Thursday, October 17, 2013

Answer: What does this character mean?

The question for this week was: 

1.  What does this Chinese character mean? 

Solution:  The simplest way to solve this is to use the Google Translate "Handwriting Recognition" tool for Chinese.  To do this, visit: and select Chinese as the input language. 

Then, using your best approximation to the character, draw it in the pop-up text input region.   Here's the place where you'd write in the text you're seeking:  

Then, select the correct character (the second one from the left): 

... and see the answer on the right.  In this case,  the English word, bundle.  

Notice that below (and to the right) Google provides a bit of usage information: 

The bars indicate roughly how common that usage is ("bundle" is much more common than "sheaf" and slightly more than "bunch").  

NOW... since you have the character, you can drop it back into Google (copy/paste) and see what other kinds of context information you can learn.

Here I see the Wikitionary entry about this character.  Click through to that resource to find that it also has a meaning of "to bundle together" or "to bale up."  

Fascinating:  It is also a character used in Japanese to mean "large bundles" or it can act as a counter for bundles of things.  (Along the lines of "1 carton of eggs, "2 cartons of eggs..." etc. Japanese adds in additional "counter" terms to indicate the kind of thing being counted.  For more information on this fascinating linguistic concept, see the Wikipedia article on counters in Japanese.)  

2.  What does this <unknown language> character mean?   

To figure this out, I did Search-by-Image to identify it as a Korean language (Hangul) character.  Don't be fooled by all the appearances of Japanese in the result set.  If you click through, you'll see they all connect to Korean!  
Then, I did the same "draw the character" trick from above, but used Korean as the search language.  

(Chinese and Korean writers, please forgive my terrible calligraphy.  I'm writing this with my finger on my Mac's trackpad in the write-in region provided, while sitting on the floor at the EduCause conference.  Not the best of tools and circumstances!)  
As Remmij and Ramon pointed out, this Handwriting input method is covered in a Help Center article.  

And yes, it does mean "End."  (And no, there's no implication to draw from this.  It's just a handy example of a character I happened to see in real life...)  

Search lesson:  This is another form of the "I bet there's a tool that does this..." heuristic.   This one has been around for a while now. You might have even seen it in the Translate UI before, but never had the chance to explore.  Now you do!  
So... when is this REALLY applicable?  It's not a super-common use case, I admit.  But there are times when you'll see something like this and a recognition tool is the only way to go.  
Question for everyone to think about:  While this is a reco-tool for handwriting in various languages.  What OTHER kinds of recognition tools do you know about and/or use?    
I can think of a couple off the top of my head:  SoundHound or Shazam for recognizing music.  What else is out there? 
Let us know by posting into the comments!  

Search on! 


  1. Leafsnap does recognition of leaves
    and more for identification purposes.

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  3. I've heard rumor that the NSA (hi, you monitoring?) has some facial, iris, fingerprint, DNA (23&Me), speech, handwriting, pattern, image, topographic, time/sequence, market/financial analytics/consumer behavior, behavior anticipation, etc. recognition tools, but they don't really like to share; however, they do like to know who/how they are used… - maybe DARPA would weigh in? (or IBM,Goo,Twitter, fb,  or Amazon?)
    Glass OK, next level
    Tom & Steve, we have a Red Ball
    humans still do the generic captcha better - sometimes
    bwdik? must return to my nap now…

    1. OK, I really did laugh out loud reading this one.

  4. Sky map / Sky walk are other recognition tool apps

  5. Recognition software uses
    Facial recognition-used for tagging photos
    Voice recognition- used across the board with Google
    Color recognition- online websites and real world
    Finger Print recognition- security
    Blood vessel recognition- security (my gym uses this technology)
    Eye recognition-security
    File Format recognition- just started using Chrome Convert
    Optical Character recognition Google, Recaptcha
    Image Recognition- Image search -Google
    Medical Applications Recognition -testing, diagnosis, monitoring
    Mobile Recognition apps for Athletes- monitoring performance training
    Location recognition - geography and time.

    1. Thanks, Rosemary -- but I'm looking for *specific* reco-based apps that one can use. Face reco DOES work in Facebook and G+, but is there any way to explicitly use it? (In particular, I'm trying to find additional examples of apps we can use!)

    2. Rosemarie, the BVR is interesting - although gym usage might be a bit spooky -
      in the palm too
      interesting that Kanji is part of the mix in this - out of the auto industry in Japan.
      QR code recognition
      here's a list of 8, some of which Dan, Fred & Rosemary have already mentioned:
      you might be particularly interested in the bird song identifiers… kinda music related.
      for the birds
      okey dokey glassy siri, tell me why reality is less recognizable?

