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Reinforcements from Uncle Sam

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

by Todd Nelson, Star Tribune, Minneaplis, MN

Reinforcements from Uncle Sam

December 17, 2006, from The Star Tribune | View in Original Context

Special to the Star Tribune; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN -- High-tech start-ups and companies with solid research-and-development projects can look to government grants for financing.

Randy Milbert's idea was to equip soldiers with a new high-tech system that would show them, through a helmet-mounted display, information such as an enemy's location.

His foe - a lack of money to launch his company and develop his product -- was all too familiar to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

Milbert found an ally in the government's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which requires federal agencies to support research and development at small- and medium-sized business, those with 500 or fewer employees.

Milbert's company, Primordial, received $850,000 this month in SBIR contracts to continue developing its vision software product, officially known as a "geographically enabled augmented reality system for dismounted soldiers."

Milbert conceived the idea at about the same time that a Department of Defense official was writing up a solicitation seeking proposals for just such a system. Primordial's proposed solution earned it an initial grant of $100,000 a year ago. The new contracts will support two years of research that will result in a market-ready prototype.

A Minnesota native and 2000 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Milbert heard about SBIR grants, which date to the early 1980s, at weekly meetings of a student entrepreneurship club, from a professor who served as the club's adviser.

"Even then, when venture capital money was so much more available ... even then we talked about SBIR," he said. "For a long time it has been an excellent way for small businesses to get initial funding to get their business off the ground. ... Twenty-four months of sustained funding can do wonders for starting a company."

Still, many small businesses shy away from applying for SBIR or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants, which finance small companies working with researchers at universities or other institutions.

Some view the application process as dauntingly complex. But companies can get help from various sources, including state and federal SBIR websites, a state SBIR/STTR office, local networking group and a local program that partners with a defense agency to help businesses secure government contracts.

Those who believe that defense contracts go only to those who make bombs or bullets don't realize that Minnesota companies have received contracts to provide everything from electronic interconnection and communications equipment to medical transcription and anger-management counseling program content, a state report on Minnesota's defense industry said last month.

Defense spending in Minnesota amounted to $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2005, according to the report from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, which is home to an SBIR/STTR assistance office. That counts only prime contracts awarded to big companies such as Lockheed Martin, Honeywell spinoff Alliant Techsystems and BAE Systems, which recently purchased United Defense. The total does not include defense spending with subcontractors or SBIR or STTR grants to Minnesota companies.

In September, three of the state's SBIR recipients -- SpeechGear of Northfield, Hysitron of Minneapolis and ISurTec of St. Paul -- were among 50 winners nationally of awards named for Roland Tibbetts, a former National Science Foundation official credited with coming up with the SBIR grant concept.

The grant programs help small businesses grow and create skilled, high-paying jobs, said Chip Laingen, director of the Defense Alliance of Minnesota, a networking group that formed in 2004 and has 185 companies and 1,600 individual members. "Our ultimate goal is to make sure that Minnesota remains viable economically," Laingen said.

The process is competitive, Milbert said, with only about 15 percent of proposals receiving initial funding. The odds improve for those who do well during the first phase, with 40 percent of them getting money to continue their research.

Secret sauces help

The bottom line, Milbert said, is that the best technical proposal wins. Companies can strengthen their pitch, though, if they pay attention to other parts of the proposal and the process.

"There's certain secret sauces that you've got to have for a winning bid," said Paul Wagner, president and CEO of Minnesota Wire and Cable, which last month received an $850,000 contract to produce high-tech wiring for vests as part of the Army's "Future Force Warrior" program. Minnesota Wire & Cable has invested in Primordial and provides office space for Milbert and his eight employees.

One such ingredient, Wagner said, is a strong commercialization path for a new product. "They don't want to pay any money if they don't see that the price is going to come down," he said. "Why have innovation that's all locked up, that's so expensive they can't release it to the masses?"

Robert Palmquist, president and CEO of SpeechGear, which produces software that provides near-instant translation, said he believed commercialization plans are just as important as the bid's technical aspects if not more. Companies need to anticipate what they would do with second-stage financing even as they apply for their first grant.

"The SBIR program, like any research program, is looking for success in the field," Palmquist said. "What is the path that's going to have this become an actual product? That's critical."

Another point is to learn from proposals that don't get picked. The wiring product that just received an Army contract had failed in an earlier submission, Wagner said. "We asked why and we followed up and corrected it," he said, referring to a post-submission period when companies can ask for feedback on their bids.

Companies also can gain valuable insights from a 30-day period before submissions are due, Milbert said, when officials who write bid solicitations will answer questions.

A stumbling block for Primordial was a requirement to provide biographies of key players, said Milbert, who incorporated his company in 2002. Overlooking that had helped cost the company some bids. But the criticism taught Milbert the importance of building a team of people with the right academic or professional backgrounds to give a proposal more credibility.

