The Air Force wants to replace 'terps with tech

As anyone who’s ever deployed with a unit that required an interpreter knows, language barriers make a tough mission tougher. And considering how the U.S. military has treated the locals hired to do interpretation for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a wonder we’re able to recruit ‘terps’ at all.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Wesley Anderson and an interpreter with Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT), Weapons Company, 2D Battalion, 9th Marines (2/9), Regimental Combat Team 5 talk with a local Afghan national during a patrol in Bari Desert, Afghanistan May 18, 2012. 2/9 CAAT and Afghan National Army soldiers took part in a seven-day operation to erect Patrol Base Sledgehammer Six and disrupt insurgent activity in the area.

“He says: ‘So… this is the guy we kill when you leave yeah’?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

So it makes sense the Pentagon would have a need for something that provides real-time translation to the boots on the ground. It should come to no surprise to anyone who regularly shops around on FedBizOpps.gov (the U.S. government’s business opportunities site with a name as legit as any Cash4Gold site), to see the Air Force Research Laboratory posting a need for what it calls “human language technologies.”

030318-N-5319A-002 Central Command Area of Responsibility (Mar. 18, 2003) -- K-Dog, a Bottle Nose Dolphin belonging to Commander Task Unit (CTU) 55.4.3, leaps out of the water in front Sgt. Andrew Garrett while training near the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) in the Arabian Gulf. Attached to the dolphinÕs pectoral fin is a ÒpingerÓ device that allows the handler to keep track of the dolphin when out of sight. CTU-55.4.3 is a multi-national team consisting of Naval Special Clearance Team-One, Fleet Diving Unit Three from the United Kingdom, Clearance Dive Team from Australia, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units Six and Eight (EODMU-6 and -8). These units are conducting deep/shallow water mine countermeasure operations to clear shipping lanes for humanitarian relief. CTU-55.4.3 and USS Gunston Hall are currently forward deployed conducting missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. U.S. Navy photo by PhotographerÕs Mate 1st Class Brien Aho. (RELEASED)

Meanwhile, the Navy continues to pursue its strange obsession with dolphin language . (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho RELEASED)

The Air Force wants to conduct research and development in “automatic speech recognition, machine translation, natural language processing, information extraction, information retrieval, text-to-speech synthesis, and other speech and language processing technologies.” Maybe the military should just ask Skype how they made theirs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G87pHe6mP0I

The Air Force’s mind-blowing rationale is that “much of the information needed to effectively understand, anticipate, manage, and operate in the global environment is found in foreign language speech, text, videos, and images” and the military is especially interested in “lesser spoken languages that have high military interest but lack sufficient linguists and automated language processing capabilities.”

"The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier, but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish."

“The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier, but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.” YOU WISH AIR FORCE.

Basically, everything we want to know for via signals intelligence and human intelligence is another language and we don’t have enough people who will help us translate it and the Air Force will spend $10 million over a five-year span to develop the technology to do it without human help.

 

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