Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Sakhr Software Acquires Dial Directions: Launches First Real-Time, Spoken Arabic Translation on iPhone and Blackberry

Sakhr Software, a global leader in advanced Arabic speech and language solutions, today announced that it has acquired Dial Directions, a leading provider of voice-entry technology for mobile devices and services. With Dial Directions’ network-based speech recognition technology and mobile applications expertise, Sakhr Software is set to deliver a new wave of technologies to enable real-time speech to speech translation for Arabic.

For nearly two decades, Sakhr Software has been pioneering and developing the world’s richest knowledge base for Arabic natural language processing (NLP). Sakhr Software has delivered many industry firsts for Arabic NLP, including Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Machine Translation (MT), and search and information mining. More than 100 customers, including the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Justice, use Sakhr Software’s technology to address Arabic language needs. By delivering industry-leading and proven products, Sakhr Software has achieved outstanding financial performance, generating more than $25 million in profits since 2007. The acquisition of Dial Directions will further expand Sakhr’s technology portfolio and market leadership in Arabic language and speech solutions.

"Sakhr’s mission is to develop technology to enable communication across the Arabic language barrier,” said Steve Skancke, president, Sakhr Software USA. “At Dial Directions we found exceptional talent and unique technology, accelerating Sakhr’s ability to develop and deliver the most advanced solutions for our customers and partners.”

"BBN tapped Sakhr Software USA to participate in DARPA's GALE project, because we believe that Sakhr has one of the most advanced Arabic NLP technologies," remarked Dr. John Makhoul, chief scientist, BBN Technologies. "Sakhr's Arabic expertise has been important in helping BBN push the state of the art and achieve the highest accuracy levels for automatic translation from Arabic to English year after year. We are looking forward to what ground-breaking advances Sakhr will bring to our team in the future."

In 2008, Sakhr Software USA and Dial Directions partnered together to develop language application technology for mobile, cloud-computing environments. The companies collaborated to develop a first of its kind open speech-to-speech mobile translation application for the U.S. government and business customers. The solution enables English and Arabic speakers to speak their native language, hear the audio translation, and read the text translation – all with an iPhone or Blackberry.

“I’ve seen Sakhr’s speech to speech mobile translator on the iPhone in action, and it could be a game-changer,” said Hythem El-Nazer, senior vice president, Boston-based TA Associates, a global, leading private equity investor in technology, media, and telecommunications. “Instant, open speech translation on a mobile phone hasn’t been done before now, because it’s simply really hard to do. The accuracy of Sakhr’s NLP combined with Dial Directions’ mobile technology creates a new paradigm for speech to speech translation.”

“We built a strong working relationship with Sakhr while jointly developing the mobile speech to speech translation product,” said Adeeb Shanaa, chief executive officer, Dial Directions. “Through the process it became very clear to us that Sakhr is uniquely positioned to meet growing worldwide market demand for Arabic language. We are proud to now be part of Sakhr, and look forward to continue delivering groundbreaking technology to solve real-world problems.”

All Dial Directions employees have joined Sakhr. The combined company has 200 employees, and will be led by Mr. Shanaa as chief executive officer. Fahad Al Sharekh, Sakhr’s previous chief executive, has become Chairman and remains actively involved in developing strategic partnerships for the company. Sakhr’s management team will be based in Silicon Valley and Washington, DC, with an offshore development office in the Middle East. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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