Putting the Soldier at the Center of AI Design (Studio)

The military is turning to soldier-centric design to maximize the benefits of AI technology, placing humans at the center of their development efforts.

Presented in partnership with Systel

Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the heart of the concerns of the US military and its allies.

Although it holds great potential, AI is a complex and difficult field with many possible pitfalls. Above all, AI must support and empower soldiers, with autonomous systems maximizing human capabilities, and it must not hinder them.

Through Soldier-Centered Design (SCD), the military introduces AI-based technologies with the soldier at the heart of development.

While in the past, soldiers were often expected to adapt and conform to systems and platforms, now the opposite will be the case.

The SCD is now at the forefront for organizations such as the US Army Futures Command (AFC), which increasingly focuses on concepts such as soldier points of contact. These aim to generate and integrate soldiers’ feedback on the equipment they will be using at an early stage.

It is also an important topic for the industry. Aneesh Kothari is vice president of marketing at Systel, a manufacturer of ruggedized computers like the Kite-Strike mission computer.

Kothari explains that SCD’s goal is to “ensure that we are not designing AI-based technology systems in a vacuum, but in spiral development, with constant communication and engagement with our customers and always focusing on the end user. the soldier ‘.

AI should help offload the cognitive burden from the fighter, acting as a force multiplier on the pitch.

When direct user input and feedback becomes paramount, “this is where the concept of soldier-centered design and the various soldier touchpoints became mission critical.”

Kothari used the example of Kite-Strike, which the company launched in late 2020. Since then, the computer has undergone several iterations and cycles of improvement, he said, along with customer feedback, the mechanism. drive, through a range of engagements, tech rodeos and sequel.

“All of this really speaks to the idea of ​​’Lean and Agile’ design and development methodologies. “

The rise of AI has huge implications, with some comparing it to ambitious undertakings at the scale of the Manhattan Project and other efforts at the national level. To be successful, it is essential to embrace and leverage a wide range of partners, both industry and academia.

For example, the US Army Research Laboratory has worked closely with Carnegie Mellon University on a series of R&D efforts, said Dr. Doug Matty, director of US Army AI capabilities.

The technology should be seen first and foremost as a tool for soldiers and commanders, Matty said. Technology today can handle much more than soldiers visually can on a joint operation picture, he noted.

“What we’re finding is that, rather than just trying to get it all on a screen, which would be very cluttered and almost impossible for any individual to assess and understand everything out there, we allow the ‘IA to follow all of these possibilities, regardless of the level of uncertainty, and then make those recommendations, ”Matty said.

AI has rapidly grown as an industry priority, with a range of AI-based software and hardware systems and platforms on the market or under development.

For example, Anduril Industries offers the Lattice Platform, an AI software backbone that combines computer vision, machine learning and mesh networking to merge data into a single image of autonomous operation. This approach is an integral part of the company’s anti-UAS efforts.

Shane Arnott, chief engineer at Anduril Industries, said these AI capabilities could help customers in a range of critical areas, such as border protection, with Lattice enabling the operation of guard towers, for example.

“They have visual sensors trained by computer vision to be able to sift the wheat from the chaff, if you will, trying to find the targets that are out there.”

It all depends on the human element, with a need to ensure that the human-machine team is running as efficiently as possible.

It could also open the door to new approaches and concepts, like gamification, where ideas from the gaming world can be applied to technological development in other areas.

It’s about starting with today’s legacy systems and adapting, said Arnott, while “thinking about quantum leaps of throwing away old C2 concepts, bringing in gamification, bringing different ways of presenting and browse large amounts of data, but doing it at human speed ”.

It is essential to train soldiers and operators to adapt to this data-driven future, a goal that fits well with the soldier-centered design. Leadership is crucial, Matty says, with the U.S. military focusing on developing leaders who understand AI.

“They have to be technically and tactically proficient… you’re not just jumping from zero to 60.”

In the years to come, AI offers endless opportunities for the military, increasing effectiveness and efficiency in many areas while reducing human workloads and vulnerabilities.

However, we need to get it right, using techniques like Soldier-Centered Design to maximize technological potential.

The technology is now at a point where AI combat is not only doable and possible, “but it is actively happening,” Kothari said.

“It pushes us to try to be at the forefront and do everything possible to support our customers. [through the] the idea of ​​AI being a teammate, a soldier in the field, relieving cognitive and other burdens on our serving men and women, while ensuring the safety of our soldiers.

That’s why AI is a game-changer: the ability to take risk out of the equation as much as possible. Through concepts such as SCD, this can be achieved to the benefit of every soldier.

“And that’s in any situation involving a fight,” Kothari says. “It’s what drives us as a company, and it’s what we keep at the forefront in the projects and products we develop to help support the space. “

Joseph E. Golightly