IBM has been working on automatic language translation for a long time and it is now rolling out “MASTOR” which is the Multilingual Automatic Speech-To-Speech Translator software. Instead of repeating a series of fixed phrases in different languages, people will be able to have free-form conversations, according to IBM. In fact, people won’t have to memorize any foreign language at all.
The first client is the U.S. military which is buying a system that uses 50,000 English words and 100,000 Iraqi Arabic words. IBM says “The goal is for this technology to facilitate military and medical-oriented conversations with members of the Iraqi security forces, in hospital settings and during daily interactions with Iraqi citizens.” It will initially be put on 35 ruggedized laptops in Iraq by the US military. DARPA helped finance the research.
If this is the breakthrough we’ve all been waiting for, it has huge potential in society. Check out the IBM site for a demo in Chinese and English to see how it is done.
For more details, check out the researchers and their work. Clearly, Chinese and China are market targets.
IBM could use a little work on “MASTOR.” Yes, you do master a language but “MASTOR” has too much cognitive dissonance for me.
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