Raytheon Is Still Looking for Helpful Droids

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It's been two years since we reported that defense contractor Raytheon (NYS: RTN) was taking a shine to the Android mobile platform. The Raytheon Android Tactical System battlefield communicator hasn't made any waves since, but that doesn't mean Raytheon forgot about smartphone-based systems.

Wired reports that Raytheon is going right back to the Android well for more soldier-friendly action. A software app designed to run on standard Android handsets can translate back and forth between English and the Arabic dialects spoken in Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with textual logs and a spoken real-time robot voice interpretation.

I find it interesting that Raytheon chose to go with yet another Android solution yet doesn't tap into the existing translation technologies that robot overlord Google (NAS: GOOG) already provides. Whether Google's tools are up to par is beside the point -- the military wouldn't be caught dead submitting potentially sensitive data to a third party like Google for translation, over the open Internet at that.

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Google Translate's "conversation mode" in action. Anders' Spanish needs all the help it can get.

The technical challenge isn't overwhelming anymore. Google has already demonstrated similar communications tools for Spanish and English, and Raytheon's software was demonstrated on a lowly Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) Atrix, which you can pick up at the nearest AT&T (NYS: T) store for less than $100. Alien technology, this ain't. The choice of an Atrix might indicate that Raytheon is working with Ma Bell's network standards behind the scenes, but even a large military order is unlikely to make a difference to the telecom giant's bottom line.

Language expert Rosetta Stone (NYS: RST) has been complaining about the Armed Forces' cancellation of juicy contracts lately. Raytheon may need to overcome Uncle Sam's budget hurdles as well -- unless this translation system already impressed the military brass enough to steal business from Rosetta, that is.

With or without Raytheon's help, smartphones are getting more science fiction-like every day. Your phone may soon make credit cards obsolete, as explained in this free video report. Not long after that, it will do your dishes and watch the kids. Stay tuned.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundowns shares of Google but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Rosetta Stone, and Raytheon.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Rosetta Stone, AT&T, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. You can check outAnders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him onTwitterorGoogle+, or peruseour Foolish disclosure policy.

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