Human Language Technology
Human language technology encompasses a wide array of speech and text processing capabilities. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s pioneering research on automatic transcription, translation, and content analysis were major artificial intelligence success stories that changed science fiction into social fact. During a 40-year period, 10 seminal DARPA programs produced breakthrough capabilities that were further improved and widely deployed in popular consumer products, as well as in many commercial, industrial, and governmental applications. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency produced the core enabling technologies by setting crisp, aggressive, and quantitative technical objectives; by providing strong multiyear funding; and by using the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Common Task Method, which was powerful, efficient, and easy to administer. To achieve these breakthroughs, multidisciplinary academic and industrial research teams working in parallel took advantage of increasingly large and diverse sets of linguistic data and rapidly increasing computational power to develop and use increasingly sophisticated forms of machine learning. This article describes the progression of technical advances underlying key successes and the seminal programs that produced them.