Translation systems Speak up

WARS often boost technological development. In Iraq the armed forces have faced a shortage of translators, both from within their own ranks and from bilingual locals whose lives can be put in peril if they are found to be working for the foreigners. This has created a demand for machines that can translate between Arabic and English. Although some experimental devices have proved unreliable, they are now improving.
A number of two-way translating devices have been under development as part of the Spoken Language Communication and Translation System for Tactical Use (TRANSTAC) programme run by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA. There are three main participants: IBM, BBN Technologies and SRI International.
SRI said recently that it had sold 150 machines to the American government for use in Iraq. IBM has provided troops with 1,000 of its devices which run MASTOR, its multilingual automatic speech translator. Both systems can translate tens of thousands of words between Iraqi Arabic and American English, even when people are speaking outside the laboratory. [click heading for more]