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Translator Phones

August 25, 2010

A specialized telephone may serve as a translator for troops in Afghanistan.


Hand-held translators…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Afghani language translators are in short supply. That’s why the National Institute of Standards and Technology has been testing an automated translator for the military that’s built into a mobile phone. As project manager Craig Schlenoff explains, when someone speaks into the phone, an embedded computer translates the spoken words to text. Then it translates that text to another language, and uses voice software to speak the translation aloud.

CRAIG SCHLENOFF (National Institute of Standards and Technology):
There’s no need for internet connection or any other kind of connection with these phones. They all run specifically within the phones themselves. (:08)

The evaluation centers on improvised scenarios between soldiers and civilians, with bilingual observers scoring the translations. Although the software is tailor-made for the military, Shlenoff says it might someday be adapted for use by the general public. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.