updated 03:25 pm EDT, Mon August 2, 2010
NIST evaluating phone-based translation systems
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has recently revealed that it's reviewing a universal translator system for soldiers in Afghanistan based on smartphones. The devices, made by three manufacturers who hope to get the contract, have been undergoing testing over the last four years by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The project, called TRANSTAC, from TRANSlation system for TACtical use, will reduce the need on human translators, who are not always available and may not be trustworthy.
The devices, some of which appear to be Android smartphones, are capable of translating Afghan's native Pashto language, but DARPA is also looking into translating Dari and Iraqi Arabic. The process involves an English speaker talking into the device, with automatic speech recognition generating a text file translated into the target language. Text-to-speech technology then converts this text file into an oral response in the foreign language. This is reversed for the response.
When DARPA will name the supplier of its translator system supplier isn't known. Google has already shown speech-to-speech translation working in Android and could potentially have an off-the-shelf solution of its own. [via io9]