Sat.
May 8
2021

Image: Yandex

Have you ever translated a foreign article, only to realise you still can’t read the text in the images on the page? Or lost the manual for a cool piece of tech you can’t get to work, only to find a PDF version with the text in Japanese?

Russian tech giant Yandex has solved this with the first ever desktop browser with built-in image translation. The new function is powered by computer vision technology as well as the company’s own in-house translation software, Yandex Translate. It can translate foreign language image content such as newspaper or magazine scans, comics/anime, or the ingredients list off of a packaging scan for a K-beauty product.

Different from other translators

In-browser text translators have been around for years, but they only identify words and can’t translate text embedded in images. There are browser extensions, which need to be downloaded, and some require users to copy and paste the text into an editable format prior to translating.

Yandex’s new feature lets users double-click an image, and the browser uses computer vision to identify written content, translate it, and superimpose it back on the original image. Users also have the option of immediately translating all images on a webpage via the Yandex translator menu found in the browser’s address bar.

“For the vast majority of people, languages can be a barrier to new information, limiting them to sources only found in their native tongue,” said Roman Ivanov, Head of Yandex Browser. “Yandex Browser has long had a built-in text translation function, but now we’re going further. We have just taught it to translate images, and further updates are already in the pipeline for the future.”

A longtime tech leader

NASDAQ-listed Yandex has long been a trailblazer in the tech world. Often likened to Google, the company has established a full-scale ecosystem of services that spans food delivery services, a ride-hailing business, music streaming and more.

The company’s original search engine remains the most popular search engine in the Russian speaking world with a 60.5% share of Russia’s total mobile search traffic, while its browser has a monthly audience of 35 million users on desktop and 37 million mobile users worldwide.

The new feature is currently available on the Windows desktop version of Yandex Browser and is in beta testing on Android devices. It is expected to be rolled out across other desktop platforms shortly, with iOS devices following by the end of 2021.

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