The Great Speech Translation Race

Article from Wired on U.S. progress in bringing the notorious Phraselator system used in Iraq back home for use by local cops. Here’s the current outlook for this technology.

The next generation of the devices will also feature pictures, allowing the user to ask, “Have you seen any of these people?” or “Have you seen these weapons?” The Phraselator is advertised on its website as an interrogation tool, but Sarich [Ace Sarich, vice president of VoxTec, a division of Marine Acoustics that developed the device] says it is inferior compared to human interrogators.

No kidding…

The article also refers to IBM’s MASTOR speech to speech translation project, which seems to have accelerated its development forecast:

In 2003, DARPA estimated that open-domain, multi-task and unconstrained dialog translation was still five to 10 years away. But the research group developing IBM’s MASTOR, or multilingual automatic speech-to-speech translator system, says its DARPA-funded bidirectional voice translator is a year or two from deployment.

This should be put in the hands of emergency workers in disaster areas, where more lives could perhaps be saved by having near-real time translation support.

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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