Print 11 comment(s) - last by Chocobollz.. on Aug 20 at 2:27 AM

  (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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By Souka on 8/2/2010 4:14:28 PM , Rating: 3
Interesting... but from a military perspective, a good interepter can see beyond the words being spoken and convey them to the military personel he's assisting... I highly doubt such a device can do this.

I can definitly see it being a backup device, or obviously more portable than an intrepeter! :)

RE: Interesting....
By geddarkstorm on 8/2/2010 4:52:02 PM , Rating: 2
I'd think it'd be used as an emergency sorta thing. Especially when you look at the test cases. Still flipping cool technology. I'm sure the tourism industry will love to get their hands on this.

RE: Interesting....
By someguy123 on 8/3/2010 12:10:36 AM , Rating: 2
If this device is able to make something coherent and not google-translate level then I'd say this would be revolutionary. It's hard to find many people fluent in multiple languages, much less ones willing to work in dangerous military conditions.

RE: Interesting....
By afkrotch on 8/3/2010 1:08:09 AM , Rating: 3
The problem with interpeting another language, is there are a lot of cultural references. Without knowing them, a coherent sentence can turn into an incoherent one after translation.

RE: Interesting....
By TheEinstein on 8/4/2010 3:25:53 AM , Rating: 2
All your translations are belong to us!

RE: Interesting....
By Hieyeck on 8/6/2010 8:49:00 AM , Rating: 2
That being said, "where's the toilet?" is pretty straightforward. I doubt anyone's going to strike up a conversation with this tech, but it'll be helpful when you're crawling the countrysides rather than tourist meccas.

RE: Interesting....
By FITCamaro on 8/4/2010 10:00:04 AM , Rating: 2
I would say another use for this would be to have it to translate what is being said, unknown to them and not being repeated, while a live interpreter translates for you. You can then compare what is said and what you're told is said. To make sure the translator isn't lying to you or leaving things out.

I want one of these on my smart phone that will translate what is being said around me into text so I can read it.

RE: Interesting....
By amagriva on 8/7/2010 12:41:33 PM , Rating: 2
Mmmh? Maybe for your paranoias this gizmo is overkill...
A tape recorder or a bug will do the job.
Got petrol low in octanes? It seems your engine is going bananas

RE: Interesting....
By FNG on 8/11/2010 11:30:14 AM , Rating: 2
Paranoia? I would say you are a bit naive. Many times action is taken immediately based on a conversation. We had a translator who hated the sect of people we were stationed to protect. His hatred was family bias as he was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; but it was there. I would have loved to have a device like this, because I did not trust him.

RE: Interesting....
By frobizzle on 8/12/2010 8:19:24 AM , Rating: 2
I want one of these on my smart phone that will translate what is being said around me into text so I can read it.

I want one of these to translate what my teenage kid is saying into recognizable English!

RE: Interesting....
By Chocobollz on 8/20/2010 2:27:44 AM , Rating: 2
Reading on your post kinda make me chukled a little because you mispelled the word "interpreter" like 2 times (and obviously some of the replies, like afkrotch saying "interpeting"; is that a kind of mixing up pets? LOL) and the first thing which comes up to my mind is, I hope the device won't do the same mistake! LOL Damn my stomach ache! :P

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