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Google Translate Can Now Handle Handwriting

Next time you get a hand written note from your hostel mate in a language you can't understand, you can turn to Google Translate

I am a word artist. Image: Google Translate

Next time you get a hand written note from your hostel mate in a language you can’t understand, you can turn to Google Translate. The online version of the translation service has now caught up with the Android app and will support handwriting.

To test it out, just go to the Google Translate page. When you select your language, at the bottom of the text box a little icon will show up that has a drop down menu, including an option for “handwrite.” Then you can go to town trying to write words with your mouse in another language while Google tries to figure out what your scribbles mean. explains how it works:

Each time you draw a line on the whiteboard, Google’s parsimony algorithm suggests the character it thinks you’re most likely attempting to draw. Often you only have to draw half of a symbol to see it suggested, and a single click will add it to your message for translation. However, if you want to draw every stroke you can also draw out multiple symbols in a single whiteboard frame and add them as a group. At that point, though, you’re increasing your chances of a problem in guessing. Since there’s currently no way to erase as single line, only the whole whiteboard, it’s better to draw out each character individually.

So you can’t quite take a picture of a note and figure out what it says, but if you’re patient and good with a mouse you could transcribe the lettering to reveal the secret message.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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