Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Friday, March 21, 2014

Waygo App Launches First Visual Translator For Japanese To English

All I can say, is that for the first time in my life, I actually wish I owned a smartphone.

Visual translation service, Waygo of San Francisco, California has announced the addition of Japanese to its translation app.

In this case, the user points their smartphone at a block of Japanese language, waits a few seconds - and presto! - it translates the characters into English text... and it does so without the need of a data connection. Double win.

This new language app should be a boon to many of the 10 million-plus travelers to Japan, as it will only enhance the travel experience by easily translating printed language.

I'm assuming here, but if it can be used on signage, then surely it can be used to translate such things as books (slowly), or better yet - manga (comic books)! Holy crap! I could finally be able to read my multi-volume Japanese-language set of Lone Wolf and Cub manga! In theory. Yes, I have read the English version, but I'd like to see how it matches up.

Now, the Japanese translator is actually the second language for Waygo, as it has been translating Chinese characters since 2013... so moving into Japanese with its fewer number of characters is a brilliant idea.

I would imagine slight modifications would be required, but otherwise it should have been a relatively easier translation than when Waygo first began offering Chinese.

With Waygo, a winner of the SXSW 2014 Accelerator pitch competition, simply point your camera and translate text instantly without a data connection. Users can translate multiple lines of text instantly or single lines for spelling and pronunciation.

Pronunciation? Spelling?

As I can attest from years of a hopeless inability to read Japanese menus, signage or maps, it was a real tough time traveling Japan.

Well, since visual translation is important for East Asian languages like Japanese because it is extremely difficult for a tourist (or dumbass gaijin like myself) to search in a dictionary for pictographic text like 外国 without knowing its pronunciation.

In fact, I questioned Waygo founder and chief executive officer Ryan Rogowski if the Waygo App would work on Japanese kanji, hiragana and katakana alphabets... and he said: "Yes."

"The Waygo app will recognize all the common vernacular kanji as well as all of hiragana and katakana," he says adding that the translations perform best for travelers to use on menus, signs and when shopping.
"Based on demand from existing users we’re excited to launch Japanese and bring more languages to Waygo," sums up Rogowski. "We believe everyone should be able to confidently travel anywhere in the world without language barriers. So our focus has been on the Asian markets with the goal to make translating quick and easy for even the most challenging languages. We hope to allow travelers more time to enjoy the adventure without worrying about communication barriers."

Waygo launched as the only instant visual translator for Chinese in April 2013 and since then its users have conducted more than 1-million translations.

Click HERE to see a video of the App in use! 

The free app is available for download in the Apple App Store. Users receive 10 free translations per day.

Waygo now offers a second in-app purchase upgrade on top of its lifetime access for $6.99.

Starting at $1.99, the ‘tourist package’ includes one week of unlimited translations.

For a limited time, users can upgrade to lifetime access for both languages at the $6.99 rate until April 1, 2014.

Waygo is the ultimate travel companion working offline and allowing users to translate languages faster than Google Translate.

Derived from the Chinese pinyin 外国 ('wài guó'), or foreign country (it means the exact same thing in Japanese but is pronounced 'gaikoku'), Waygo uses a combination of optical character recognition and a translation piece to translate Chinese and Japanese characters into English text. The app sees images, finds relevant text and creates sensible phrases by simply holding the phone over the characters.

More languages are being developed and are coming soon. For additional information, visit

To Ryan Rogowski and the rest of the Waygo team, let me just say: Brilliant!

Now... if you can create a translator that hears a foreign language speech and offers a readable translation... well... that's the next step a la Star Trek.

PS: Special thanks to Amanda Forbes Mestdagh at Uproar PR for sending this to me. I don't often say thanks for unsolicited mail, but you did your research in searching out would-be Japanophiles such as myself. See for more on Uproar PR.