NTT DoCoMo preps automatic translation from Japanese through Android, leaves no one an island

Japan's unique language makes calls to other countries a challenge: locals often don't have much choice but to brush up on someone else's language or hope there's a Japanese speaker on the other end of the line. If all goes well with NTT DoCoMo's planned Hanashite Hon'yaku automatic translation service, international calls will be as comfortable as phoning a store in Nagano. As long as a subscriber has at least an Android 2.2 phone or tablet on the carrier's moperaU or sp-mode plans, the service will automatically convert spoken Japanese to another language, and reverse the process for the reply, whether it's through an outbound phone call or an in-person conversation. The service will bridge cultures starting from November 1st, when it will translate from Japanese to Chinese, English or Korean. Indonesian, Thai and five European languages are coming later that month. If you're not that patient, NTT DoCoMo will provide a holdover on October 11th through Utsushite Hon'yaku, a free Word Lens-like augmented reality translator for Android 2.3 that can convert text to or from Japanese with a glance through a phone camera.

NTT DoCoMo preps automatic translation from Japanese through Android, leaves no one an island

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NTT DOCOMO to Introduce Mobile Translation of Conversations and Signage

TOKYO, JAPAN, October 1, 2012 --- NTT DOCOMO, INC. today announced that on November 1 it will launch the world's first commercial mobile service for translation of conversations between people speaking Japanese and other languages, called Hanashite Hon'yaku (automatic voice translation service). DOCOMO also announced today the October 11 launch of Utsushite Hon'yaku (AR translator with word recognition camera), which translates foreign menus and signage by simply placing a smartphone camera in front of text.

Hanashite Hon'yaku provides translations between Japanese and the receiver's language, currently English, Chinese or Korean. Translations are provided both as screen text and voice readouts. The DOCOMO subscriber simply dials the other party using an Android app for DOCOMO smartphones and tablets running Android 2.2 or higher. Calls can be placed to any mobile or landline phone, either in Japan or overseas.

Hanashite Hon'yaku also can be used for face-to-face conversations in which the two speakers share one smartphone. French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai will be added for this application in late November, raising the number of non-Japanese languages to 10.

Fast and accurate translations are possible with any smartphone, regardless of device specifications, because Hanashite Hon'yaku utilizes DOCOMO's cloud for processing.

The app will be available free of charge. Users pay call and data charges for phone-to-phone conversations and translation data for screen text and voice readouts. Only data charges apply for face-to-face conversations,since no call is required. Subscription to DOCOMO's "sp-mode" or "moperaU" connection service is required.

Utsushite Hon'yaku translates short written text between Japanese and either English, Chinese or Korean. Translation is virtually instantaneous after the device's camera captures the text. This commercial version of Menu Translator, which DOCOMO is trialing in Japan until October 31, will translate words and phrases not only in menus, but also street signs, signboards and more. Translation from Japanese also is possible, so DOCOMO expects the app to be quite useful for foreign people visiting Japan.

The Utsushite Hon'yaku app will be available free for download (data charges may apply). Usage will not incur any transmission fee since the translation process does not require network connection. It can be used on any smartphone or tablet equipped with an outer camera and running Android 2.3 or higher.