Companies also should stick to what they know, to avoid wasting time and money on writing proposals that might not pan out. "It's harder to start from scratch," said Milbert, who projected outside revenue of $400,000 this year and $1.8 million next year, up from $15,000 in 2005.

Each quarter, agencies post perhaps 400 solicitations for products or services eligible for SBIR grants.

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury who also has written for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Raleigh News & Observer. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.

SpeechGear Featured in “Speech Technology Magazine”

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

By Lisa Cochran - Posted Nov 9, 2006

The social and cultural landscape of our workplace is continually changing, with multilingual communication needs becoming commonplace. As our society becomes more multicultural, organizations need to develop and implement strategies that will accommodate it. The residents of the ancient biblical city of Babel could readily attest that language barriers between people are nothing new. However, the impact of such barriers, and the need for developing effective solutions, is becoming more apparent each day. According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, 21.3 million people living in the U.S. have difficulty conversing in the English language. This represents a startling 52 percent increase over the 1990 Census Bureau data. Of those responding to the Census poll, 3.3 million spoke no English at all. Considering that the Census data is now six years old and that those who speak little or no English are very likely to be underreported in a poll, it would be a fair assumption that the language barrier in America is even greater today. As a result of these changing environments, rather than an "everyone should learn English" approach, businesses are learning to embrace foreign language skills to foster communication within the firm and with customers and clients.

Typically, most organizations manage to get by with a few dedicated bilingual employees or independent interpreters who do their best to bridge the language barrier. However, with an increasingly diverse population of immigrants entering into even our smaller to mid-sized communities, many corporations, government agencies, and other organizations are finding they cannot effectively communicate with their clientele. They simply do not have sufficient bilingual staff available, and the current demand to converse in many languages makes a reliance on office interpreters impractical.
Fortunately, there are emerging technologies that will greatly help. Although language translation systems have been in place for many years, up until now, they have only been marginally utilized. The early systems were awkward to use and not always effective, while the newest technology makes language translation for the correct applications amazingly effective, simple, and relatively affordable. It is now possible to converse with someone who speaks a different language in real time using bidirectional speech translation systems. The Probation Parole Division of New Mexico recently tested such a system in Albuquerque. The results of the experiment are discussed later in this article.

Early Translation Systems

Computer software for recognizing speech, translating text, and producing voice output has been under development for several decades. The key goal continues to be combining these items into a system that really works—that is, one that instantly translates anything you say or hear at anytime at any location for any language. As an initial step to achieving this goal, early translation systems focused just on translating text. Unfortunately, these initial systems often neglected to use context in generating the translation. For example, the word "right" can mean a statement of correctness as in You are right, the authority to do something as in the right to vote, or a statement of direction as in Turn right at the corner. It was common for these early systems to simply insert a word-for-word substitution using the most commonly used meaning (in this case translating right as a direction), thus often leading to completely misleading translations. It was a start but certainly did not provide the accuracy needed for practical use.

An alternative approach for early translation systems was using a database of preselected phrases that had been previously translated by a qualified interpreter. Here, the user is limited to only using phrases that have been previously entered into the system. When one of these phrases is selected, the preprogrammed translation is simply retrieved from the database. In general, this produces reliable translations, but this only works for the phrases that someone else has previously entered into the system. In this second approach, increased accuracy has been gained, but at the cost of significantly reducing the flexibility and applicability of the system. Examples of companies that use this approach are Franklin, Lingo, ECTACO, and SpeechGear.

Recent Technology Advancements

The U.S. military has long recognized the need for soldiers to communicate directly with the local populace. As a result of this need, they have been funding the development of new systems that are coming ever closer to meeting the stated goal-that of translating anything you say or hear at anytime at any location for any language. Examples include SpeechGear's Interact product (part of its Compadre suite of instant translation products) and IBM's MASATOR research effort. These systems are not perfect, but significant improvements have been made.

SpeechGear's Interact system, for example, supports an English vocabulary of over 200,000 words along with a foreign language vocabulary of around 50,000 words. These words can be combined into any sentence and translated. The context of the words is used to both identify what was said as well as to generate the appropriate translation. For example, in the sentence, Please write your name on the right side of the paper, the second and seventh words are pronounced the same. Proper context is required to determine if the transcription should be write or right. The same applies to all homonyms such as to, two, and too; or sea and see. With an appropriate transcript, then the meaning of the sentence is identified and the appropriate translation generated.

How Accurate Is It?

When it comes to instant language translation, this is the most often asked and least understood question. The requirements for accuracy vary widely depending on the specific needs and expectations of the participants. Current instant translation systems are focused on accurately retaining the meaning of the original phrase. One approach that is commonly used to measure accuracy is to compare the translation generated by the system to one that was manually generated and verified. If this comparison is done using statistics, say a simple word-for-word comparison, this can lead to very misleading results. This is because pure statistics do not ensure that the meaning has been accurately communicated. For example, if a doctor says to a non-English speaking patient, Make sure that you take two pills before you eat breakfast, and it is translated into the foreign language as, Make sure that you do not take any pills before you eat breakfast, how accurate is it? Statistically, the percentage word match to the desired output gives an accuracy value of about 85 percent. However, the meaning is completely inverted due to the improper insertion of the word not. From the standpoint of successfully communicating the message, the translation can be viewed as being completely incorrect and thus it is a failure. On the other hand, the initial sentence could also be translated as, You must swallow a couple of tablets prior to eating anything in the morning. Here, only about 10 percent of the words match the desired output, however, the meaning has been accurately communicated and thus is a success. In between these two measurements of obvious success and failure are a multitude of translations that may be close enough for some users, but not for others. For example, if the translation was, Make sure you take your medicine before you eat breakfast; the translation is marginally correct but certainly not precise. Here the generic word medicine has been substituted for the more precise description of two tablets. Depending on the particular users and context, this may or may not be a successful translation.
So, what exactly does this mean for the person looking for instant language translation solutions? First, understand exactly what it is you need. If you are translating legal documents or negotiating an important business deal, your requirements for retaining accurate grammar, as well as meaning, are going to be much more stringent and may require the services of a trained interpreter. If, on the other hand, you're interested in communicating freely, without being restricted to specific phrases, and are more concerned with ensuring that meaning is communicated than having perfect grammar, then these new technologies could very well meet your needs.

The Albuquerque Test

As a border state with a large population of Spanish-speaking residents, New Mexico is challenged to provide appropriate services to its growing population of non-English speaking individuals. Having relied solely on bilingual probation/ parole officers to handle Spanishspeaking cases, the Probation Parole Division of New Mexico found itself in a difficult position. Many bilingual officers point out that offenders who do not speak English are much more likely to have critical needs. They often have difficulty understanding the court system and the requirements of their sentences. Unless significant time is invested and great care is taken, these offenders are more likely to recidivate.

The bilingual officers that supervise Spanish-speaking caseloads are given a small pay differential to compensate them for their much needed language skills. Unfortunately, with tight budgets prevailing, the extra pay is often inadequate to attract and keep these valuable employees. When speech translation systems began to gain credibility, the Division took steps to begin an evaluation process of the technology. They contacted SpeechGear, Inc. who agreed to assist the Division with a trial of its Interact speech translation system. The trial, which is discussed in the remainder of this article, was conducted in Albuquerque in June 2006 and illustrates the performance of instant language translation systems in real-world applications.

The parameters of the study were rather straightforward. A bilingual officer in Albuquerque was asked to use Interact to communicate with his Spanish-speaking caseload. The trial was limited to the Mexican Spanish offenders as the software used was engineered for this dialect. In the test, the metric, "Was the meaning correctly translated?" was used. The officer evaluated the effectiveness of the equipment in translating each portion of his interviews by rating the communication into one of four areas:
Successful No problems. The translation was encountered and the concept was translated without any difficulty.

-- Successful after rephrasing The concept was translated appropriately after rephrasing or repeating the initial sentence.

-- Unsuccessful communication The officer could not successfully communicate the concept even after rephrasing.

-- Equipment failure The officer was unable to communicate the concept due to problems with the equipment.

Trial Results

The trial provided interesting results that are generally applicable to all conversational instant translation systems. The English-to-Spanish translation was extremely effective with a 100 percent success rate, while the Spanish-to-English communication was effective approximately 70 percent of the time. There were three primary reasons that account for this disparity.
First, the English-speaking probation officers assigned to the trial had the advantage of becoming familiar with the software. As they continued to use the system, they identified words that it did not translate correctly (for example, when the acronym PO was spoken, it was translated as Post Office instead of the desired Parole Officer) and avoided using these words in their speech. Because the Spanish-speaking offenders had no previous exposure to the system, there was no such learning opportunity.

Second, the officers took the time to train the software to recognize the nuances of their speech. Anyone who has used commercially available computer dictation software is familiar with this process. Users typically read a script, which helps the computer learn their speech patterns. The Spanishspeaking offenders who reported to the officer again did not have the opportunity to perform such training, and thus used Interact's reduced vocabulary (50,000 words) speaker-independent engine.
Finally, the probation officers learned the fine points about using Interact, such as the most effective rate of speech and the optimal distance to hold the microphone from their mouth, while the Spanish-speaking individuals did not have this advantage. The probation officers became comfortable with the equipment and learned how to speak clearly, precisely, and with minimal stammering, while many of the offenders seemed intimidated by the equipment, which resulted in an increased level of stammering.
Will the Systems Work for You?

In conclusion, today's speech-translation systems have made significant strides in overcoming language barriers. They are effective tools for communication and are no longer limited to specific phrases or usage domains; however, they are not perfect. It is important to use these speech translation systems in appropriate settings. Where precise language is required, these systems are not yet up to the task. Court proceedings and legal discussions are examples of situations in which professional translators are still required. However, there are hundreds of applications where the use of language translation technologies is totally appropriate. Understanding the systems' capabilities and limitations is the key to deploying a successful solution for your needs.

Small Business Technology Council Selects SpeechGear as Tibblet's Award Recipient

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

September 26, 2006, Washington, D.C. – SpeechGear Inc., the leading provider of a complete suite of products for instantly translating whatever you see, hear, say, read, write or type, has been selected as one of the winners of the 2006 Tibbetts Awards. SpeechGear will receive the award for development of their Compadre™ translation suite on Sept. 26 at the Wyndham Washington, located at 1400 M Street NW in Washington, D.C.. Additional information is available at http://www.sbtc.org/tibbettswinners/.

SpeechGear Selected to Receive Tibbetts Award for Innovation

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

September 13, 2006, Washington, D.C. – SpeechGear Inc., the leading provider of a complete suite of products for instantly translating whatever you see, hear, say, read, write or type, has been selected as one of the winners of the 2006 Tibbetts Awards. SpeechGear will receive the award for development of their Compadre™ translation suite on Sept. 26 at the Wyndham Washington, located at 1400 M Street NW in Washington, D.C.

Named for Roland Tibbetts—the person acknowledged as the father of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program—these prestigious, national awards are made annually to those small firms, projects, organizations and individuals judged to exemplify the very best in SBIR achievement. SpeechGear is one of 55 companies selected to receive this award out of more than 4,000 companies that receive contract and grants under the SBIR Program each year. The complete list of winners can be found at www.tibbettsawards.org. Additional information regarding this award can be obtained by contacting Jere Glover of the Small Business Technology Council at 202-662-9700.

About SpeechGear

SpeechGear, Inc. provides innovative solutions for mobile computing platforms such as laptop and tablet computers, PDAs and cellular telephones. These solutions combine voice, touch screen, keyboard and camera-based interfaces to provide convenient, effective and efficient use of these mobile platforms in a wide range of applications and environments. SpeechGear's suite of instant language translation software, called Compadreâ„¢, allows individuals to directly communicate with each other even though they do not share a common language. Combine this with SpeechGear's Enduranceâ„¢ Tablet PC, and you have a complete solution for all of your instant language translation needs. Visit www.speechgear.com or send an email to info@speechgear.com for more information about SpeechGear's products.


SpeechGear, Inc. to Participate in Strong Angel III Integrated Disaster Response Demonstration

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

Northfield, MN, August 17, 2006 -- SpeechGear today announced its participation in Strong Angel III, a collaborative demonstration of civil and military cooperation and communication capabilities put together by a partnership of private companies, government agencies, humanitarian and relief agencies and universities. Hosted by San Diego State University and taking place in San Diego, CA from August 21-26, Strong Angel III will field test effective means of delivering life-saving humanitarian relief and rapidly deployable communications systems in response to major disasters.

The core site for Strong Angel III will be the operations center at the San Diego Fire Department Fire Rescue Training Facility site, located at the former Naval Training Center near downtown San Diego. San Diego State University's Visualization Center will be a secondary location.

The Strong Angel III demonstration simulates the impact on information sharing in a real-world disaster. The demonstration will assume the context of a worldwide pandemic caused by a highly contagious virus, which is further complicated by a wave of cyber-attacks inflicted by terrorists that cripple critical local infrastructure and systems. Strong Angel III team members will conduct field trials and demonstrations of solutions that address 49 specific humanitarian relief challenges – both technical and social – that have not yet been adequately overcome in real disaster relief efforts.

“In the wake of major incidents like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Southeast Asia, it is more important than ever to have an integrated response when disaster strikes,” said Eric Rasmussen, MD, director of Strong Angel III and professor at San Diego State University. “Public-and private-sector engagement in Strong Angel III is at remarkable levels, underscoring the significance of the task at hand and the commitment of everyone involved to work together to maximize preparedness and coordination efforts.”

Some of the demonstrations will include developing solutions for redundant power, adaptive communications, austere network communications, mobile workers, cross-organizational collaboration, mesh networking, satellite services, ephemeral workgroups, geospatial information systems, rapid assessment techniques, shared situational awareness, cyber-security, alerting tools, community informatics, machine-based translation for multi-lingual communication, and social network development.

Strong Angel III sponsors include Bell Canada, Cisco Systems, CommsFirst, Microsoft, Save the Children, Sprint Nextel, Google, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

SpeechGear will conduct multiple field trials of their Compadreâ„¢ product suite that instantly translates whatever the user says, hears, reads, writes or types; plus their Enduranceâ„¢ portable computer, a general purpose rugged tablet PC optimized to run the entire Compadreâ„¢ suite. Using state-of-the-art voice recognition, handwriting recognition, and machine translation technology, SpeechGear's Interactâ„¢ enables two-way translation of spontaneous, free-form speech between English and a number of foreign languages in real-time. Documentâ„¢ is capable of instantly translating entire Microsoft Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. This system will enable rapid and efficient communications between English and foreign language speakers when human interpreters are often scarce or unavailable in a disaster response scenario. SpeechGear's key metric of a successful translation is to accurately retain the meaning of what is said in either direction, rather than perfect grammatical sentence structure. Text logs of conversations are retained for distribution and future reference. Representatives from SpeechGear will work closely with Strong Angel volunteers and participants to utilize a number of these portable translation systems, in both broadcast and personal one or two-way conversation scenarios, for civil, medical, and various humanitarian relief communication efforts relevant to disaster response.

“SpeechGear's technology can provide significant communications support for multilingual populations in times of critical need. We are excited to participate in this important event, which will enable SpeechGear to not only test the preparedness of the translation system, but also gain valuable insight for further technological enhancements when utilized in challenging situations,” said Sean Lanahan, SpeechGear's Manager of Business Development for Government Applications.

About Strong Angel III

Strong Angel III is the third in a series of demonstrations that have taken place since 2000. The first two Strong Angel demonstrations were held in 2000 and 2004 in Hawaii in association with the joint Naval exercises called RIMPAC. The primary goals of Strong Angel III are to field-test and demonstrate effective means of delivering life-saving humanitarian relief in the wake of natural and man-made disasters, to foster close collaboration and communications between aid agencies, governments and military in providing disaster relief, to provide local communities with solutions that will help them cope with disasters more immediately and effectively, and to enable military forces to better prepare for and execute humanitarian relief efforts. Strong Angel III will issue a lessons-learned document on its website as soon as possible after conclusion of the demonstration. For more information on Strong Angel III and a listing of participating public- and private-sector organizations, please visit www.strongangel3.net.

About SpeechGear

SpeechGear, Inc. provides innovative solutions for mobile computing platforms such as laptop and tablet computers, PDAs and cellular telephones. These solutions combine voice, touch screen, keyboard and camera-based interfaces to provide convenient, effective and efficient use of these mobile platforms in a wide range of applications and environments. SpeechGear's suite of instant language translation software, called Compadreâ„¢, allows individuals to directly communicate with each other even though they do not share a common language. Combine this with SpeechGear's Enduranceâ„¢ Tablet PC, and you have a complete solution for all of your instant language translation needs. Visit www.speechgear.com or send an email to info@speechgear.com for more information about SpeechGear's products.

SpeechGear Adds to their Quality Assurance Team

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

July 17, 2006, Northfield, MN – SpeechGear Inc., the leading provider of a complete suite of products for instantly translating whatever you see, hear, say, read, write or type, has announced the appointment of Martha Baird to oversee the company's quality assurance activities. Prior to joining SpeechGear, she held similar positions at Unisys and Cray Inc. where she developed and implemented software and led development teams on practices and methodologies required to ensure quality products. “Martha brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in quality assurance,” said Robert Palmquist, SpeechGear's President and CEO. “We're excited to have her be part of our team as we continue to develop instant translation solutions for our customers.”

About SpeechGear

SpeechGear, Inc. provides innovative solutions for mobile computing platforms such as laptop and tablet computers, PDAs and cellular telephones. These solutions combine voice, touch screen, keyboard and camera-based interfaces to provide convenient, effective and efficient use of these mobile platforms in a wide range of applications and environments. SpeechGear's suite of instant language translation software, called Compadreâ„¢, allows individuals to directly communicate with each other even though they do not share a common language. Combine this with SpeechGear's Enduranceâ„¢ Tablet PC, and you have a complete solution for all of your instant language translation needs. Visit www.speechgear.com or send an email to info@speechgear.com for more information about SpeechGear's products.


SpeechGear Awarded Patent on Instant Language Translation

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

June 7, 2006, Northfield, MN – SpeechGear, Inc. announced today that the United States Patent Office has awarded the firm a patent for their instant language translation technologies. This patent, which is titled “Delivery of Embedded Information in a Selected Format,” includes fifty-nine claims that cover a wide range of applications.

“People often encounter situations where a language barrier prevents them from understanding needed or desired information,” said Robert Palmquist, SpeechGear's President & CEO. “A key element of this patent is the use of embedded translations to remove that language barrier.” With SpeechGear's technology, individuals can read or listen to information directly in their native language, giving them the ability to instantly communicate. Examples include a schedule in a train station, signs in shopping center, or instructions on a vending machine. The technology being developed will also work in museums, restaurants, and even at automated teller machines. Further, the patent is not limited to just language translation, but can also be used to provide information for people who are blind, illiterate or hearing impaired.

“SpeechGear has over a hundred patent applications filed in numerous countries throughout the world,” said Wendell Ellis, SpeechGear's Director of Strategic Planning and Business Analysis. “This is one of our many broad patent filings that cover SpeechGear's intellectual property for both our software and our mobile computers. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners on using this technology to develop language translation solutions for our many customers.”

About SpeechGear

SpeechGear, Inc. provides innovative solutions for mobile computing platforms such as laptop and tablet computers, PDAs and cellular telephones. These solutions combine voice, touch screen, keyboard and camera-based interfaces to provide convenient, effective and efficient use of these mobile platforms in a wide range of applications and environments. SpeechGear's suite of instant language translation software, called Compadreâ„¢, allows individuals to directly communicate with each other even though they do not share a common language. Combine this with SpeechGear's Enduranceâ„¢ Tablet PC, and you have a complete solution for all of your instant language translation needs. Visit www.speechgear.com or send an email to info@speechgear.com for more information about SpeechGear's products.


“Saved In Translation: Helping The Message Survive The Medium In Iraq”

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

Poplular Science Magazine, Article written by Benjamin Chertoff

Sometimes it's hard enough to explain yourself in English. Once you cross the border, navigating a foreign language—fraught with idiomatic expressions and obscure but critical aberrations of grammar—can mangle a simple statement beyond recognition. Indeed, as President John F. Kennedy told a crowd of West Berliners, “I am a jelly doughnut.”

Minnesota based software company SpeechGear wants to make it easier to communicate in any language, with their innovative suite of real-time translation programs that instantly interpret entire phrases accurately and efficiently. And they're proving their technology in one of the most meaning-critical forums in the world: Interactions between English and Arabic speakers in the war in Iraq.

We had a brief conversation with Compadre, SpeechGear's software, which was loaded onto a custom built, rugedized tablet PC—called Endurance, and also sold by the company—that was on display during Fleet Week on board the USS Kearsarge. Compadre has a lot to say, literally and figuratively. Instead of keying in words, a slow and error-prone process, users speak into a microphone. The program interprets the speech and plays the translated phrase out loud. The process is quick enough to enable rapid-fire exchanges—something that has long hampered humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. “Two people who speak different languages,” said SpeechGear business development manager Sean Lanahan, “can have a conversation that's as fluid as the one we're having right now.”

Compadre has a finely tuned ear for dialects, but it works best after a five-minute, voice-learning initialization, according to Lanahan, and recognition improves with use. (However, he added, it will accurately understand most speech without that learning period. “It would be pretty awkward and time consuming if every Iraqi had to spend five minutes teaching the program to understand him,” he said. “So Compadre works almost as well without the introduction.”)

Lanahan's demonstration of the program highlighted that efficiency. “Hello, I am a member of the coalition forces,” he said into a microphone connected to the Endurance PC. Compadre's surprisingly human-like voice repeated the phrase, with the added flair of what is, according to Lanahan, an authentic Iraqi dialect.

More importantly, the system is able to understand the minutia of a foreign language, where one word will serve several meanings depending on the context. This is where most translation programs fail: When the message is in the medium, the true meaning behind a phrase is easily lost in translation. AltaVista's Babelfish translates the French idiomatic expression dis-donc (which actually means, roughly, “let's say,” as in, “let's say I were to try to translate this”) into the literal, awkward and confusing “say-therefore.” It's no jelly doughnut, but it would still raise a few French eyebrows—and that's an example of a relatively easy-to-translate Romance language. Now imagine using a computer to translate complicated Semitic vernacular during a shooting war.

Case in point: The Arabic word atalaq means, in a general sense, "to free," or "release" (as in prisoners, or a divorce). But in a military context, the word takes on a very different meaning, and a bad translation could be deadly: Atalaq also means “shoot,” and the phrase atalaq al-nar ‘ala roughly translates "open fire.” (Add one more word to the phrase and the meaning changes again: Fee atalaq al-nar means “to set on fire.”) According to Lanahan, Compadre's robust translation engine is able to discern such subtle idiosyncrasies. “Our metric for success is that the program will understand the context, and retain the original meaning of the phrase,” he says.

The secret behind Compadre's fluency is a complex translation engine that uses a hybrid process of both coded rules (say-therefore: chien=dog) and a high degree of human input. To teach the program the idiosyncratic subtleties and context-based quirks of a particular language, SpeechGear recruited foreign language experts to tutor the program—a time consuming process, but one that ultimately results in an robust translation tool. With its Compadre its language classes complete, the program is able to accurately parse out the true meaning and intent behind a confusing (to a program) Arabic phrase—not to mention the over 200 other languages the program can interpret.

SpeechGear hopes the military will find a use for Compadre, loaded onto their Endurance PC, which uses two hot-swappable batteries and can incorporate an integrated camera, Bluetooth, as well as other mission-critical technologies such as GPS. Currently there are 24 Endurance units deployed throughout the Middle East for field-testing, and, according to available accounts, the system is a success. In a memo discussing his experience with an early version of the product, Lt. Col. Patrick J. Carroll, a Marine linguist with the Second Marine Expeditionary Force, called the program "the crown jewel of machine translation."

But war zones are far from the only areas where SpeechGear sees a market for Compadre. “We imagine they'll be in all sorts of places where foreign speakers interact,” said Lanahan. “They could be installed everywhere from grocery stores to the concierge desk at international hotels.” And for the average business traveler and tourist, SpeechGear offers a simplified version of Compadre called Interpreter that runs on the Palm OS or a Pocket PC. Although the program has no speech functions, it does offer a highly flexible common phrase translation tool. And it's relatively inexpensive ($70, compared to the full, Arabic-speech-ready program, which retails for around $10,000) with a free, 10-day trial download.

Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, have a desperate need for an efficient translator, whether it's a human or a machine. As one Army squad leader describes his interactions with potentially hostile locals while guarding an ammunition supply point in Northern Iraq, conveying simple—yet critical—information can prove extremely difficult. “It was almost silly,” he tells me. “Beyond basic phrases, we had to rely on gestures: I'd point to my eyes and then to my body and then back at this guy to tell him I didn't want to see him come any closer. Then we'd fire a off a round into the dirt so he'd understand what would happen if he didn't comply.” To paraphrase the prison warden from Cool Hand Luke, what we have there is a failure to communicate.

Navy Shows off Hi-Tech Gadgets

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

ABC News, Article written by Johathan Silverstein

It's Fleet Week in New York, where for the last 19 years, thousands of sailors and Marines have hit the city to blow off steam, and even more civilians get the chance to see some of the military's newest technologies, even those still under construction.

This year the Office of Naval Research, which has partnered with companies both public and private to keep our fighting men and women on the cutting edge, showed off some high-tech gadgets that could be making their way to the private sector sometime soon.

Though a super-sonic cruise missile is unlikely to be available at your local Costco or Wal-Mart, translation and communication technology on display could change how and with whom we speak.

A Computer That Speaks a Dozen Languages

In one corner of the USS Kearsarge, a massive aircraft carrier spending the week docked at Pier 88 in Manhattan, one of the Navy's most exciting projects lives, unimpressively, in a commercial laptop on a small banquet table.

But what is simply known as Restore and Interact is anything but unimpressive.

Restore is a program that can restitute wrinkled, stained and doodled-on foreign-language documents, like the ones soldiers find all the time in Iraq, to their original form.

Then comes the "wow" part. The program interprets and then translates the document into English, or another chosen language. "In a matter of a few seconds, the document is cleaned and translated," explained Sean Lanahan, business development manager for SpeechGear Inc., the company behind the technology.

But Lanahan said that's only one part of its overall goal. "Our mission is to be able to translate anything you hear, read, say, write or type," he said.

To that end, the second part of SpeechGear's project, Interact, is a voice translator more advanced than anything you've seen before. If you speak into a microphone, the computer understands what you say, and with just a few clicks of the mouse or by just tapping the buttons using a touch pad or tablet PC, the software translates what you've said into text but also verbally translates it, speaking in a synthesized voice.

"We have two Arabic dialects, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian and we're working on Chinese," Lanahan said. "We want to give people the ability to translate two-way, spontaneous, free-form speech for conversation."

Because languages like English and Arabic are so different, the company has focused on retaining the meaning of what's being said rather than a direct translation that might be difficult to understand. Lanahan said the technology is already in use in the field, at checkpoints and such, and could be used at border crossings, by customs, local law enforcement and, of course, by civilians who just don't speak the same language.

Communicating by Line of Sight

Also on display on the Kearsarge was a new way to help ships communicate over long distances using a set of binoculars and a device that attaches to the eye pieces.

Using LED technology like the type found in your television remote-control, LightSpeed can transmit voice and data over about 2½ miles, as long as the recipient and the person sending the signal are within the same range of vision. "In the field, there are a variety of conditions they [military personnel] can't speak in," explained Greg Hays, chief technology officer for SPAWAR — Space and Naval Warfare Systems.

Whether you're on a covert mission, or lack available frequencies or are simply fearful that a traditional signal may set off an IED or other explosive, you need only be in the field of vision to emit or receive a signal. Traditionally, naval vessels have used hand signals or semaphore or used lights to send messages back and forth. Now, as long as the signal can be seen and is within range, it's as easy as speaking.

Hays explained that the device is not limited to the military or binoculars.

He said there's already been interest from local law enforcement and first responders who need to stay in touch regardless of how more traditional frequencies are behaving or interfered with. Of course this is the Navy and not everything is about communication and peaceful resolution. At times, force is needed, and that's where the RATTLRS supersonic cruise missile comes in.

RATTLRS stands for Revolutionary Approach to Time-critical Long Range Strike. But basically, it's a really, really fast missile. "The secret sauce in this missile is the engine," explained Lawrence Ash, program officer for the Office of Naval Research.

The engine allows the craft to travel at mach 3, three times the speed of sound, and although the researchers were tight-lipped about the details, it can cover distances larger than 500 nautical miles in a short amount of time. "This gives us the ability to hit time-sensitive targets," he explained. "It's time-responsiveness that we simply haven't had before."

Ash says that means that the soldier in the field is both far out of harms way and that when the military pinpoints a target that's mobile, there's less travel time needed for the missile to hit its mark.

Fleet Week Shows off U.S. Military's Newest Technology

Submitted by teej on Aug<br>&nbsp;04

Fox News, Article written by Catherine Donaldson-Evans

Military trainees may find they have something in common with hamsters if a new invention is approved for use.

The giant VirtuSphere — which looks like a larger version of the little exercise balls that fluffy pet rodents scurry around in — is only one of the military gadgets the Office of Naval Research is displaying at the annual Fleet Week in New York Harbor. Because aspiring seamen, Marines or soldiers can move around in the 10-foot-high hamster balls and see a simulated war zone through virtual reality glasses, inventor Ray Latypov says the training experience more closely resembles what a serviceman would have to deal with when he's actually in the field."It's more useful than training with a joystick and a keyboard," Latypov said. "They do it in real space."

Getting used to walking or sprinting in the huge black ball without toppling over takes some practice. This reporter was shaky on her feet in the VirtuSphere, though she made it through a short exercise without falling. Latypov, who created the concept with his brother Nurulla Latypov, maneuvers it like a pro.

ONR didn't have the funding this year to show off its new technologies in its Afloat Lab aboard the Star Fish, as it usually does. Instead, the prototypes are viewable on the USS Kearsarge. Also on display: a supersonic cruise-missile demonstrator called RATTLRS, whose technology was created by Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce. A turbine engine drives the missile to speeds faster than three times the speed of sound, or over Mach 3. "The real secret sauce is the engine, which is smaller and more efficient," said Lawrence Ash, RATTLRS program manager for ONR.

An old favorite is back in New York for viewing this year, a 5-foot-long sleek unmanned airplane called the Silver Fox. It carries camera equipment and shoots photos and video so soldiers can get a sneak peek at a dangerous site or situation before putting themselves in harm's way. Though its technology hasn't been upgraded since last year and it is currently in use in Iraq and Afghanistan, the $50,000 Silver Fox is soon going to be used to patrol the U.S./Mexican border. Another Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) featured at Fleet Week is the tiny Wasp, which is hand-launched and battery-powered and can stay in the air for up to an hour.

A ground-mounted lightweight mortar system is also among the contraptions in the ONR display. It's not only 30 percent less heavy than previous models, but about half as expensive, cutting the cost from $90,000 to $40,000, said Michael George, a mechanical engineer with the U.S. Army Research Development Center involved in developing the system. "It optimizes performance and cost savings," he said. Now that the war in Iraq has entered its fourth year and there is still fighting in Afghanistan, the military is financially strapped. That's why saving money is "one of the big drivers" in designing new technologies for combat, according to George.

Back again this year are the portable translation devices by SpeechGear in the Compadre line, which translate written and verbal speech from one language to another and have added the Iraqi dialect of Arabic. The company has come out with another program called Restore, which will repair damaged pages of text and translate them.

LightSpeed is a communication device attached to handheld binoculars that enables people to see, speak to each other and transmit data across distances of five kilometers or more. Those who use LightSpeed have to wear a headset and talk into an attached microphone while they peer into the binoculars. Not only is LightSpeed useful in war, it can also come in handy in domestic disaster situations, said Leo Wolfson of Torrey Pines Logic, which makes the device. "The classic example is Katrina," he said. "All communication went down."

Fleet Week activities run through Tuesday.