DARPA issues BAA for advanced robotic translator

Apr 07, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
C-3PO. Image credit: Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the procurement of research leading to an advanced robotic device capable of performing as a translator between humans who speak different languages, while also responding to a set number of visual cues, and is able to "listen" to communications, whether they be auditory or written and to respond with some degree of artificial intelligence. In short, DARPA wants a robot that would be some sort of combination between C-3P0, the robot from Lost in Space, and maybe the computer from Star Trek, (though it's not quite asking for the sentient android DATA, just yet.)

It’s no secret that the DoD wants better translation capabilities than they currently have; soldiers carrying small devices that can do little more than spit out canned phrases hasn’t gone very far in helping to understand what is going on during battlefield conditions. And as they have in the past, the top brass turn to , the folks who helped create the Internet structure that we all know and love today, to lead the way.

Called the Broad Operational Language Translation, (BOLT) the BAA specifies that DARPA is looking for a new Human Language Technology (HLT) research and development program to create a hardware/software combination that can translate multiple (foreign) languages “in all genres” (voice, recorded voice, email, text, etc.) It should also be able to retrieve information from translated material and be able to serve as both a machine-machine and human-machine translator and finally, the trickiest part, to take both visual and tactile cues from the environment and then to perform some sort of reasoning on that information, possibly combined with other inputs, to come up with an appropriate response, either orally, or via text.

As with most requests by DARPA, this request for proposals doesn’t necessarily require those who win one or more parts of the contract to actually construct the end result. What DARPA is looking for, is research. They want breakthrough technology, not just an addition to what is already out there.

The problem of course in paying for research instead of a promised product, is that if a contractor doesn’t come up with anything new, or at least something that looks good on benchmark tests, the whole program can go away just as quickly as it came; and at a proposed budget of $15 million the first year, that’s a lot of money to throw at something that could very easily wind up as nothing more than a simple wish list.

Explore further: For Google's self-driving cars, learning to deal with the bizarre is essential

More information:
via Wired

Related Stories

Google developing a translator for smartphones

Feb 09, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Google is developing a translator for its Android smartphones that aims to almost instantly translate from one spoken language to another during phone calls.

Evaluations aim to advance translation technology

Jul 23, 2007

Wartime military patrols and civilian encounters can be especially dangerous if neither group understands the other’s language. To help American forces secure critical information and communicate with the local population, ...

MIT wins Pentagon prize in social networking contest

Dec 07, 2009

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has won a 40,000-dollar prize for using social networking tools to identify the locations of 10 large weather balloons in a contest sponsored by ...

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

11 hours ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

17 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

After a data breach, it's consumers left holding the bag

17 hours ago

Shoppers have launched into the holiday buying season and retailers are looking forward to year-end sales that make up almost 20% of their annual receipts. But as you check out at a store or click "purchase" on your online shopping cart ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

17 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Brain inspired data engineering

18 hours ago

What if next-generation ICT systems could be based on the brain's structure and its cognitive and adaptive processes? A groundbreaking paradigm of brain-inspired intelligent ICT architectures is being born.

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (3) Apr 07, 2011
Well, you might want to start with Watson.

But they are basicly looking for a universal translator capable of parsing all languages and dialects, including all machine languages, both written and oral, and regardless of format, AND interpreting the environmental cues...

If you can do THAT then you really are already very near to Mr. Data.

They are going to need some really specialized hardware and software, IMO, which brings up a question:

Why haven't Sound Cards advanced as far as Video Cards? Why don't we have gigabyte sound cards with 800 processors for $129 the way we do for video cards?
5 / 5 (4) Apr 07, 2011
You can just use a graphics card to analyze the sound. Also the amount of information required to render 3D graphics is insanely large compared to say 320kb/s sound. Direct Compute could be used to do whatever you want, whether it's sound or compression of files or particle simulators. There is not much use for sound cards other than to make sure you have a high quality connection to your speakers.
not rated yet Apr 07, 2011
Use the amazon cloud to perform the recognition/translation calculations, the device could just be a dumb tablet.

Only drawback is they would need a 3g/4g connection.
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
Use the amazon cloud to perform the recognition/translation calculations, the device could just be a dumb tablet.

Only drawback is they would need a 3g/4g connection.

How true. Imagine troopers in Afganistan stopping suspects: "wait, wait right there @$#%@#! We are trying to connect to translating cloud service, and it's not working! %^%*!, @#$&!"

My impression is DARPA's BAA reflects a shortage in capability to translating non-Latin-alphabet-based languages such as Arabic and Chinese texts and spoken dialogues. They are a real bitch to learn, believe me.
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
a shortage in capability to translating non-Latin-alphabet-based languages such as Arabic and Chinese texts and spoken dialogues. They are a real bitch to learn, believe me.
Maybe Chinese and Arabic are "a real bitch to learn" but as Russian and Greek are not dramatically more difficult to learn than, say, English or French, it's not a matter of Latin versus non-Latin alphabets. Although Russian and Greek use non-Latin alphabets both languages belong to the same Indo-European language family as English and French.
not rated yet Apr 09, 2011
I don't see this happening in anything smaller than a room. So they might have to use a cloud.
not rated yet Apr 10, 2011
Why haven't Sound Cards advanced as far as Video Cards?
If you are old enough, you will remember how ridiculously long it took for car companies to offer 'stereo' systems for cars. All through the '60s,'70s and even 80's, if you wanted a good sound system for your car, you had to go to a third party. Why this was true I have never understood.

Unlike visual data sound is impossible to fake. Even a 1/10000 of sec sound glitch will cause your hair to stand on end. From a different direction, even today I still cringe when I see people, including my own grown kids, walking/driving around with ears plugged with sound devices. Must be the paranoia of my youth, but I can not relax when I am cut off from ambient sound.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.