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Make a Sign Speak Any Language, by Kenji Takaoka, QR Translator
QR Translator provides users an interface to be able to easily handle translated texts and speech data in a single ID, as a qr code, being linked to designated locations. Our business model is flexibly set up in order to collaborate with both machine and human translation providers, and to adjust to any kind of technological development we can expect in the near future.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak in front of you all. Today, I’m going to talk about what we do at QR Translator, a web solution which can be used to make any signboard or printout written only in Japanese (or any other single language) multilingual. Let me introduce myself first. I’m Kenji Takaoka, CEO of Export Japan.
Export Japan specializes in creating and maintaining official foreign language websites for Japanese government agencies or public transportation companies like JICA, JR and JAL.
And, I’m also a board director of japan-guide.com. Japan Guide is an English website for foreign travelers coming to Japan or for people living in Japan. The website has been in operation since 1996, and it has nearly a million registered members. That’s probably the biggest English-speaking community in the world for people who have some connection with Japan.
When people search for the keyword “Japan” on Google.com in English, japan-guide.com appears here, on the top page, above other results like Lonely planet, or CIA’s world fact book.
And, I’m also CEO of PIJIN. At PIJIN, what we’re doing is developing and promoting a web solution called QR Translator, which I’m going to present to you today.
Before explaining what is QR Translator, would you please scan the QR code on this sample brochure on your table with your mobile phone? You can use any kind of barcode scanning application. For Japanese participants, if you have the messaging application LINE in your smartphone, you can find the code scanning camera by choosing “Add Friends”. If any one of you doesn’t have a smartphone, could you ask someone on the same table to show you theirs? The document is written in Turkish, so most of you can’t read it, I guess. After scanning the code, you will be lead to a translated version of the text, based on your mobile phone’s language setting. If you use a browser in Japanese language, for example, you should see the translation in Japanese.
If you have it set to English, you’ll see a screen like this one. You can also use text-to-speech function, and see Google Maps here.
QR Translator is now widely used in many places around Japan, like Kansai International Airport..
Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is one of the most popular destinations among foreign tourists.
Convenience Store Seven-Eleven started using QR Translator last year, so you don’t have to worry about the contents of Onigiri anymore.
And, recently, Coca-cola decided to use QR Translator on its vending machines for 2020.
The system of QR Translator is quite simple. Sorry, this is picture is written in Japanese only. Our clients are facility management companies, restaurant owners or municipal governments, who want to provide information to the people around the world in multiple languages. Those clients use our system under contract and generate and manage QR codes and multilingual documents. The system is connected, through API, to crowd-sourcing human translation providers like Gengo or YAQS, or machine translation providers like Google or others. Users can access the translations free of charge by just scanning the QR codes that have been issued from our system and placed a document or signboard.
To better understand the system, let me explain quickly how to generate QR codes, we’ll call them QRT codes, though.
First, log in to our website. Our user interface is provided in Japanese, English and Korean.
After logging in, you see, each row of the table represents one set of translated text. Up to 15 languages can be linked to single QRT code. So, each row corresponds to one QRT code, which can be downloaded clicking here. Anyway, to create a new QRT code, you click this green button.
In the next page, you just input your source text and select the language of the text from the drop down list. The source text doesn’t have to be in Japanese, it can be in Korean, Chinese, Spanish, or any other 35 languages. You can also upload pictures if you like. Then, click the “Next” button.
On the following page, you can choose up to 14 target languages for the text to be translated into, by just clicking the corresponding flag icons in this screen. You can choose either human or machine translation for each language. Then, click “Next”.
If you want a map to be shown to the users after scanning the code, all you need to do is to point the location on Google Maps or input the address data. Then, click “Confirm”..
On the following screen, check everything is correct and click “Create”.
The screen will turn grey for a few moments.
Once the screen changes, your QRT code has been created. You can now copy or download it in any size you want. I guess some of you are thinking that it’s impossible to accomplish human translation in this fast. Of course it is. The information encoded in each QRT code is just a URL. So, if you scan the code right after creation, it just returns the message “Oops, translators are now working on it”. But, after the translation is completed, it will automatically be saved on the URL, and meanwhile you can get started on your signboards or printed materials. And, precisely because the encoded information is just a URL, QRT codes can be easily changed into NFC or other bridging media like Bluetooth. You only need a way to lead users to the specific URL we’ve generated.
