Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, March 12, 2004

This is coolbert: Seen this post on another blog site. Interesting.

Slate has an article detailing some of the cool tech being prepared for soldiers by DARPATech.

An except:
One example is the Phraselator, a brick-sized one-way translation device designed for use by U.S. soldiers in countries where they don't know the language and don't have time to learn it. Each hand-held unit uses an SD card—the same one used by many digital cameras—that store up to 30,000 common phrases useful for law enforcement, first aid, or war-fighting. To make the device work, a soldier simply says a phrase (such as "Stop at this checkpoint") into the device, and a few seconds later, the Phraselator repeats it in the chosen language—Urdu, Arabic, Pashto, and Korean are available, to name a few. So far, more than 600 of these devices have been shipped to American units in the field—including 15 programmed with Haitian dialects dispatched with U.S. troops to Haiti."

I know this is more gadgety than PDA, but I thought others might enjoy the story.

Now, this sort of thing has existed in one form or another for some time. During WW2, the Flying Tigers [American pilots flying for the Chinese airforce against the Japanese], were all equipped with what was called the pointie-talkie book. A list of pertinent English phrases and across from the English phrase on the same page was the Chinese translation. Phrases such as:

"I am hurt, take me to a doctor."

"I am an American friend."

"Help me, my people pay in gold."

The pilot, if downed and behind enemy lines, would encounter friendly Chinese who hopefully were literate in their own language. Taking out the pointie-talkie book and finding the appropriate English phrase to describe his plight, he would then point to the equivalent Chinese character on the same page. This would allow communication. The book also allowed to go the opposite way. Chinese characters on one side of a page and English equivalent on the other side of the page. A crude but effective way of communicating. This PDA type device seems to carry the operation one step further. You can communicate with illiterate people using this PDA device. Communication of this type, from what I understand, is difficult at best. Too difficult to get a good translation. And the thing only works one way. Good luck!



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