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According to appleinsider.com, the iPod has been enlisted to ease cultural clashes in Iraq in an experiment by the US Army that has seen the music player provide language translations for a fraction of the cost of earlier systems.

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According to the report, instead of carrying around a bulky PDA or notebook, the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division has for 12 months been using 260 iPods and iPod nanos modified to run a special app from Vcom 3D known as Vcommunicator Mobile for the translation work.

“The software takes advantage of the iPod’s hierarchical menu system and scroll wheel to let soldiers sift through and select phrases in local dialects that match the situation at hand, such as a friendly meeting or to question a suspect. A speaker mounted on the headphone jack plays a voice sample of the sentence such that troops don’t have to memorize the pronunciation themselves”, said appleinsider.com.

And except for making it totally dustproof, the media players are exactly the same as those that sold at retailers.
In terms of costs, the experiment has apparently lowered the deployment cost of earlier methods, with the complete development and equipment cost coming in at $US800,000. At the same time, it has been claimed to have also reduced the learning time for both the soldiers and the Iraqi civilians.

Moreover says the report, the iPod is “less threatening and breaks down more of the cultural barriers the software is meant to overcome”.

After the year-long use by the 10th Mountain Division, which by all accounts has been highly successful, the U.S. Army says it is now looking to expand the program to include iPods for the entire US 1st Cavalry Division.

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