On one side of the scale: an app developer that wants to translate Pashto and Dari on your iPhone. On the other: around $50 million in federal money, this year alone, for research into a Cadillac version of the same translation tools. Which sounds like the better deal?
As Danger Room first reported in February, the Pentagon’s blue-sky researchers are asking Congress to fund three major pushes for developing a universal translation device. Darpa’s projects admittedly sound cool. BOLT, the Boundless Operational Language Translation, will be so sophisticated it can understand foreign slang. Robust Automatic Translation of Speech — yes, RATS — will know the difference between speech that needs translating and background noise to discard. MADCAT is a mobile document reader that translates text.