IBM Real-Time Voice-Translation Software Heads to Iraq

The U.S. Joint Forces Command will deploy IBM Research’s speech-to-speech translation software to help U.S. forces in Iraq better communicate with Iraqi police, military forces and citizens. The software’s real-time translation capabilities could help the military make up for a lack of linguists proficient in Iraqi Arabic.

IBM Research’s Multilingual Automatic Speech-to-Speech Translator system (Mastor) combines work on automatic speech recognition, natural language understanding and speech synthesis that’s been under way at IBM since 2001, says David Nahamoo, CTO of speech technology at IBM Research.

When used in Iraq on ruggedized Panasonic Toughbook laptops, Mastor will act as a bidirectional, English-to-Iraqi Arabic translator capable of handling more than 50,000 English words and 100,000 Iraqi Arabic words.

For example, a U.S. military trainer looking to work with an Iraqi policeman could speak English into a laptop’s microphone. The IBM technology would recognize his English speech, translate it into Iraqi Arabic and then vocalize that translation for the Iraqi policeman to hear, and vice versa.

Later this year, IBM’s commercial partner, Sharp, plans to introduce a Japanese-to-English translation PDA based on some Mastor technologies, Nahamoo says.

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