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iPods translate for US troops

updated 02:50 pm EDT, Wed August 6, 2008

iPod as Army translator

The US military has found a new way for soldiers to use Apple's iPod. With the help of a new software product, VCommunicator Mobile, and a speaker that plugs into a headphone jack, soldiers are now able to use an iPod as a communication device. VCommunicator is filled with basic phrases in other languages that can help soldiers ask for "yes/no" answers, or directions. Soldiers are supplied with protective covers for the iPod and speaker, and velcro straps allowing both devices to be easily attached to an arm. Soldiers who spend long periods of times out in the field are also supplied with a solar charger.

The product was developed by the 10th Mountain Division, which has been using 260 of these specially-equipped iPods for the last year. The Army is said to worked on similar translation devices since 2001, but all of these have so far required a notebook or PDA. The VCommunicator Mobile approach exploits the fact that many troops already own an iPod, and know how to operate it.

The Army has spent over $800,000 on the new software, and has localized it for several different languages, including Iraqi Arabic, Kurdish, Dari and Pushto. The app also includes video along with its audio clips, displaying phrases on-screen, or else a video of a solider making appropriate hand gestures. This is said to be particularly important in Arabic.

It costs $2,000 to install just one language onto an iPod, and each one takes up 4GB of space, limiting the number that can be installed at any one time. Soldiers can however update or reorganize their libraries with an editing tool on a notebook.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    sounds like a ripoff

    4Gb? That's an awful lot of mono-audio, even if it is 256kps. But even then, there's room for maybe 50 of these on the iPod.

    That has to be a fabulous list of phrases to go through.

    And if you graphed the frequency of use of any given phrase, I'll bet less than 5% of them actually get used at all.

  1. dynsight

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Babel Fish

    Are we approaching the days of a universal translator :)

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969



    And now available for the Touch and iPhone via the app store for $39. :P

  1. jamesfabin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good Direction

    I'm glad to see the military taking advantage of the iPods - even though we usually associate overpaying for everything with the military, using a platform like the iPod can save money and speed up development. I'd be curious to see what all can be developed for the iPod Touch platform (or iPhone to utilize GPS). Get a 32GB version an you have a very powerful arm computer.

  1. phayd

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Can anyone identify the speakers? a wrist mountable speaker/ipod touch system would be ideal for an application I am building, but I can't seem to figure out how best to get sound out of the ipod touch, as it doesn't have a speaker like the iphone.

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