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RetroArch AI Service

What is the AI Service

This feature allows users to play games written in a foreign language, or add text voice-overs automatically. This uses OCR (optical character recognition), machine translation, and text-to-speech. While these technologies can't provide the same level of accuracy as curated content, it can go quite far. Machine translation can give a good gist of what's being said, especially for some language pairs, and text-to-speech can be of great benefit for accessibility.

How it works

When a user presses the AI Service hotkey, RetroArch will grab the screen of the game being played and send it to the service endpoint listed in the configuration. When the service returns, RetroArch will then either write the translated image to the screen or say the text, depending on the configuration.

The main supported service to use is the vgtranslate project: ( ). This project is a python server you can run locally (or on your network) and uses Google Cloud OCR, and Google Text-to-Speech APIs with the Google Cloud keys you provide.

Other supported services are in the Alternative Services section.

How to set it up

First, go to Settings->Input->Hotkey Binds, and assign a key for the AI Service.

Next, go to Settings->AI Service and modify the configuration options as follows.

If AI Service Output is Image Mode, then when you press the AI Service hotkey, RetroArch will pause the game while the screen grab is being processed and then display the translated image to the screen when it's available. Pressing the AI Service hotkey again will unpause the game and continue as normal. This mode is recommended when you want to text on the screen to be translated and written back on the screen where it was found. When AI Service Output is Speech Mode, then RetroArch will not pause the game while the screen is being processed. This is recommended when doing text-to-speech, since the audio can not play while the game is paused.

The AI Service URL points to where the translation service you're using is located. In the case of running vgtranslate yourself, this URL would be http://localhost:4404. For more instructions on how to set up vgtranslate on your system, see

AI Service Enabled should be set to on.

If Source Language is set to Don't care, then the service will attempt to auto-detect the language on the screen. Setting it to a specific language will increase accuracy, and restrict translation to only text in the source language specified.

Finally, Target Language is the language to translate into. If set to Don't care then it will translate into English. See the vgtranslate docs for more information.

Supported Cores

At the moment, any core that uses the RGB565 or RGB8888 pixel formats is supported, but cores that use a hardware buffer will not work. If you're not sure what mode your selected core is using, then running RetroArch with logging will tell you in the log what the format is when the AI Service tries to process the screen. For possibilities of what to do in the hardware buffer case, see Alternative Translators.

Alternative Services

If you have issues setting up the vgtranslate service, or don't want to run a local service yourself, you can use a service someone else has set up. One example is the ZTranslate service ( ). In this case, you can use the following url for AI Service URL:


This requires registering an account with to get an API key. Due to uploading of the screen cap to the server, latency will likely be a bit higher than using a vgtranslate service running locally. See the ztranslate docs for more information.

Alternative Translators

There are some other options for translating game screens that don't require a special build of RetroArch and should work with hardware buffer cores. Here are some:


ZTranslate ( ) uses a standalone client app for Windows or Linux that grabs the screen of the window currently in focus and displays a translated version in the ZTranslate client window. Besides automatic translation (which needs a api key), it also supports package-based translations, which is like a translation patch for a rom, but for game screens instead. For more information see


RetroArch-AI-with-IoTEdge ( ) uses IoTEdge and Azure Cognitive Services Containers (requires microsoft Azure account) to translate RetroArch screenshots and display them on a Lakka device. For more information see