NEWS | Jan. 30, 2012

Emerging technology plays key role in MEDRETE

By Staff Sgt. Bryan Franks Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs Office

Members of the Joint Medical Readiness Training Exercise provided medical services to more than 280 Cerro Del Vigia community members here Jan. 30 while utilizing emerging mobile -ranslation technology.

The Medical Application of Speech Translation team from Southern Command traveled with the Joint MEDRETE memebers to test their products and create a large database of medical terms and phrases that will enhance their translation software in order to improve interaction between medical providers and patients during humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

"This is phase one, we will collect data to develop a corpus of specific medical terms in English and Spanish to improve the MAST program," said Angel Perez, a MAST team member.

There is a need to provide a stand-alone, speech-translation application for medical missions to be used throughout the theaters of operation wherever they maybe, he said.

During the Joint MEDRETE, some medical providers and translators wore microphones that captured the conversations with patients while other care providers utilized the mobile application on smart phones and pads to test the accuracy of the product.

"As we improve the quality of the application and expand our database of words and phrases, it will enable the Department of Defense to use MAST device for basic daily translations," Perez continued.

While members of the Joint MEDRETE, which included the Honduran Ministry of Health, the Honduran military and Joint Task Force-Bravo, Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, discussed treatments for illness including respiratory infection, skin infection, pneumonia, tuberculosis, diabetes and high blood pressure, the MAST team continued to gather data.

"We are here to improve our mobile application that is totally independent and doesn't require any data connection so it can work in whatever environment is asked of the user," Matthias Eck, a senior research scientist and part of the MAST team, said.

Not only does the MAST team expand the terms and phrases in the application, they also look for ways to improve the voice recognition side of the program which will enable all to use its full-range capability.

"With support of Research, Development and Engineering Command and TeleMedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center these emerging technologies are being realized and combined to improve translation for the theaters of operation because the success of any mission begins with communication," Tim George, the MAST technical project lead, said.

In fiscal year 2011, JTF-Bravo and Honduran Ministry of Health clinicians provided general medical care to 14,401 patients and dental care to 1,061 patients for a total of 15,462 Hondurans receiving much-needed assistance.

The Joint MEDRETE team will head to La Bacadia in the Olancho District to continue medical services Jan. 31.