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IARPA contracts for universal text translator

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is a step closer to developing a universal text translator that will eventually allow English speakers to search through multilanguage data sources -- such as social media, newswires and press reports -- and retrieve results in English.

The intelligence community's research arm awarded research and performance monitoring contracts for its Machine Translation for English Retrieval of Information in Any Language program to teams headed by leading research universities paired with federal technology contractors.

IARPA hopes the multiyear MATERIAL program will eventually yield a cross-language search platform and automatic systems that will allow English-only speakers to identify and retrieve foreign language documents.

On Dec. 22, IARPA announced the award of research contracts to teams led by Johns Hopkins University, Raytheon BBN Technologies, Columbia University and University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute.

A team consisting of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language, National Institute of Standards and Technology and Tarragon Consulting will monitor the research teams' development work, assessing performance of a variety of complex end-to-end solutions.

Intelligence agencies, said IARPA project managers in a statement in late December, grapple with an increasingly multilingual, worldwide data pool to do their analytic work. Most of those languages, they said, have few or no automated tools for cross-language data mining.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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