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'The doctor can understand you now'
Date:9/21/2009

At medical facilities around the country, care is delayed, complicated and even jeopardized because doctors and patients don't speak the same language. The situation is particularly dire in diverse megacities like Los Angeles and New York.

Now, USC computer scientists, communication specialists and health professionals hope to create a cheap, robust and effective speech-to-speech (S2S) translation system for clinics, emergency rooms and even ambulances.

The initial SpeechLinks system will translate between English and Spanish. Professor Shrikanth Narayanan, who directs the Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, hopes to test and deliver a working prototype within the 4-year window of a recently awarded $2.2 million NSF grant for "An Integrated Approach to Creating Context Enriched Speech Translation Systems."

Narayanan, who holds appointments the USC departments of electrical engineering, computer science, linguistics and psychology will collaborate with fellow engineering faculty member Panayiotis Georgiou, Professor Margaret McLaughlin of the Annenberg School for Communication and with researchers and clinicians from the Keck School of Medicine at USC on the project.

The project will also include investigators from two corporations, BBN and AT&T, who will not only collaborate on the research but serve as mentors to the students working on the project.

The detailed prospectus for the effort begins by explaining the need: "While large medical facilities and hospitals in urban centers such as Los Angeles tend to have dedicated professional language interpreters on their staff (a plan which still suffers from cost and scalability issues), multitudes of smaller clinics have to rely on other ad hoc measures including family members, volunteers or commercial telephone translation services. Unfortunately, human resources for in-person or phone-based interpretation are typi
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Contact: Eric Mankin
mankin@usc.edu
213-821-1887
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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