    3. I'll add the Google Googles and Google Now.

    4. All Googlers should sleep well tonight! approval recognition -
      after hours 6.96%+ currently
      hope you saw this one coming Dr. D.. Does Lawrence want to recognize some loyal sRs readers?
      am holding my breath in anticipatio… thud

    5. To expand a bit on Remmij mysterious "8" comment above.

      Birdsong ID - identifies bird songs (iOS only)
      LookTel - identifies real world objects (e.g. $20 bills, or cans of soup) and then speaks the name aloud
      Color Identifier (iOS); ColorReader (Android) -- point the camera at a swatch of color and it speaks the name (e.g., "pale rose")
      Evernote - handwriting recognition

    6. Oops! I totally missed that remmij mentioned that one already. Sorry about that.

  6. If I don't install chrome I can't draw into translate, bummer.

    1. It also works in Firefox. Which version of IE are you running? If it's old, try upgrading.

    2. fwiw: understandably Google gives its products the inside track with software & hardware, but I believe this feature rolled out this summer and has expanded to other platforms in one form or another; e.g., I used it on a mac running OS X 7, using Safari as the browser - (as opposed to a mobile iP device running iOS… or any Chrome device/browser, mobile or desktop or Android based OS) - if your hardware is relatively recent and you are updated you should be able to access the feature, desktop or mobile…
      that said, I also have an older mac/OS that doesn't currently support the feature… or Chrome for that matter. It becomes fairly Darwinian rapidly.

  7. I +1 Ramón on Google
    . I've used it traveling like I said to translate signs and
    also search for things about famous buildings, artwork, etc. Though that page for Googles doesn't look good with the images broken.

    Picasa (desktop application) and iPhoto are two apps I've used facial recognition in to find pictures of people for special projects. Identify one picture of the person and I can easliy find more pictures of the same person out of throusands of pictures. is a site where you can use your keyboard to tap out a song and possibly identify it by rhythm when you have an earworm and can't name it.

    Probably only in the U.S., Viggle is an app that can listen to your TV and identify what you're watching by a background sound we can't hear. These types of apps are popping up all over including Android, but alas I'm back to being iOS only for the time.

    Google Drive does optical character recognition on images that you have in your Drive. This video, at the 24 minute mark, from Google I/O 2012 does a great job of showing how you can use this.

    This article by David Pogue mentions apps that fit some of things
    Rosemary was talking about. Looktel looks like something I'm going to talk to our vision specialist about for differently abled students.

  8. I was just looking through my phone again and found this one I downloadedafter hearing about it on Science Friday. UMSkinCheck is photo recognition app to identify skin cancers.

    1. Thanks, Fred.. that's *exactly* the kind of interesting reco app I'm curious about. Nice find.

    2. like the UMSkinCheck app - go Spartans ;) — another visual/camera based recog/identifier:
      My Nature App
      don't have first hand experience with it, but does look promising… just wouldn't want to be staring at the screen when the Kodiak or Jaguar came up to confirm via ground truth.
      yep, that's an apex cat, here look at my screen… & 4 bars woohooOONOOoo!
      must search brain case…
      knot not
      found here:
      figured there had to be some here
      maybe there is a school mascot recog tool?

    3. The "MyNatureApp" isn't a recognition-based app. It's really an online book--an identification key--that walks you through a decision tree ("does it have five toes? if yes, click here"). A good idea, just not quite what we're looking for. Now if it DID do automatic visual ID of scat, I'd be very, very, very impressed. (But it doesn't.)

    4. I just checked out UMSkinCheck, and I don't think it does reco. From the description, it looks like it lets you take pics of your lesions and track changes over time. It's not clear if you can take a picture and have it automatically classify the lesion type. (I'm dubious about these kinds of things because I used to work on visual reco systems for thoracic cancers, and I really know how hard it is.)

      Does anyone HAVE the app and can verify this? (I don't have iOS, so I can't run it.)

    5. Having grown up in the Ann Arbor area I want to thank remmij for not saying "Go Buckeyes."

      Yup, Dr. Russell you're right. I went into the app and it is more of tracker than reco app.

  9. In order to find what classical music I have in my mind (this also works with folk songs and anthems), I often use the Melodic Contour Search (Parsons Code). I may use this tool either online, on Musipedia, or in my own copy of The Directory of Classical Themes by Denis Parsons. Musipedia has other search input methods, like playing on an online keyboard, tapping the rhythm or whistling to the mic.

    In order to find what color is anything on my computer screen, I use ColorPic, a free app by Iconico.

    In order to identify the main colors of a photo (its color palette), I have used gpick, a free project by thezbyg on Google Code. A year or two ago, this proved more controllable than other online tools for the same purpose, like PHOTOCOPA by COLOURlovers, or the Color Palette Generator by DeGraeve. Now I don't know, maybe those have improved and are better. I don't remember having tried Pictaculous, so I can't comment on that. The latter online tool is the first result from the Google Search [ color palette from photo ].

    In order to identify a typeface / font from printed material, I use Identifont's Fonts by Appearance, an online tool using the process of elimination by answering questions about key features. If I have an image of some text, I use WhatTheFont by MyFonts.

    In order to identify the geocoordinates (latitude, longitude) of a point on a map, I use the LatLng Tooltip by Marcelo C (Google Maps Labs) on Google Maps Classic (the New Google Maps don't have that feature yet).

    In order to practice my own capacity at recognizing languages, I use The Great Language Game.

