Technology giant Google has introduced a new update to its Translate app that will allow visual translation from English to Hindi and 19 other languages, a move aimed at strengthening its translation and transliteration offerings.
Using the app, users need to click on the camera option, and point it at the text like street signs, ingredient lists or instruction manual that needs to be translated and the same will be translated in languages like Hindi, Thai, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch and Filipino.
Users can translate using the app without an Internet connection. These updates are coming to both Android and iOS, rolling out over the next few days.
Previously, Google had the visual translation available for seven languages — English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
“Google translates about 100 billion words a day in 90 languages and one in six people with Internet access use Google Translate. It is part of that effort that we are extending visual translation to Hindi as well. India is an important market for us,” Google Product Manager (Translate) Julie Cattiau told reporters here.
Users will be able to translate English signs to Hindi, but the vice versa would not be possible.
“Unlike Latin and Cyrillic script, Hindi and Thai is a little different. Hence, it is a little difficult to translate in terms of visual translation. Right now, we are making English to Hindi visual translation available,” she said.
The technology, developed by a startup Word Lens, uses “neural nets” for image recognition.
“Five years ago, if you gave a computer an image of a cat or a dog, it had trouble telling which was which. Thanks to convolutional neural networks, not only can computers tell the difference between cats and dogs, they can even recognise different breeds of dogs,” Google Software Engineer (Translate) Otavio Good said.
The visual translate uses a convolutional neural network, training it on letters and non-letters, so it can learn what different letters look like, he added.
“We’ve still got lots of work to do: more than half of the content on the Internet is in English, but only around 20 per cent of the world’s population speaks English. Today’s updates knock down a few more language barriers, helping you communicate better and get the information you need,” Cattiau said.
Google has also improved its voice conversation mode to enable real-time translation of conversations across 32 languages in a faster and more natural manner on slow networks. “In many emerging markets, slow mobile networks can make it challenging to access many online tools. In addition to instant visual translation, we’ve also improved our voice conversation mode, so it’s even faster and more natural on slow networks,” she said.
Interestingly, Google does not have any linguists on board for its Translate offering. Instead, it has had set up a Translate Community a year back to offer a platform for multilingual people from across the world to provide and correct translations.
Google claims to have 500 million monthly active users for its Translate offering.
Also, 95 per cent of the traffic for Translate comes from outside the US. A major chunk of the traffic comes from languages like Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.