The MASTOR (Multilingual Automatic Speech-to-Speech Translator) software and microphone will be installed on 35 laptops and should make it much easier for Americans to bridge the language barrier with Iraqi citizens and security forces.
The goal is to augment the tight supply of Arabic translators available to U.S. forces in Iraq.
New York-based IBM said Thursday that MASTOR differs from earlier computer translators in that it recognizes individual words rather than phrases, which allows the technology to better keep up with a freeform conversation.
MASTOR has a database of 50,000 English words and about 100,000 words in Iraqi Arabic. It can scour the library and put sentences together in real time. Along with an audio playback, MASTOR creates a text version of the conversation that can be downloaded on to a PDA or other device.
The technology will be tested out by U.S. Army and Marine units and by Army medical personnel and the Special Operations Command.
Big Blue said it planned to expand the technology into applications that can be used by law enforcement agencies and in international business settings, such as banking, aerospace and medical science.