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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IRISPen Translator

OCR/ Translation Software

English to/from German, English to/from French, English to Japanese. Windows, Macintosh. Image Recognition Integrated Systems (IRIS). $499, E/J $569.

A lot of power is packed in this
highlighter-sized OCR pen

Image Recognition Integrated Systems (IRIS) promises their product, IRISPen Translator, reads, translates and speaks. And indeed, they deliver on their promises. Slide the small hand-held OCR scanner across a line of text and it is quickly entered into whatever application you have open. You can let the speech synthesis option "speak" the text (a sound card is required) and translate it. You can also copy text already on the computer to a clipboard for translation/pronunciation.

The IRISPen can also enter numeric data, scan small graphics and read bar codes, automatically detecting which symbology is used.

I tested the English to/from German version of IRISPen. The German version uses a translation engine from Globalink. The user's guide and sample material are easy to follow and clear. A small status window that can be moved to an unobtrusive area shows the basic options selected for the IRISPen. Double-/right-clicking on it will give you the full menu for the IRISPen. The menu is laid out well and easy to use. The most commonly used functions are clickable buttons.

Using the IRISPen to scan text is not for the shaky of hand. While easier and definitely faster than typing text into a document, it still requires concentration to keep the device moving in a straight, steady line over a particular line of text. Starting too late or ending too early means missed characters. But errors are also common in the middle of a text line. If there are errors, you can simply correct them, highlight the text and copy it into the clipboard for translation. The more practice I had scanning, the fewer errors I had. It also helped when the copy was legible and not too small. It can scan 8 point type, but 12 point is easier for the user to scan and more accurate. Realizing that not all source documents will be ideal, IRIS has included an option of OCR training. When training is enabled, the IRISPen highlights the unsure and unrecognized forms as you scan. With one font I was scanning IRISPen always recognized ? as 7 and I as l. You can then correct the character if necessary. This training can be saved and opened at a later time when you're again scanning material using that font.

The translation function seems to work adequately to provide the user with a basic meaning, especially with easy, concrete sentences. To give you a few examples, I translated some of the German phrases from a German travel guide/dictionary.

"Wo ist der Bahnhof?" (Where is the railway station?) was translated "Where is the railway station?"

"Würden Sie unsere Schlafplätze machen?" (Would you make up our berths?) was translated as "Dignities you do our sleep-places do?"

More complex text might need some editing to have it make sense. For instance, in #12 Volume 8 Issue 1 of MultiLingual Communications & Technology there was a translation software comparison. I scanned the German text used in that comparison:

Informationsangebot im Net

Es gibt kaum ein Thema, zu dem das Internet keine Informationen liefert. Bei der Suche nach neuen Informationsangeboten im Internet sind die zahlreichen Server hilfreich, die als Inhaltsverzeichnis oder Wegweiser zu anderen Angeboten fungieren. Ein guter Ausgangspunkt in Deutschland ist zum Beispiel der Internet-Provider Eunet.

The result of the translation was as follows:

Information-offer in the [Net]

There hardly is a topic, to the the [Internet] no information deliver. At the search to new information-offers in the [Internet] the numerous servers are helpful, the as table of contents or signposts too different offers officiate. A good start in Germany is for example the internal-et-Provider [Eunet].

There's nothing in the on-line help that shows any way to train the dictionary — add words and phrases.

Overall, I would rate the IRISPen a handy device to have if you need to copy text from hardcopy sources and translate. The speech aspect of the program can help reinforce pronunciation if you are learning the language. The translation seems to provide the basic point, even if it is not completely smooth. I would look forward to the product getting even better in the future as refinements will, no doubt, be made.globe.gif


—Becky Bennett

This article reprinted from #16 Volume 8 Issue 5 of MultiLingual Computing & Technology published by MultiLingual Computing, Inc. 319 North First Ave., Sandpoint, Idaho, USA, 208-263-8178, Fax: 208-263-6310.

October, 1997