U.S. Forces in Iraq Use IBM Speech Translation Technology

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. & WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. forces in Iraq received a speech-to-speech translation system from IBM (NYSE: IBM). The bidirectional English to Arabic translation software is designed to improve communication between military personnel and Iraqi forces and citizens.

The United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) is embracing automated speech-to-speech translation techniques to help offset the current short supply of military linguists. 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 components 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.

"Our goal is to enable units operating in areas where human interpreters are scarce to communicate effectively with speakers of different languages in real-world tactical situations," said Wayne Richards, branch chief, U.S. Joint Forces Capabilities Division. "The feedback gained in the field is crucial to enhance the translation system requirements and performance expectations."

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. MASTOR has been tested to run on a variety of platforms, including PDA, tablet PC, and laptop computers.

IBM's technology is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) Spoken Language Communication and Translation System for Tactical Use (TRANSTAC) program, where MASTOR was one of the speech-to-speech systems selected for investigative equipping in support of the Multinational Force Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I).

SpeechTek Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues