New technology tool translates Arabic broadcasts

Technology could offer insight, help bridge cultural gap, company says.

A company has developed a Web-based platform that aggregates Arabic television news broadcasts and almost immediately translates the speech into English-language text.

The text is instantly keyword searchable in English.

“We wanted to make sure that across newsrooms, newswires and intelligence agencies, there could be access to Arabic news broadcasts that is very searchable and available. Language is no longer a barrier,” said Sean Morgan, chief executive officer of Critical Media, which developed the CriticalTV platform.

However, intelligence agencies already use their own language tools, so tracking Arabic-language media likely isn’t anything new, an intelligence analyst said.

“This could be a useful tool to help people understand what’s being said,” similar to something like Google translation, said Rand senior adviser Robert Hunter, an expert in the Middle East and international relations. “It’s probably more for commercial and academic purposes – intell has its own capabilities. But to an extent it could foster understanding, and I’m all in favor of better communication.”

The CriticalTV service already offers the broadcast search capabilities across the U.S., Canada and Europe, and currently monitors seven pan-regional Middle East television stations with plans to expand. Morgan said the “TV intelligence” is employed for a variety of uses – including retail, energy, politics, government – but it’s the intelligence and defense sectors that he hopes will benefit most from the Arabic-to-English capabilities.

“We see this playing an important role is news aggregation. People use it for different reasons. Some are tracking themselves, or brands, or messages to the Middle East that they want to make sure are on point,” Morgan said. “TV is the most unwieldy medium, but the most persuasive because it’s carried with visuals. This gives you the ability to track those messages and ensure accuracy.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.


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