Speech Translation Technology Breaks Through Language Barrier for U.S. Forces in Iraq
An advanced speech-to-speech translation system was recently delivered to U.S. forces in Iraq. The bidirectional English to Arabic translation software is designed to improve communication between military personnel and Iraqi forces and citizens.
Developed by IBM Research, supplied and supported by IBM’s Technology Collaboration Solutions group, the Multilingual Automatic Speech-to-Speech Translator software–dubbed “MASTOR”–will initially be deployed on 35 ruggedized laptops to various Department of Defense entities, including the Army Medical Department, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the Marines.
These military units will use MASTOR to facilitate military and medical-oriented conversations with members of the Iraqi security forces, in hospital settings and during daily interactions with Iraqi citizens. In addition, some of the devices will be used in the U.S. to help train military personnel in advance of deployments. The U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) is embracing automated speech-to-speech translation techniques to help offset the current short supply of military linguists.
Currently, commercially available translation systems can only work with pre-programmed fixed phrases. MASTOR offers users the ability to have a free-form conversation without having to memorize any pre-determined phrases. The goal of MASTOR is to convey the meaning of what is said, even if minor errors are made by the speaker or speech recognizer.
During operation, the user speaks into a microphone that is interfaced with MASTOR. The technology recognizes and translates the speech, then vocalizes the translation in the target language for the foreign language speaker to hear.
The foreign language speaker can then speak into the microphone in their own language, and MASTOR translates and vocalizes their speech back to the original language. In addition to the audible translation, MASTOR captures the spoken dialogue as text.
Tested to run on a variety of platforms, including PDA, tablet PC, and laptop computers, MASTOR is available in two-way English to Iraqi Arabic, English to Modern Standard Arabic, and English to Mandarin Chinese. Additional languages are also planned. The solution can recognize and translate a vocabulary of over 50,000 words in English and 100,000 in Iraqi Arabic.
For more information about IBM technology, visit www.ibm.com.
Abstracted from Market Wire Newsletter, 10/12/06.