US Intelligence seeks a universal translator for text search in any language

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Enlarge / “Domain: space. Subject: female energy clouds.” (credit: Paramount) The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), the US 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”). So-called “low resource” languages have been an area of concern for the intelligence and defense communities for years. In 2014, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) launched its Low Resource Languages for Emergent Incidents (LORELEI) project , an attempt to build a system that lets the military quickly collect critical data—such as “topics, names, events, sentiment, and relationships”—from sources in any language on short notice. 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. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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US Intelligence seeks a universal translator for text search in any language

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