July 16, 2007 Speaking via an interpreter is difficult enough at the best of times, so you can imagine the difficulties soldiers in foreign lands have communicating with the population when there is a significant language barrier, no interpreter and lots of big guns in the near vicinity. The AHKY (Arabic for ‘speak’ ) is a new wrist worn translation device developed by Iraqi-born University of Derby student, Amin Ismail, will soon tackle the problem when it is deployed by British troops serving in Iraq. The AHKY currently has ten phrases which have been programmed in English, Arabic and Kurdish. Phrases such as ‘nothing will happen to you’; ‘turn around slowly’; and ‘come here’. Other languages and phrases specific for a user’s specific mission are uploaded prior to each use.
Ismail’s design concept generated international publicity when it was first shown at the University of Derby’s Arts, Design and Technology Degree Show and the design was seen by Civil Defence Supply (CDS) - CDS is an official supplier to NATO, the UN, the US Defense Department and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD), and the firm’s researchers had been working for eighteen months beforehand on a circuit board to develop a language converter when they heard about Amin’s concept in the news – and immediately made an appointment to talk to him followed by an invitation to him to join them.
Amin was appointed Synthetic Speech Project Manager for CDS and since then a working prototype of the device has been developed, with full production set to begin within the next six months.
Amin’s initial project was done in conjunction with British soldiers from the 4th Battalion Parachute Regiment who took part in his extensive research for the device. Lieutenant Colonel Ben Baldwin, Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion, welcomed the research and said: “This innovation is unique and will provide an interface with the local population improving the way we communicate, while at the same time enhancing the protection of the civilian community and the soldiers who have the task of improving the security within the environment in which they operate.”
Managing Director of CDS Eran Bauer said it was an ideal fit at the right time. “We had the circuit technology, he had the product.”
The opportunity which presented itself is clearly not lost on Amin.
“We have been so impressed with him,” said Bauer. “The design concept is one thing, with fantastic research involving the Army to back it up. But his personality, determination and willingness to succeed have also been fantastic.
“He has not just joined us as a designer, but as a project manager. I will have no hesitation in letting him present this device to NATO and the MOD as he has the spark, the confidence and the personal vision to succeed.
“I have no doubt this device will be a success in so many applications, not just for battle situations, but for the police, in immigration, charity projects abroad, terrorist monitoring, the Courts, and in hospitals – to name just a few.” Indeed, any situation where translating a language is essential.