Review: Photo Translator for BlackBerry

Photo Translator Review
By Ryan Blundell on 15 Feb 2011 08:39 am EST
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Sometimes things can get lost in translation. When travelling to a foreign country, not everything is presented in a tourists own language. You always hear tips, specific phrases or the advice to pack a translation book or even hire a local guide. While you’re looking into classes, or costs, there’s one more thing you should take a look at - your BlackBerry. It’s the perfect travel companion anyway. Think about it- you would use it to capture memorable photos and video, maintain your travel itinerary and (depending on WiFi access, or your data plan) keep in touch while travelling via email, BBM or social networking. What if your BlackBerry camera could do more? As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words… perhaps even worth a thousand translated words?

Near the end of last year, a call for BlackBerry toting lab rats was made for some testing. Don’t worry, no lab rats were harmed during the testing process (that I know of anyway). Photo Translator will capture an image and translate the text for you, whether you are home or abroad. You’ll feel less like an idiot the next time you find yourself staring at a menu where you can’t see anything that resembles a burger and fries. Let’s have a look.

Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

If you haven’t heard of Photo Translator already, the application was developed by SHAPE Services. Here at CrackBerry, we’ve looked at many of their other applications. Their other applications include IM+ all in one Messenger, IM+ Talk, Mobiscope webcam viewer and Business Card Reader. Photo Translator is available for BlackBerrys running OS 4.6 or higher. Your BlackBerry must also have at least a 3.2 MP camera. The version reviewed is 1.0, which has a file size 908.6 KB. It can be downloaded OTA or through the Desktop software.

Price: $4.99 – a free 5 day trial is available

CrackBerry App Store rating: 3/5

So how does Photo Translator actually work? The application taps into the power of Google’s OCR (optical character recognition) Engine and Translator. An OCR engine captures text (whether it is printed, typed or handwritten) from images. In this case, Photo Translator obtains the text and then runs it through Google Translator to find the words you are looking for.

Photo Translator main menu

The UI of Photo Translator reflects how easy it is to use the app. Within the yellow, white and black design are four options:

Take a Photo - Gee, I wonder what you have to do here? When you click on this, you are prompted to choose how you want to translate (from language A to language B). The application doesn’t quite cover all the languages that Google Translator does, but you still have 36 languages to use. You are also provided with quick tips when capturing images of text; don’t use the flash if possible, set the scene mode to automatic and enable autofocus. Now, tell the text to say cheese…or fromage, or juust or kaas or…

Photo Translator choose languagesPhoto Translator Crop

What’s really cool is Photo Translator comes with a cropping tool that allows you to only focus on the text you want. It’s incredibly smooth to use on a touch screen. The application will then start scanning, and then presents you with the text you wanted. You can then choose translate.

Photo Translator pre and post translation

With any luck, you should receive the correct, translated text. You can expect to wait anywhere between 5 and 20 seconds for a translation, depending on the image. It doesn’t work every time; more often than not, the server couldn’t recognize the image I took, or it wouldn’t get the words correctly.

View Results - You have the option to save your results for future reference. If you did, you can find them here. The search bar above lets you search through them by keyword.

Photo Translator view results

Settings - Here you can manage your connection details, (Direct TCP, BES/MDS or BIS) as well as initialize the “autoconfigurator”. You can also disable the crop tool or set the application to optimize for speed or quality.

Info - This section provides quick links to their FAQ site or their application store, contact support and even share your love for Photo Translator with your friends

Conclusion

At times, I did find it frustrating to even capture an image that was able to be recognized by the server. When it did work, it was mostly accurate. I did like having the ability to crop images and store the results for future use. I did also find that I had to take the image in landscape mode in order for the text to be read. I think that users should have access to a rotation tool, so they can take images in portrait mode as well. Photo Translator does have a free 5 day trial period and, after you decide that it is for you, you can pick it up form the CrackBerry App Store for $4.99.


Pros

  • Crops images and save the results for later
  • Supports 36 languages


Cons

  • Your friends may have already ordered and eaten before you had a chance to translate the menu

More information/download Photo Translator from the CrackBerry App Store

16 comments

Reader comments

Review: Photo Translator for BlackBerry

16 Comments
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Might be good for reading brochures, etc., but as Ryan mentioned, probably not the best to help you order off a menu! A 20 second wait can seem like forever.

Anyone know if this supports Ukrainian? I will be traveling there soon and could use this app for sure if that is the case!

I am pretty sure the officials I will be dealing with will need to know more than food. lol My wife and I are going there to adopt soon and could use this when our facilitator is not available.

this seems pretty revolutionary to me. BB App world is really coming out with some cool stuff. Do other smartphones already have this?

Yea there is a program called Word Lens for iphone. It does live translation using a video camera API hook, instead of taking a static picture, and also it keeps a local dictionary, so it doesn't need a network. Check it out here:

http://questvisual.com/

I am hoping they release their BB version soon.

Hi, Google created the intelligence/technology for this, Shape is only porting for Rim devices. And yes, this is already on Android--nothing "new" here.

This would definitely come in handy if I were traveling abroad - that is if I had an international data plan! Too bad.

You're mistaken, that's just a 9800 Torch. look at the thin line beside the AT&T logo, that's the split line for the screen to pop up (or left, as the orientation in the picture is).