In recent years, the U.S. military has increased its focus on artificial intelligence to enhance war-fighting capabilities, shore up mission critical programs and even support mental health work. Today, FedScoop brings you a closer look at just a few of these fascinating AI programs and what they bring to the federal government table.
To begin, the Defense Department describes AI as the scientific study and engineering of intelligent machines. Intelligent machines are systems able to perceive and respond in a success-maximizing manner to their environment. The field’s theoretical underpinning lies in the idea human intelligence can be described so precisely, it can be replicated by machines.
Leading the way in military AI research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched the Probabilistic Programming for Advancing Machine Learning program in March. The program will facilitate rapid advancements in machine learning, a critical component of AI. Machine learning is defined by DARPA as the ability of computers to understand data, manage results and surmise insights from uncertain information.
The PPAML program aims to shorten machine learning model code, reduce the expertise necessary to build machine learning applications, encourage experimentation, support the creation of integrated models and help build richer models. By creating machine learning applications, computers can be more effective in areas such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, natural language processing and predictive analysis. Notable examples of tools based on research in machine learning include email spam filters, smartphone personal assistants and self-driving vehicles.
In the mental health arena, DARPA has embarked upon the Detection and Computational Analysis of Psychological Signals program. The goal of the DCAPS program is to develop new analytical tools capable of evaluating the psychological status of war fighters in an attempt to improve psychological health awareness and encourage post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers to seek help earlier.
Tools created under the DCAPS program will examine patterns in everyday behaviors in order to identify subtle changes linked with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts. By sensing these changes, DCAPS will focus on providing war fighters with a general determination of psychological health, not a diagnosis per se.
Intelligent and autonomous systems are also important to DOD in general because they can reduce operational costs and mitigate the need for heavy manpower.
Recently, DOD called on government labs for autonomous technology ideas that support the war fighter. In response, seven projects were chosen from 50 submissions to be tested in the Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative, officials said.
“We believe autonomy and autonomous systems will be very important for how we operate in the future,” said Al Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. “If we had better autonomous systems for route clearance in Afghanistan, we could offload a lot of the dangerous missions that humans undertake with autonomous systems, so we have to make a big push in autonomy.”
Under the Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative, researchers will work to develop technologies resulting in autonomous systems, capable of providing additional capability to soldiers, lessening the cognitive burden for operators and supervisors and lowering operational costs, explained Jennifer Elzea, a DOD spokeswoman.
The projects selected to be tested in the initiative, as described by DOD, are:
– Exploiting Priming Effects in Autonomous Cognitive Systems: Under this project, scientists will work to develop machine perception comparable to that of humans. (Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence, Army Research Laboratory)
— Autonomous Squad Member: The Autonomous Squad Member project strives to assimilate machine semantic understanding, reasoning and perception into a ground robotic system. (Army Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence)
— Autonomy for Adaptive Collaborative Sensing: Those engaged in this project will attempt to generate intelligent sensing platform capability to find and track targets for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory)
— Realizing Autonomy via Intelligent Adaptive Hybrid Control: The goal of the Realizing Autonomy program is to develop a flexible unmanned aerial vehicle operator interface. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Naval Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory)
— Autonomy for Air Combat Missions, Mixed Human/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Teams: Through goal-directed reasoning, machine learning and operator interaction techniques, this project aims to enable the management of multiple team UAVs. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Air Warfare Center, Army Research Laboratory)
— A Privileged Sensing Network-Revolutionizing Human-Autonomy Integration: This project endeavors to create integrated human sensing capability to enable the human-machine team. (Army Research Laboratory, Army Tank Automotive Research Center, Air Force Research Laboratory)
— Autonomous Collective Defeat of Hard and Deeply Buried Targets: By developing small UAV teaming algorithms, this program will allow systems to autonomously search a cave. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory, Defense Threat Reduction Agency)