Association News

Language Translation Devices sent to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Press Release Summary:

Mar 15, 2011 - Due to shortage of human translators, 200 NIST-tested, smartphone-based language translation devices have been sent to 101st Airborne in Afghanistan to assist U.S. soldiers in communicating with local population. Devices allow soldiers to gather critical information without needing to learn Dari and Pashto languages. During NIST testing, subjects were immersed in realistic military scenarios, which yielded quantitative and qualitative data showing how effectively systems will help military personnel.

National Institute of Standards & Technology - Gaithersburg, MD

Original Press Release

NIST Engineering Laboratory-Tested, Language Translation Devices Sent to U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan

Press release date: Mar 10, 2011

Two hundred NIST-tested, smartphone-based language translation devices have been sent to the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan to assist U.S. soldiers in communicating with the local population. Due to the shortage of human translators, these devices are allowing the soldiers to gather critical information without needing to learn the native Dari and Pashto languages.

NIST's challenge was to provide accurate performance data to inform military decisions of where, when, and how these systems should be deployed. To address this challenge, NIST formed a multi-disciplinary team of experts from NIST laboratories and external organizations that defined and carried out seven week-long test events with U.S. military personnel and native speakers from Iraq and Afghanistan. These events immersed test subjects in realistic military scenarios and yielded quantitative and qualitative data showing how effectively the translation systems helped military personnel perform their duties. The results of each evaluation provided detailed descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the devices, enabling the system developers to double their performance in a two year period.

BBN Corporation stated, "The results from your well-run evaluations have greatly accelerated our system's field deployment." In addition, the initial response from soldiers has been quite positive. PFC Merritt stated, "Keep it up, my job just got easier and I am sure the locals will be much happier with us."

Contact: Craig Schlenoff, (301) 975-3456