The Phraselator from Marine Acoustics, Inc is currently being used by both British and American Coalition Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 100+ Phraselators being used in Iraq are loaded with both Arabic and Kurdish languages.
Civil Affairs units are currently using the devices as they encounter civilians in and around the towns of Iraq. This allows them to give instructions in Arabic and also ask simple yes/no types of questions to obtain information. Phraselator can be attached to loud speakers to broadcast a message to larger groups to calms fears, give information and direction ( “stay calm”, “Medical help is on the way”).
The Medical units are using this devices to help assess the injuries and status (“point to where you hurt”, ”do you have pain in this joint?”, “ are you thirsty?”) . This helps a great deal in treating any wounded Iraqis, both civilian and military. The Phraselator also helps to inform the patient of his or her condition, or the condition of their child ( “ we need to repair this”, “the bone here is not broken”, “your child will get better soon”). As a directive means (“ move all of your fingers”, “do not touch this tube”, “open your eyes”, “bring your child back here tomorrow”, “Take a deep breath in and out”) the Phraselator helps to communicate very effectively. Human translators are in short supply and this is a multiplier of assets to help many more people, as well as ease the tensions and fears they might be experiencing during a time of trauma. This device will become invaluable once the reconstruction of the Iraqi regime begins.
The Phraselator is a one-way phrase-based voice-to-voice machine translator. When a user speaks one of the phrases in English into the microphone, the appropriate prerecorded translation is played through the built in speaker. The user can provide information, give orders or directions, or ask questions with an easily conveyed response. It is used much like a traveler’s phrase book, only you can speak into it and out comes the perfectly pronounced recorded translation.
Developed under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant for military use. After the 9/11 terrorist attack, the development was accelerated and the first prototype Phraselators were delivered to U. S. military forces in Afghanistan in support of operation Enduring Freedom.
The Phraselator is a ruggedized, weather resistant handheld device consisting of Intel StrongARM processor with Windows CE operating system, day/night touch-screen display, high quality microphone and amplified speaker. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery or four AA batteries power it. The touch screen can also be used to point and click on a phrase and the Phraselator will speak for you.
Phrase modules consisting of 100 to 1,000 phrases translated into one or more target languages are stored on Compact Flash (CF) cards. Typically, up to 30,000 translated phrases can be stored on one CF card. Currently over 20 modules have been built with translations into over 40 languages. A Windows PC Module Builder Toolkit is available for building custom modules by users.
While the Phraselator was developed with the military user in mind, there are many other potential applications and users. To highlight a few:
Military: force protection, security, field medicine, military checkpoints, POWs, intelligence screening, ship boarding and inspections.
Government and law enforcement: police, fire departments, customs, immigration, Coast Guard inspections and safety.
Medical: Emergency medical, medical diagnostics, dental practice, patient registration.
Travel Industry: Airline check-in, security screening, flight and safety information.
Education: Classroom communications for non-English students, language training.
Travelers: Basic tourist modules.
Other: Non-English speaking workers, Natural disaster assistance
A commercial version of the Phraselator is under development. In addition, a consumer version of the Phraselator software will be available Summer 2003. It consists of a tourist module running on a Pocket PC and the VoxTec Pocket Speaker – an amplified speaker that mates to the Pocket PC.