This is what the result looks like after scanning a code.
And, the greatest advantage of this system is to be able to edit the translated text afterward without renewing the QRT code itself each time. You can even ask your usual translator to edit the text by just giving them the login information. And, text to speech function can be set on or off by language just selecting buttons here. Or, you can also upload your own recording voices or audio files.
If we go back to the first page, we can see other useful features of QR Translator. For example, you can check how many times people scanned your QRT code by language.
You can also redirect the user to other pages you created. That feature is useful when you want to provide an information only in a specific period.
As to quality management of translations, when browsing translated texts, you may find an ID number at the bottom right of the box. Site administrators or in-house translation coordinators can click the link, which will lead them to the following screen…
The table shows which translation API is used for which language pair as well as when it has been submitted and completed. We are looking into adding a quality evaluation process after in the future.
That is all about how the QR Translator system works. And, we’re aiming to expand its usage to packages of Sake for explaining where it was made, or what kind of cuisine it suits. Or, public transportation, and explanation of prescription medicines.
By the way, I guess most of you know what a QR code is, but do you know how many people can scan them? This table shows the number of downloads of applications that have a QR code scanner. This data is only for Android OS, because Apple doesn’t disclose the number of downloads by application. Even taking into account only the major applications, the number of downloads is between 352 million and 1.76 billion.
As an additional information, regarding to the global share of mobile OS, Android users make up more than 80% of the total, while Apple’s iOS users amount to less than 20%. That is mainly because of mainland China, where the market is dominated by Xiaomi, which uses Android OS.
The concept of QR Translator is the compromise between the people who provide information and the people who receive information in their own language. In other words, information providers have to generate a QR code and put it on their signboards or printouts. And, information receivers scan it and receive the translated documents. We think this is the most feasible method at this stage of technology in order to achieve our goal of creating a language-barrier-free world.
At last, I had been thinking about the answer to the question Mr Jeep von-der Meer raised in the Tokyo forum of two years ago. “Why a new challenge in the translation industry such as crowd-sourcing human translation was born and raised only in Japan.” I come to the conclusion the explanation exists in the uniqueness of the Japanese language’s grammatical structure. As you know, the accuracy of machine translation among European languages has already reached a fairly acceptable level. And, it is expected to improve further. But, MT between Japanese and other languages hasn’t quite reached that level, except for Korean, which has a grammatical structure quite similar to Japanese. (As to Chinese, the grammatical structure is more similar to European languages rather than Japanese or Korean.) So, I believe, we, Japanese had no other choice but to find a third way, other than conventional human translation and machine translation.
QR Translator has been invested and carried out in cooperation with Mitsui & Co., graduates of Kwansei Gakuin University and Export Japan. Our clients can use our system from 60 USD per year per code.
We have, as sales agents, Toppan printing, one of the biggest printing companies in Japan; JTB group, the biggest travel agent in Japan; NTT; and needless to say, Nomura Kogeisha, one of the biggest facility (like museums or exhibitions) management companies in Japan.
Make a Sign Speak Any Language, by Kenji Takaoka, QR Translator
Copy, redirect or even
connect to other contents
How to take a bus
No. of downloads for QR code-scanning apps
Name of Application Number of Downloads
WeChat 100,000,000 - 500,000,000
QR Code Reader 10,000,000 - 50,000,000
LINE 100,000,000 - 500,000,000
QR Droid Code Scanner 10,000,000 - 50,000,000
ZXing QR code scanner 100,000,000 - 500,000,000
ShopSavvy UPC Barcode Scanner 10,000,000 - 50,000,000
AT&T Code Scanner 10,000,000 - 50,000,000
pickwick barcode ＆ QR scanner 1,000,000 - 5,000,000
i-nigma QR & Barcode Scanner 1,000,000 - 5,000,000
Google Goggles 10,000,000 - 50,000,000
Total No. of Downloads 352,000,000 - 1,760,000,000
As of Sep. 2015* Android OS only