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A handheld device that translates simple spoken phrases.
June 10, 2002 7:30 PM   Subscribe

A handheld device that translates simple spoken phrases. "American troops in Afghanistan are using a revolutionary device that instantly translates soldiers' voices into native languages. . . . The soldier speaks into the machine, which recognizes the words and translates them into another language." Simple phrases only — and a long way from a Star Trek universal translator — but kindling for the science-fiction-addled imagination nonetheless.
posted by mcwetboy (11 comments total)

 
The research agency has also produced a crest for the Babylon project showing the World Trade Center towers on fire, two lightning bolts and an angry, hissing black cat. Beneath the emblem is the word "Remember."
...."Babylon is focusing on low-population, high-terrorist-risk languages,"
Hmmm, dunno how much I'd trust this thing's pre-recorded phrases.
posted by Catch at 7:55 PM on June 10, 2002


I love seeing incredibly cool tech like this in its infancy. It is kind of sad that it's being implemented during and because of war, but that could be said of any number of innovations. If I were aspiring A-lister, I would post links to radio, radar, airplanes and the internet here, but I'm just too damn lazy.
posted by GriffX at 8:05 PM on June 10, 2002


I miss Douglas Adams...
posted by BentPenguin at 8:10 PM on June 10, 2002


This was among mil technology demo'ed to Congress several weeks back. (Other cool stuff: hand-held interface to as-live-as-possible reconnaissance imaging; and a pen-sized water disinfection device. Surely it is cosmically significant that the DoD consultant is named Sega. The same translator was outed in the NYT back in February, WaPo in April; and other palmtop applications seem destined for field use sooner, rather than later.

You can see a picture of the device at Phraselator's site (they say, available fall '02!). Obviously this isn't really doing universal translation per se, it's more like having an electronic Berlitz that you don't have to puzzle through the cadences ("ARE rett ay, SEEL voo PLAY") that make you sound like a dork.
posted by dhartung at 8:26 PM on June 10, 2002


Does it speak in deep, mechanical voices like Darth Vader to make them all the more intimidating?
posted by tnadeau at 9:33 PM on June 10, 2002


Or if the soldiers tell some one to "beat up martin" will it come out "eat up martha?"
posted by drezdn at 1:39 AM on June 11, 2002


Or if the soldiers tell some one to "beat up martin" will it come out "eat up martha?"
posted by drezdn at 1:39 AM on June 11, 2002


Mechanical voice speaking Pashto: "Provide room and board for the rulers of your duchies!"*

Villager speaking Dari: "What?"

Mechanical voice speaking Pashto: "Flying Chinese people!"**

Villager speaking Dari: "What?"

Gun: Blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam

Mechanical voice speaking Pashto: Bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin bhin


* "Put up your dukes!"

** "Han[d]s in the air!"
posted by pracowity at 2:22 AM on June 11, 2002


slashdot linked to this cool atlantic monthly article a couple years ago :) it "discusses the current uses of Machine Translation, Text to Speech and Speech to Text and the power of connecting the three. It also points out the error rates involved." obviously not so current anymore; we are making progress!
posted by kliuless at 6:06 AM on June 11, 2002


** "Han[d]s in the air!"

Hahahaha... took me awhile...
posted by SilentSalamander at 6:20 AM on June 11, 2002


You win a prize, pracowity. :) Too funny.
posted by Marquis at 7:04 AM on June 11, 2002


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