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Voice Response Translator: A Valuable Police Tool

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue: 252 Dated: July 2005 Pages: 8-13
Date Published
July 2005
6 pages
Publication Series
The National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) testing of four devices for instant language translation by law enforcement personnel in the field selected the Voice Response Translator (VRT) from Integrated Wave Technologies as the top choice for law enforcement use in terms of ruggedness, quality of speakers and microphones, and voice activation for hands-free operation.
The VRT is a one-way translator that allows users to communicate instantly with non-English speakers. Each VRT unit is "trained" by an individual to recognize that person's short, voice-activated commands in English. The English phrase is associated with a computerized audio file of a complete foreign-language sentence recorded by a fluent speaker of that language. In less than a second, the VRT repeats the command in the desired language. The VRT is programmed for traffic stops, domestic problems, lost children, and medical emergencies. It can be programmed to translate into any language; and once programmed, an officer can switch among languages by voice command. In addition to testing prototypes at various law enforcement agencies, NIJ funded an independent analysis by the U.S. Navy. This analysis found that many officers needed less than 1 day to become comfortable and competent with the VRT, and the unit performed properly in all programmed languages. One limitation in the technology is its failure to recognize changes in an officer's inflection or voice pattern in a stressful encounter, which involves significant departures from the voice characteristics used when the officer programmed the VRT. The VRT might also fail to function properly when used by an officer with a distinctive ethnic accent. The test officers' most frequently suggested improvement, however, was to include a volume switch. 1 note

Date Published: July 1, 2005