(Source: NIST)
New smart-phone based device will help break language barriers for U.S. troops.

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have been working for the past four years on developing an Afghan language translation military device. It's called the TRANSTAC Smart Phone Technology (spoken language communication and TRANSlation system for TACtical use). 

In prior attempts, the NIST used microphones and portable computers. However, the agency's most recent tests have improved their design prototypes to include three- and two-way voice translation handhelds that allow the military to communicate with non-English speakers in realtime.  

When the device is in use, an automatic speech recognition software system inputs what is being said and then generates a text file that the software translates.  The text-to-speech technology then converts the information into a verbal response.  The process is reciprocated for the foreign language speaker.

DARPA plans to phase out using live interpreters, and will instead begin implementing the translation technology to U.S. troops. 

During a series of extensive tests, the agency developed 25 scenarios for evaluating the performance of the devices.  They included facility inspections, medical assessments, vehicle checkpoints, communicating key information and military training exercises.  

Right now, NIST is focusing on Pashto, a native Afghani tongue, but the agency says that they have also incorporated machine translation systems for Dari and Iraqi Arabic.

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