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Army turns to artificial intelligence to break through Chinese language barrier

Laptop computer with code (PXhere/Released)

A Bengaluru-based company has come up with a solution that could help the Indian Army leap over the language barrier that has been impeding communication between soldiers deployed in forward areas and their Chinese counterparts.

Cogknit Semantics Pvt Ltd has offered the army an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solution that can translate Chinese into English or Hindi in real time, according to a new report prepared by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on solutions to problems identified by the army.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat released the report, titled ‘1st Compendium on Solutions to Problem Statements,’ at the DefExpo-2018, which concluded in Chennai on Saturday.

The Chinese language barrier is one of the 130 problems identified by the Army Design Bureau (ADB) in three separate reports. Other problems include a drop in engine performance of tanks and infantry combat vehicles at high altitude, and the difficulties in laying bridges for movement of troops and vehicles in mountains.

An initiative of the Narendra Modi government, the ADB was launched in August 2016 and has been tasked with promoting research and development and acting as a bridge between the army and the private sector to meet the army’s requirements.

“It’s a 100% indigenous solution, a next generation AI product that can automatically carry out the translation. A soldier would require only a headset and a tablet,” said Deepak Kumar, director (defence solutions), Cogknit.

The company has told the army that the product could be deployed for trial at a week’s notice and does not require Internet connectivity.

The army had sought industry’s help in January 2018 to solve the language problem through the development of an “auto Chinese translator”.

“On a number of occasions, forums and activities, Indian Army members are required to interact with their Chinese counterparts. On all such occasions, language becomes a key barrier,” the ADB said in the January report.

The army acknowledged that the number of Chinese language qualified personnel/interpreters in its ranks was “negligible”.

Making a case for solving the problem, the army said “availability of genuine Chinese language translator” would also be of help to military researchers and strategic affairs analysts and “have a multiplier effect in the field of China studies in the Indian Army,” said the January report.

“Many issues can be resolved quickly if we can overcome the language barrier. It will also help conduct joint exercises and other interactions in a better way,” a senior officer said on condition of anonymity.

General Rawat heaped praise on industry for swiftly coming up with solutions to problems faced by the army. “In six months, we have got solutions to 80 of the 130 problems identified by us,” he said at a FICCI seminar here.


© 2018 the Hindustan Times (New Delhi)

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