Mobile translation – an unfinished hack!

Fourth of the random ideas for Over The Air hacks – a mobile service that lets you translate foreign text that you come across from your mobile phone.

The plan was to:

  • reuse some old code from last year to control my cameraphone and take a picture
  • upload the image to LeadTools, using their OCR web service to get the text back from the picture
  • translate the text into English using the Google translate API web service
  • display the English text on the phone screen

Unfortunately, too much time spent drinking beer, listening to talks, and generally slacking, meant that I didn’t finish this one.

But I thought it still might be interesting to share my experiences with the LeadTools service.

Here are a couple of examples to show the sort of responses I was able to get from the web service.

It doesn’t like my handwriting. No matter how clear I tried to make my childish scrawl, it was unable to recognise any letters (let alone words!).

It managed to turn this into:



It is better – but still a little flakey – with printed text.

It managed to turn this into:


play? dev&op ? interact

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2 Responses to “Mobile translation – an unfinished hack!”

  1. Suzi says:

    Why don’t you just install a mobile translator instead of making somuch effort? The thing will do everything for you.
    This is a good one but it doesn’t have OCR. The quality of the picture is very important for image recognition. The image must not go left or right, the text should be straight and neither part of the picture should be lighter than the other. Otherwise the software finds it difficult to recognize the text.

  2. dale says:

    Why don’t you just install a mobile translator instead of making so much effort?

    lol… because I’m a developer? what some might see as making so much effort, I see as an interesting opportunity to play with technology, learning as I do.…

    Thanks for the link. I don’t have a BlackBerry to try it on, but it’s interesting to hear what else is out there.