View Full Version : Military Getting High-Tech Help From SRI Lab

05-31-2006, 12:47 PM
29 May San Francisco Chronicle - Military Getting High-Tech Help From SRI Lab (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/05/29/BUGF8J39HK1.DTL&hw=sri&sn=001&sc=1000) by Tom Abate.

During a recent product demonstration at SRI headquarters in Menlo Park, computer scientist Harry Bratt spoke into the microphone of his lab's new translation computer: "Did you hear the explosion this morning?"

Several seconds later, software written by SRI International scientists piped the question through the computer's speaker -- this time in the Iraqi dialect of Arabic.

Saad Alabbodi, an Iraqi immigrant posing as a civilian being questioned by a U.S. soldier, answered in his native tongue.

There was another pause as the computer translated Alabbodi's reply into English in a mock interrogation that provided another example of how technology is slowly mimicking complex human capabilities such as speech.

The demonstration showed off a system that this nonprofit research institute has been developing for the Department of Defense. Thirty-two of the systems -- rugged notebooks loaded with the SRI software -- have been shipped to Iraq, where U.S. military personnel are testing them in the field...

The system is a far cry from the universal translator of the "Star Trek" television series. It isn't designed to handle subtle or wide-ranging discussions. So human translators -- including 9,000 small U.S. companies that are projected to do $5.7 billion in business in 2007 -- don't have to worry about being cut out of the conversation just yet.

Instead, IraqComm's vocabulary of 40,000 words in English and 50,000 in Iraqi Arabic is designed to enable soldiers or medics to converse with civilians in a limited range of settings such as military checkpoints, door-to-door searches or first-aid situations...