Raytheon Shows the Army a Universal Translator App

Smartphone on display showing a top-to-bottom split screen translating from one language to another

Image credit: Wired

By Spencer Ackerman

It’s been a white whale for the Army during a decade at war: building a translator that can let English-only troops communicate with Arabic, Dari and Pashto speakers in war zones. Now a huge defense contractorthink it’s speared the elusive quarry — in app form.

Martha Lillie, a business manager at defense giant Raytheon, picks up a no-frills Motorola Atrix from a table at Raytheon’s booth at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. She loads an application, presses her thumb on the Atrix’s touchscreen and moves the phone close to her mouth. “Where are you going?” she asks.

Lillie passes the phone to her Pashto-speaking colleague, Ubaidullah Tokhi. The phone barks back a phrase in Pashto. Tokhi grips the phone and speaks something into it in his native language. A calm electronic voice soon follows: “I am going into the city.”



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