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  • DARPA initiates overarching language translation research Publishes Broad Agency Announcement for Broad Operational Language Translation (BOLT) program

    April 19, 2011

    Security needs around the world dictate that the United States has access to reliable information that could impact national security or deployed military personnel. Given the vast amount of information in multiple languages and formats, it can be difficult to analyze and determine what’s important. Additionally, there’s a need to be able to readily communicate with local populations of foreign countries and non-English speaking allies.

    To meet these needs, DARPA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for its Broad Operational Language Translation (BOLT) program. BOLT is part of DARPA’s broader efforts to provide language translation in support of Defense and National Security requirements ranging from phrase translation to the scanning and translation of large data sets of voice, video and print.

    According to Joe Olive, DARPA program manager, “We’ve achieved significant success with the Global Autonomous Language Exploitation (GALE) program, which has already developed software capable of translating formal news Arabic more accurately on first pass than human translators.”  BOLT seeks to accurately translate Mandarin Chinese and multiple dialects of Arabic into English from all types of media, specifically focused on the challenging task of informal conversational speech, email text and instant messaging. “BOLT also aims to allow users to conduct English-language queries that retrieve targeted information from multi-lingual sources.  BOLT would give users the ability to conduct robust searches that yield the most relevant results,” he said.

    Additionally, BOLT aims to provide a natural translation capability, where the machine will interact with humans, much like we do with each other, to clarify specific points that otherwise may lead to ambiguity (words with multiple meanings for example).  “DARPA’s Spoken Language Communication and Translation System for Tactical Use (TRANSTAC) program currently enables robust, spontaneous two-way communication through the translation of short and simple phrases,” explained, Olive. “BOLT may elevate translation to a new level by providing multi-turn bilingual complex conversation that does not diverge from context.”

    DARPA’s suite of translation programs also includes Multilingual Automatic Document Classification Analysis and Translation (MADCAT), which seeks to automatically convert foreign language text images into English transcripts.

    “This suite of solutions takes into consideration the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all translator for every circumstance,” explained Olive. “What our warfighters need on the edge of the battlefield differs from the needs of analyst cells and headquarters commands.”

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    For additional information, contact DARPA Public Affairs, DARPAPublicAffairsOffice@darpa.mil 

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