ADT DEGREE SHOWS '07: Jaw-Jaw Better Than War-War

Kedleston Road campus 504x257 ADT DEGREE SHOWS '07: Jaw-Jaw Better Than War-War

Date posted: 31 May 2007

An Iraqi-born University of Derby student has developed plans for a unique device which could help protect British soldiers and the community in his homeland during the current conflict.

Amin Ismail is proposing the introduction of a verbal translator device, worn like a wristwatch, to help soldiers and civilians interpret key phrases in war situations – and save lives. Amin’s concept, entitled ‘Ahky’ is the Arabic translation for ‘Speak’ in English.

Now he needs support to put his idea into reality.

He has conducted research with the British Army and Iraqi citizens as part of his research to develop the device to translate English words and phrases into Arabic language and possibly vice versa, in real time.

He also sent a sent of questionnaires to a coalition force in Iraq through an interpreter who was working with them in the ground for feedback from the front-line.

It’s all part of Amin’s final year project for his BSc (Hons) in Product Design, Innovation and Marketing. The British Army was so enthusiastic about Amin’s work, they arranged for him to visit the 4th Battalion: The Parachute Regiment, based in Leeds.

Lieutenant Colonel Ben Baldwin, Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion, welcomed the research, and said: ”This innovation is unique and will provide an interface with the local population improving the way we communicate, while at the same time enhancing the protection of the civilian community and the soldiers who have the task of improving the security within the environment in which they operate.”

And one of his serving soldiers, who has recently returned from duty in Iraq, explained how such a device could help soldiers in the field. He said: “This device is just what we need. We would be able to communicate freely with the locals, without having to rely on an interpreter. We could move people to safety quickly. The device would save lives and would help improve the trust and loyalty with the local population.”

In his study, Amin found:

  • 87% of soldiers welcomed the idea of a device which could translate key words in all languages
  • 78% of soldiers said they would welcome such a device to help communicate with Iraqis more easily
  • 69% of soldiers felt such a device would be useful in dangerous situations
  • Two-thirds of the 50 Iraqi citizens polled said they would be happy or not mind communicating with British soldiers through such a device.
  • Around the same number of Iraqi citizens polled said they had had contact with a British soldier since the war began.

The 21-year-old, from Bath Street, Derby, is initially from Baghdad but was forced to flee Iraq in 2002 ahead of the imminent war. At that time, he had just finished the first year of a mechanical engineering course at Baghdad University.

Amin’s work aims to incorporate voice recognition based technology to aid troops and civilians in high risk and ‘hot zone’ situations by translating buzz words such as ‘Don’t shoot’, ‘Stay back’ and ‘Help will be here soon’.

His idea has been formulated with the help and advice of University of Derby Product Design Senior Lecturer Karl Hurn.

Amin said: “One reason I wanted to undertake this project was because it was my way of thanking British soldiers for their honourable work, people who are abandoning themselves from their loved ones and sacrificing their sole to bring freedom to Iraqi people.

“Secondly, it is to improve the communication between soldiers and Iraqi people in high risk situations where any misunderstandings might lead to a tragedy. If this device can help save innocent lives in a conflict situation then that has to be good.”

For the project, Arabic language is chosen, because of the fact that the majority of Iraqi people are Arabs; but he says this could also be adapted for other languages.

His tutor Karl Hurn said: “It is an excellent project and Amin knows about the cultural sensitivities and needs of his fellow people in Iraq, as well as the culture he has familiarized himself with in the UK.

“This project explores how troops and civilians can communicate more effectively especially at combat and high risk situations and the research was also very good. It would be great for Amin to be able to take this work further forward.”

Amin has been living in the UK for five years and began studying at the University while working voluntarily as an interpreter for Derby Refugee Advice Centre – but admits life has been challenging.

He said: “Here I started a new life from zero. It was very difficult at the beginning going through cultural shocks on one hand and not having any family member to support me on the other hand. Yet, worrying about my family and friends safety back home was another problem.

“Ever since I was a child, I took the responsibility to look after other family members. So, from childhood caring and helping others became part of my nature. It has been very tough.

“I have been living here for nearly five years now. In the first two year, I worked hard to earn trust and respect and stand up on my own two feet. While, learning the English language, adapting to British culture and making friends became my sole companionship.”

Amin has enjoyed his time at the University making many friends, and used computer aid design programs such as Soldworks, Pro-engineering, Photoshop and 3D Max for his project. Part of the project brief was to approach the work in the same way as a leading product design firm would. He hopes to pursue a career in design.

Amin is looking for support to take his idea forward, which claims to be the first efficient device to communicate between the troops and civilians in real time, precisely at the high risk/hot zones situations. For this, he requires sponsorship from an external company and he is currently seeking a patent. You can email the University Press Office at to help.

Degree Shows

Amin’s work will be showcased at this year’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Technology's Degree Shows in June, which represents the culmination of the dedication and talent of this year's new graduate designers and artists at the University of Derby.

The Private View evening will be on Friday 8 June from 6pm - 9pm. The show will be officially opened at 6.30pm at Markeaton Street by David Joyce, Chief Operating Officer VINCI PLC.

This year's shows will be spread across our Kedleston Road, Britannia Mill and Markeaton Street sites. For all the information about the locations, the dates and times for public viewing and to see students work, please visit the Degree Show website,


For more details please contact Simon Redfern, Senior Press and PR Officer, University of Derby on 01332 591942, or email

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