BBN Technologies Awarded $30 Million in Defense Funding to Teach Machines to Read

Cambridge, Mass., June 22, 2009. BBN Technologies, an advanced technology solutions firm, has been awarded $29.7 million in funding by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the Machine Reading program in a contract awarded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The goal of the Machine Reading program is to develop a revolutionary, automated reading system that bridges the gap between naturally occurring text and the artificial intelligence reasoning systems that need such knowledge.

Although this intelligent learning system would initially be used to automate military intelligence analysis, it could also enable a variety of civilian applications. For example, as more and more of the world’s libraries are converted to digital text, this system could provide unprecedented access and automated analysis, allowing for vastly expanded cultural awareness and historical and cultural research.

Under this contract, BBN will leverage its expertise in natural language processing and distillation to develop a universal text engine that captures knowledge from text and transforms it into the formal representations required by artificial intelligence systems. A central goal of the research effort is to develop techniques that can generalize across the linguistic structure and content of diverse documents to extract relations and axioms directly from text rather than relying on a knowledge engineer to encode such information. A related goal is to develop techniques capable of performing such automatic extraction of text at the massive scale available on the World Wide Web. Over the course of the five-year program, BBN’s system will be tested against increasingly complex targets, including its ability to learn axioms from text and to read and digest vast quantities of Web text.

Prem Natarajan, vice president, Speech and Language Processing, BBN Technologies, said, “The machine reading system that DARPA envisions is not evolutionary, but revolutionary. Such a system could eliminate many of the impediments to stability that our military faces such as a lack of understanding of local customs, and give us the ability to assess global technology developments continuously.”

About BBN Technologies
BBN Technologies is a legendary R&D organization that leverages its substantial intellectual property portfolio to produce advanced, repeatable solutions such as the Boomerang shooter detection system. With expertise spanning information security, speech and language processing, networking, distributed systems, and sensing and control systems, BBN scientists and engineers have amassed a substantial collection of innovations and patented solutions. BBN now employs over 780 people in seven locations in the US: Cambridge, Massachusetts (headquarters); Arlington, Virginia; Columbia, Maryland; Middletown, Rhode Island; San Diego, California; St. Louis Park, Minnesota; and O’Fallon, Illinois. For more information,visit