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iPod Translator is Music to My Ears

by Ward Carroll on October 7, 2007

Vcom-speaker2.jpg

Now your iPod isnt just an entertainment device anymore and it might just be able to save your life or find Osama himself.

Trolling around at last weeks Modern Day Marine trade show at Quantico on Tuesday, Defense Tech caught sight of this cool little piece of gear thats sure to be all the rage in the sandbox. And it may even give you an excuse to plop down some bucks and modernize your iPod.

Its called Vcommunicator Mobile and its a new way to rock the insurgency with vocab instead of Van Halen.

Youre at a checkpoint and you need the Iraqi to get out of the vehicle and open the trunk. Scroll the iPod wheel over to Vehicle Checkpoint mission library and itll show a list of phrases: peace be upon you; we need to search your vehicle; turn off your car; open the door; etc. The iPod will show the words in phonetics and in Arabic so you can try the phrase yourself or show it to an Iraqi to read.

But click on the Arabic script and the phrase plays through a miniature speaker plugged into your iPod (Vcom salespeople had some nifty arm bands to attach both the iPod and speaker within reach). Theres even a primer on the right gestures to make when saying the phrase.

So far the Vcom software incorporates around 300 vocabulary words and 400 phrases in Arabic and Kurdish with Pashto and Dari dictionaries on the way. The software includes a phrase and gesture-builder module so you can design your own specific mission phrases as needed.
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The Vcom is different from the well-known Phrasalator translator in that it is only one way its not like someone can speak into it in one language and have the translation come out the other. But two-way translators are large, clunky, hard to operate and require someone to get close to the person theyre trying to talk to something that might not be a good idea when youre talking to a potential enemy.

We went low-tech, explained Ernie Bright, operations manager with Vcom3D.

So far, Vcom operations manager Ernie Bright says 10th Mountain Division soldiers in Iraq have 160 Vcom-equipped iPods and he hopes more will catch on with the new release of their iPod Nano-compatible version.

– Christian

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