Translation apps are a dime a dozen these days, but they all seem to suffer from the same problem: they suck.
Enter Ringy, a WeChat translation service that runs circles around even Google’s snazzy algorithms. Oh, and it's free.
The secret? Ringy uses real people.
It works like this: you send a picture, text or even a question you need translated to WeChat account RingyRingy, and a real, live person answers you, usually within a few minutes.
We tested this ourselves by challenging an interpreter with a rather odd translation:
App founder Swan Huang saw the number of 'volunteer translators' working with Ringy leap from four last year to roughly 100 today. Many are language students hungry for practice, or bilingual people who want to help expatriates.
Ringy volunteers also offer up cultural context to what they are translating, something apps like Pleco don't do.
Ringy is helpful for simple things like telling the difference between shampoo and soap, or reading a menu.
It can also be useful for those in a tight spot. A man recently sent a picture of a car’s GPS to Ringy, says Huang. He was on a blocked off road and needed to get to the highway.
“I took a look at the map, I put a circle where he needed to go and sent it back to him,” says Huang.
In recent months, Ringy has expanded into offering additional services – for a small fee. Ringy can now help you order food, find an ayi or even ship a package.
“We have some regular users that talk to us really like friends,” Huang says. “They’ll ask things like 'what kind of shampoo is good?'”
Huang says Ringy has found sponsors that want to spread the word about the app, like Taps Brewpub, Nogogo and Teapigs. On top of the free text service, Ringy recently began offering virtual assistant help for RMB1 per minute.
Try it yourself by adding WeChat public account RingyRingy or scanning the below QR code.