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US Intelligence Seeks a Universal Translator For Text Search In Any Language (arstechnica.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), the U.S. Intelligence Community's own science and technology research arm, has announced it is seeking contenders for a program to develop what amounts to the ultimate Google Translator. IARPA's Machine Translation for English Retrieval of Information in Any Language (MATERIAL) program intends to provide researchers and analysts with a tool to search for documents in their field of concern in any of the more than 7,000 languages spoken worldwide. The specific goal, according to IARPA's announcement, is an "'English-in, English-out' information retrieval system that, given a domain-sensitive English query, will retrieve relevant data from a large multilingual repository and display the retrieved information in English as query-biased summaries." Users would be able to search vast numbers of documents with a two-part query: the first giving the "domain" of the search in terms of what sort of information they are seeking (for example, "Government," "Science," or "Health") and the second an English word or phrase describing the information sought (the examples given in the announcement were "zika virus" and "Asperger's syndrome"). The system would be used in situations like natural disasters or military interventions in remote locations where the military has little or no local language expertise. Those taking on the MATERIAL program will be given access to a limited set of machine translation and automatic speech recognition training data from multiple languages "to enable performers to learn how to quickly adapt their methods to a wide variety of materials in various genres and domains," the announcement explained. "As the program progresses, performers will apply and adapt these methods in increasingly shortened time frames to new languages... Since language-independent approaches with quick ramp up time are sought, foreign language expertise in the languages of the program is not expected." The good news for the broader linguistics and technology world is that IARPA expects the teams competing on MATERIAL to publicly publish their research. If successful, this moonshot for translation could radically change how accessible materials in many languages are to the rest of the world.

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US Intelligence Seeks a Universal Translator For Text Search In Any Language

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  • Oxymoron (Score:2, Funny)

    by thechemic ( 1329333 )
    US Intelligence
    • Clearly, two words in juxtapostion, unlike Canadian politeness, African poverty, or European Union discord.
  • Here's how:

    How about writing, "The sheep are coming..."

    ...And this to mean something entirely different in the bad guys' minds?

    Easy and effective. Isn't it?

    • Jesus Christ, you're a genius! They didn't think of that! How did you come up with this idea?
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      How about writing, "The sheep are coming..."

      In a Desmond Bagley spy thriller the automatic translator turned "hydraulic ram" into "water sheep".

  • I don't speak but a handful of words in a very short list of languages, I'm certainly no expert in language, but aren't there some languages that are so nuanced that a slight change in inflection, or tone, or emphasis, or maybe even cadence changes the entire meaning of what's being said? Wouldn't that be rather difficult to code for?
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      I don't speak but a handful of words in a very short list of languages, I'm certainly no expert in language, but aren't there some languages that are so nuanced that a slight change in inflection, or tone, or emphasis, or maybe even cadence changes the entire meaning of what's being said? Wouldn't that be rather difficult to code for?

      Two things...
      1. I think they are thinking about a computer database of text not audible data base.
      2. Nobody really technically "codes" this stuff anymore, a deep learning networks is conceived and configured in a framework and then trained with petabytes of data.

  • by OldMugwump ( 4760237 ) on Friday January 27, 2017 @08:09PM (#53752275)
    Doesn't Google already do exactly that? Oh, wait. Yes, it does. But the DoD would have to let Google index their archive...
  • FTFY (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slew ( 2918 ) on Friday January 27, 2017 @08:14PM (#53752297)

    If successful, this moonshot for translation could radically change how accessible materials in many languages are to the rest of the English speaking world.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We need only to look at the BIBLE to see what happened the LAST TIME someone tried to create a Tower of Babel to see what will happen THIS time.

    • by chill ( 34294 )

      Yeah, but I'm pretty sure the machines are going to be rackmounts and/or blade servers. No one uses towers anymore.

      • The Tower wasn't the instrument of bad translation, just the beneficiary of it. My takeaway was that much like your example with the word, "Tower" different words had different meanings for different people but were close enough to work in enough contexts, but fell apart in all the contexts that were needed to build the tower.
    • That makes no sense. What does the story about an architectural project ruined by a fictional prig turned language inventor have in common to do with a later attempt to bridge the languages? Is anyone building another tower or are we expecting to get yet more languages or what?
  • by iTrawl ( 4142459 ) on Friday January 27, 2017 @08:56PM (#53752469)

    Dear Sir,

    My name is Mahindresh Jalabahamatra* from India. I would like to apply for the Universal Translator job that you are offering. I am very skilled in Universal Translation and have many years of experience. I have done Universal Translation for many clients in the past, and I consider your offered job as Universal Translator to fit my skills perfectly.

    Hoping to hear from you soon.

    • by ems2004 ( 814056 )
      ...and as a proof for my skills I am currently on H1B visa specifically granted for Universal Translator..... I also have Master's degree in Universal Translator.... In my last 3 jobs I developed and wrote Universal Translator only....
    • Dear Sir,

      My name is Mahindresh Jalabahamatra* from India. I would like to apply for the Universal Translator job that you are offering. I am very skilled in Universal Translation and have many years of experience. I have done Universal Translation for many clients in the past, and I consider your offered job as Universal Translator to fit my skills perfectly.

      Hoping to hear from you soon.

      I'm Indian and I find this absolutely hilarious.. Should I be offended? Naa.. I've seen too many applicants use similar language... I will however laugh uncontrollably for the next 5 minutes at that name... Mahindresh Jalabahamatra

  • ... Sheldon Cooper.

  • Natural language is inherently ambiguous and real humans love to make it more so with slang and swearing. Take the story of the gorilla artist Jason Sprinkle from Seattle. He was once most known for attaching a ball and chain to the massive hammering man statue [wikipedia.org]on labor day. He had a commission for an art project to support job corp where he made a giant heart and drove it around to different job corp sites where he allow participants to sign the art and his truck. Once person wrote on his truck, " [csun.edu]
  • The most difficult part of the project is completed: they found a nice backronym for it.
  • As you've no doubt experienced when you've done a Google Search on a word which has multiple meanings. For example, suppose you google "How do I get rid of a mole?" Are you worried about a skin condition or a small burrowing mammal? It so happens that Google tries to give you a mix of both answers, which I suspect may reflect the result of some ad hoc result tweaking.

    So you do sometimes have to know how to rephrase a query, e.g. "pictures of a flying crane" to "pictures of an aerial crane".

    The problem i

  • text=document.txt translate="$(wget -U "Mozilla/5.0" -q0 - "http://translate.googleapis.com/translate_a/single?client=gtx&sl=auto&tl=en&dt=t&q=$(xsel -o | sed "s/[\"']//g")" | sed "s/,,,0]],,.*//g" | awk -F'"' '{print $2, $6}')" echo $translate Not tested, but should work. Idea came from here:http://www.webupd8.org/2016/03/translate-any-text-you-select-on-your.html?m=1 Got more links and stuff at TheOuterLinux.com
  • Now they'll drone murder us based on what an algorithm mistranslated.
    If at least a bilingual murderer had to listen to the xbox record of us joking in the living room our chances would be higher.

Prof: So the American government went to IBM to come up with a data encryption standard and they came up with ... Student: EBCDIC!"

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