Omron smartphone app comes close to instantaneous text translations


Staff Writer

Omron Software Co. has developed a smartphone application that translates short English, Korean and Chinese written phrases into Japanese in less than a second.

The company aims to have the software, useful for translating billboards, road signs and menus, preinstalled on new smartphones and tablet computers this year, Omron Software spokeswoman Minami Watanabe said.

The company may add applications to translate from Japanese to English or languages other than the three languages to Japanese if there is demand, company salesman Koichiro Tanaka said.

“The biggest sales point is that the translation time is really short because users don’t have to take a photo,” Tanaka said.

The user instead just aims the phone’s camera and the application uses the live image of the text. The Japanese words are displayed on the phone’s screen on top of the corresponding words in English, Korean or Chinese.

On the newest smartphone models, the Japanese words appear in half a second, Tanaka said.

There are already several applications on the market that recognize and translate photographed text. Such software can be troublesome to use, however, because users have to take the photos, which can then fill up the phone’s storage space.

Omron hopes its new application will be useful for Japanese tourists who go overseas and want to be able to read menus items and other short phrases.

Watanabe said the software is highly versatile, and can read text in dim restaurants and on tilted billboards high overhead.

Translating longer text, however, still takes a long time, Tanaka said.

Omron Software is asking various makers of mobile phones and tablets to ship their products with the application already installed, Tanaka said. The company isn’t currently considering selling the product through application stores such as iTunes and Android Market, he added.