Voice Response Translator
A Translation Aid

Police officers in Nashville tested prototypes of a voice response translator pioneered by an Oakland Police Department grant through the National Institute of Justice. A link about this NIJ project can be found at National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center. These standalone devices will allow officers to say simple English trigger phrases that key responses from the compressed native speaker voice files from a variety of languages. Dr. John Hall - Integrated Wave Technologies and Eagan, McAllister Associates, Inc. are developing this device while most of the voice files are recorded in Nashville (large cultural base with 141 languages available through the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute (TFLI) which is conveniently located next to the main police headquarters building.

Listen to All Things Considered Interview on Voice Response Translator from National Public Radio show December 2nd, 1999.
Voice Response Translator - Laotian Language Demo
Watch a brief RealVideo demonstration
using Laotian.

The woman shows the officer a map and says a sentence the officer recognizes as Lao and says ARENA in English. The officer asks her if she is lost and says he'll draw how to get where she wants, asks her if she understands (she says yes but the device also asks her to shake her head up and down if she understands), and the officer asks her to follow him. Hundreds of phrases are available with many languages (20 or more) on one 1/2" thick device which is inside the officer's right shirt pocket. The device still works with 100dB background noise with consistent recognition.

This device will be used to allow first responders to get (and give) basic information to non-English speaking persons in a variety of situations. Metro Nashville officers interact with people speaking in twenty different languages daily (82,500 residents in Davidson County). Most frequent contact in Nashville is with Spanish, Laotian and Vietnamese speaking subjects. Secondary languages are Kurdish, Hmong, Farsi, Swahili, Arabic, and Cambodian. This device can be set to play back in any language though this device is NOT in production yet (shortly). The device is only in the prototype phase currently. The device phrases may ask the subject to "write down the license number" or "Point to where it hurts" or other simple phrases. This project is just one of many innovative projects the National Institute of Justice has fostered to aid police departments nationally. The device works well in high noise environments.

The Metro Nashville Police Department was chosen along with San Diego Police Department for their well developed technological base to assist this project. Technology through NIJ grants has been an enormous boon to officers in Nashville allowing them to map patterns of crime, redesign manpower allocations and beats electronically and pull up mugshots in the field. Chief Emmett Turner keeps looking for ways to provide more service to the community in and around Nashville -- technology has provided some of those tools.

Send mail to Tim McCune with questions or comments about this device.
Send mail to ken.pence@vanderbilt.edu with questions
or comments about this web site. Captain Pence is now retired from the Metro Police and is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University in Engineering
Copyright ? 2002 Ken R. Pence