The military expects to introduce a tablet prototype of its combat translation system by the end of the year, officials said Wednesday. Troops have depended on translators in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade. The Pentagon’s researching arm the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has also offered translation services that allows troops to speak into a device that immediately translates the phrase for the local population. It is part of the Broad Operation Language Translation program that was intended to allow “real-time interactive translation between two people” in a range of languages.
When American soldiers at war communicate with native populations, there’s always a middle man. For the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, that has meant a translator who speaks both English and the local language. Problem is, many translators have been punished and killed for cooperating with American forces. That will soon change. Starting next year, some of the 160,000 U.S. soldiers currently serving overseas in over 150 countries will be using a tablet combat translator that allows them to immediately speak to locals no matter what language barrier exists. The device prototype will be tested in combat areas by the end of the year, Pentagon officials said on Wednesday. The tablet is being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s research arm that has played a role in the development of major technological advances like the Internet, GPS, and drones.