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­.s. Intelligence Seeks a ­niversal Translator For Text Search in Any Language

By Ars Technica

January 30, 2017

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The goal of the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity's (IARPA) Machine Translation for English Retrieval of Information in Any Language (MATERIAL) program is to give researchers and analysts a tool to help them search for documents in their field of concern in any of the more than 7,000 languages spoken worldwide.

IARPA is seeking 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 massive numbers of documents with a two-part query, first by listing the "domain" of the search in terms of what sort of information they are seeking, and then providing an English word or phrase describing the information sought.

IARPA says another objective of MATERIAL "is to drastically decrease the time and data needed to field systems capable of fulfilling an English-in, English-out task." MATERIAL participants will receive access to a finite 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," according to the agency.

"As the program progresses, performers will apply and adapt these methods in increasingly shortened time frames to new languages."

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