Oh wow, this Google Chrome extension feels like magic.
Project Naptha, a Chrome extension made by developer Kevin Kwok, uses optical character recognition technology whipped up by several sources—including Microsoft Research and Google—to automatically identify text in images on the web. The extension then gives you options to copy, translate or even modify the text, right there in your browser.
With Project Naptha, selecting text in images is as easy as highlighting words in, well, Word, and a simple right-click brings up the extension’s options. Being able to copy text in imagery and paste it into a Google search or document seems like a highly useful feature indeed.
While the end result can be a bit rough around the edges in some pictures, Project Naptha also allows you to erase text from images. Not nifty enough? The extension can also be used to replace the original words with text of your choosing, done in the style of the original, thanks to a technique known as “Inpainting” that intelligently fills the spots where text is removed from, similar to the way Photoshop’s “Content-aware fill” feature works. That trick is somewhat hidden, though: You first have to select the option to Translate > Reprint text, then a new Modify text (BETA) option will appear in the menu.
Speaking of the Translate menu, it also contains the capability to translate in-image text to English, Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Japanese, or German, though that particular functionality is also in beta and doesn’t appear for all in-image text.
Don’t worry about borking your favorite websites, either. All changes disappear when you reload the page you’re tinkering with.
You can also use the extension to modify or copy text in images stored on your local computer, after opening Chrome://extensions in your browser and checking the “Allows access to file URLs” box under Project Naptha. After that, simply drag your chosen pic into Chrome and start tinkering.
The extension isn’t quite perfect. Sometimes, edited text leaves behind the same blurry remnants sometimes seen in pictures, modified text often looks slightly less polished than the original, and text that functions as a hyperlink can’t be edited whatsoever. Even so, Project Naptha’s already incredibly handy-dandy for the copying and hit-or-miss translation abilities alone, and I don’t even want to think about what this can do for Internet memes.
Swing into the Chrome Web Store to pick up the extension, then head over to the Project Naptha website for the full backstory and—if you have the extension installed—a full demonstration of its abilities. Kwok hopes to expand the project to other browsers in the future.
Brad Chacos spends his days digging through desktop PCs and tweeting too much. He specializes in graphics cards and gaming, but covers everything from security to Windows tips and all manner of PC hardware.