    (Final note: I loved this challenge! I used another Chinese handwriting recognition online tool I remembered to have used before (nciku), which works very well. Although I knew Google Translate handwriting recognition, I couldn't remember it; so, in spite of having immediately identified Hangul, I couldn't find what that character was, because I couldn't find it on the recognition tools I found on the Web.)

    1. Luís, I forgot about WhatTheFont. I've used this too. Bom!

  10. It isn’t for lack of trying and I did expect to give a long list of apps. Other than apps already mentioned I have found most third-party apps don’t deliver.
    Now my experience is with Android so I can’t speak for all developers. I am now using Chromebook and as of yet I don’t have first hand experience with recognition software using that OS. It’s a good question but I think others like myself are having a hard time coming up with quality recognition apps.

  11. Having a better idea of the type of app you were looking for I did the following search [ using your iphone camera to identify ] and found ID My Pill to identify medications. There was another skin scanner app in a New York Times article from 2011 but the app hasn't been updated since then and I find that lack of support suspect.

  12. It just occurred to me that FieldTrip is an app that recognizes your location (by GPS) and then searches for interesting location-based pieces of information (e.g., what's the story of that interesting building you're standing next to).

  13. Opening it up to geolocation apps is a whole new can of worms. That would be a huge list of different types of apps. Map apps for directions from where I am to where to I want to go. Answering the question of "Where's the nearest...?" Find cheap gas around me. Augmented reality apps like [ Layar app ], [ Klikaklu ] and even [ Ingress ] could be made to fit the criteria of identify where I am and show me stuff regarding this place.

    Do you really want to go there?

    1. Actually, ONLY if the app "recognizes" the location and provides useful information. (Ingress, for instance, is cool, but it's not real.) Likewise Kilkaklu is a cool game, but not an information-bearing reco system. (It's for treasure hunts. You *could* use it for that, but people tend not to.) Layar is close, but its really about attaching advertising to print media.

      Similarly, geocaching apps are for discovering caches that are set out for the "game."

      I think to qualify as a "reco app" for SearchResearch purposes, it should (a) be reality-based, (b) use some kind of signal (and it could be lat/long or location) that links insights to place.

      For example, an app that looked at your lat/long and told you about the geology of the place you're in would be cool. ("You are now standing on a pyroclastic flow from around 1650" or "You are very near a syncline that...")

      Anyone know about something like that?

    2. Dr. Russell, I know one, just that it only works in Mexico City. It is called Rutisima Madre and yes, the name is not good; specially, if you understand Spanish.

      Here the description of the app from Google Play: "Get to know Mexico City's history with Rutísima Madre. An interactive map that shows you little known but important places in the city.
      Each of this pinpoints reveals what happened with text, images, video or audio.
      With your device's GPS, Rutísima Madre will send you a notification when near a pinpoint in the route, letting you trace your own from your current location."

      I haven´t tried because I don´t live in Mexico City.

      With the already mentioned apps for Sky, they use camera and your gps so you can learn about stars and planets.

      Hope it works

  14. Penguin recognition software - I know your looking for specific apps that can used, but I wanted to share this anyways because I think it is so neat. It is a step towards doing away with banding animals

  15. this is not the app you are looking for (nor the droids) — but I think it may address some of the difficulties involved in accomplishing such a thing (geology-wise) - perhaps apps developers don't have access to databases that would make such a task possible… yet?
    Remote Sensing
    the previous page deals with examples from Morro Bay that may be of interest…
    "sensing" and "recognition" synonymous in this context?
    remote sensing intro

    Now if it DID do automatic visual ID of scat, I'd be very, very, very impressed. (But it doesn't.)
    failed scat recognition

  16. The search continues and the deeper I search more terms get thrown at me. I wanted to get some feedback on this Wikipedia article to see if I am heading in the right direction "Augmented Reality" maybe what we are talking about. I have had a quick look and there are some interesting concepts. What I really like is all the links that could open up lot of ideas. I will check back to see comments. I don't know where we are heading with this but I find it very exciting.

    I have found a few apps that had possibilities but not quite right. I try them out and I must admit I'm ruthless when these apps have first-experience glitches I dump them quickly. I have dumped at least 200 apps in the past year. Mind you I don't expect to pay which may be why I get poor results.

  17. Dan - this is completely off-topic but as I know you have an interest in Victorian times, I thought you might like to know about this new development. It is a very detailed Map of Victorian London.


    1. Fascinating. I didn't know about this, but I have noticed the incredible rise in various mapping projects (e.g., of old Amsterdam, or the NYPL's project to crowdsource the accurate digitization of old maps of Manhattan).

  18. I majored in Japanese and my daughter is learning Mandarin Chinese at high school, so this tool is actually quite useful -it's quicker than looking up my character dictionary!

  19. Here's some iphone apps that may we worth a look. I don't have iOS so maybe someone will try some of these apps to see if any fit our search needs.

  20. I’ve already checked out a couple apps but I need real-time real-live to give an informed opinion. For example Junaio has a limit of 10 kms & not living in the city or quite in the mountains I can’t get POI’s. Have a look.

  21. I thought I had all the apps but I now see a few are on another link so here it is