourists also face problems when it comes to restaurants and menu cards to select the food of their choice.

When you are in such a situation, you are always worried about either running into a problem or missing out on stuff of your interest (locations, food, etc.) since you cannot communicate or read in the local language. Now, Google has launched a smart iPhone app, Google Translate that supports translation of 57 languages.

The app allows you to translate words using your iPhone microphone. While Google Translate doesn’t allow you to translate without an active data connection, you can store your most likely used translations and phrases and use them offline.

Google Translate

When Google Translate generates a translation, it looks for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents to help decide on the best translation for you. By detecting patterns in documents that have already been translated by human translators, Google Translate makes intelligent guesses to judge the most appropriate translation as output. This process of seeking patterns in large amounts of text is called statistical machine translation (SMT). However, in SMT, as the translations are generated by machines, not all translations are perfect.

While it is a great utility in time for travelers, it is still a machine mediator between you and the people around you who do not speak and understand your language. The capability to translate the natural, free communication between the user and the people in real-time does not exist still. As a user of the application you are never sure of the other persons’ interpretation of the translation either because of subtle inter-language cultural differences, voice and tone of the language, and lack of gestural explanations.

A company called Quest Visual has tried to resolve this small yet important aspect of communication. Quest Visual has invented a magical ‘World Lens’ application for the iPhone with amazing augmented reality capabilities.


The application allows users to scan live views using the iPhone camera and translate words from Spanish to English (or vice versa) in real-time, replacing the originals in the same size, color, orientation and perspective. So now it doesn’t matter anymore whether it is a newspaper article, website content, hotel menu, or signage, all you need is Word Lens. The other exciting stuff is that the application doesn’t use active data connection to do the translations and therefore saves hundreds of dollars for travelers with active roaming data charges.

The application pushes handheld computing capabilities to make the optical character recognition algorithms perform. The program runs the captured image through a filter to remove shadows and identify the sharpness around the text and removes everything that isn’t sharp enough. It then converts the image to black and white to further enhance text readability and do a dictionary look-up of the probabilistic text string for the closest match.

Finally, it re-renders the originally captured image by removing the original text and replacing it with the translated text string on top. Although it may sound straightforward, it is not really that simple by hand-held computing standards.

With companies such as Quest Visual creating such interesting and innovative stuff to make the overall travel experience more convenient, the future will be of an app-mesh created between augmented reality apps such as Google Goggles, Word Lens, and utility apps like Google Translate with sophistication of two-way voice-to-voice translation.



Vinay Dixit

Vinay Dixit is a design practitioner and head of user experience practice at Mindtree. He likes to observe people, their activities, motivations, and their natural behavior to see how technology opportunities can be exploited for business innovation and solve problems at hand. He is passionate about design processes, human factors, internet technologies, mobile and sensory technologies, gaming, art, history, and travel. He learnt traits of visual communication design discipline at National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi and applied some of it during his long association with the Media and Publication industry. Today he works closely with business verticals such as travel and transportation, media, retail and manufacturing, to design smart and intelligent business solutions across various digital platforms. He holds a post graduate degree in Business Management from NMIMS Mumbai.