FORT KNOX, Kentucky (June 3, 2015) — U.S. Army Human Resources Command, or HRC, has announced the personnel transition strategy and procedures for reclassification to Military Occupational Specialty 17C, or MOS 17C, cyber operations specialist, for active-duty Army enlisted personnel.
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (Army News Service, May 6, 2015) — The Ripsaw Unmanned Ground Vehicle might someday take point and lead Army combat formations across enemy terrain.
The unmanned vehicle, though still in development, has been tested and is capable of driving up to 1 kilometer ahead of various types of formations, Bob Testa said.
Testa, lead engineer for the Remote Weapons Branch of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, showcased the Ripsaw on media day at Picatinny Arsenal, May 4.
“We cut the copper cable and made it wireless so that the vehicle and weapon can both be driven remotely,” said Testa, explaining how it works.
During tests, the Ripsaw was followed by an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. Trailing up to a kilometer behind, the M113 was driven by a Soldier. Another Soldier, in the vehicle, would control the Ripsaw and its weapon wirelessly, Testa said.
Rather than reinvent something, Testa said his team selected a vehicle already produced by Howe and Howe Technologies, since it had remote driving capabilities.
In 2009, “Popular Science” magazine named the Ripsaw the invention of the year, so the technology has been around for a while.
Testa and his team converted the vehicle for Army use. Atop the Ripsaw sits a system Soldiers are familiar with – a Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station, or CROWS.
CROWS has been used in combat as far back as 2004 in Iraq. Testa’s team supported that initiative, fielding more than 10,000, he said.
CROWS allows a Soldier inside a tank, Humvee, Stryker or any other vehicle to fire his weapon safely from inside the armor-protected vehicle.
In other words, he does not have to stick his head out to see to fire. Cameras and range finders on CROWS see for him and the system can tilt and swivel the weapon as needed.
While that capability probably resulted in a lot of saved lives, the Soldier inside the vehicle could still be killed or injured from a large enemy mine or projectile. So Testa’s team took the remotely-operated system one step further. They completely removed the Soldier from the vehicle.
The weakness of the entire system was the weapon itself, he said, meaning the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, Mk19 40-mm automatic grenade machine gun, M240B 7.62 mm machine gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, or any number of other weapons that can be mounted in CROWS.
What Testa meant by weakness is that those weapons still required a trigger finger to fire.
So the next step for his team was to design a weapon to fire remotely. ARDEC developed the Advanced Remote Armament System, or ARAS, a gun that self-loads its own ammunition and even can swap out various types of ammunition, such as lethal and non-lethal, in just a few seconds, he said.
The Ripsaw’s speed and mobility is such that it can keep pace with normal operations tempo, he said.
HUMAN IN LOOP
While it is technically feasible to go one step further and make the whole system robotic, meaning fully autonomous, Testa said that would not happen.
The Ripsaw and its ARAS are “tele-operated,” he said. That means a Soldier remotely drives it and operates and fires the weapon.
Army leaders have repeatedly said that “war is a human endeavor” and robots will never replace Soldiers, he said.
Besides the ethical reason, Department of Defense Directive 3000.09 “Autonomy in Weapon Systems,” published in November 2012, prohibits robots from making life and death decisions without a human in control.
While a lot of experimentation and testing has occurred, Testa said formal certification testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, would still be required to move forward. Also needed will be a “firm requirement” from the Army to move ahead past the development phase.
Soldiers themselves would need proper training and indoctrination with regard to using unmanned platforms on the battlefield, he said.
FORT BLISS, Texas (May 5, 2015) — For the past few years, the desert between Ft. Bliss, Texas and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, has been synonymous with evaluating the Army’s most advanced communication capabilities. This year is no different.
As the Army continues to focus on readiness and modernization, Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, just kicked off their assessment of various capabilities.
They are doing so through Network Integration Evaluation 15.2 or NIE, which is an initiative that will provide capabilities to the network in 2020. In order to facilitate the continued innovation and advanced technologies, continuous assessments are crucial.
Key implementers of the NIE process are members of the ‘TRIAD’ comprised of the Army Test and Evaluation Command, Training and Doctrine Command, and Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition Logistics Technology (ASA(ALT)).
The TRIAD is what keeps the cycle in a constant continuum. NIE 15.1 recently came to an end back in October, NIE 15.2 is under way and planning for the Army Warfighting Assessment 16.1 or AWA has been ongoing for several months.
“TRADOC is responsible for identifying the Soldier’s needs and their requirements,” explained Col. Terrece Harris, director, Capability Package, which is a part of ASA(ALT) System of Systems Engineering and Integration. “From an acquisition perspective we receive those requirements, take them and start to develop concepts or identify solutions that satisfy the requirements.”
Having the TRIAD work hand-in-hand, is the driving force that allows the evaluation’s objectives to align with the Army’s overall strategies in creating a ready and modern force armed with sustainable equipment.
Since the Capability Package Directorate team has ensured that the network is integrated, validated and suitable to conduct the testing of the systems, the network for NIE 15.2 has been transitioned over to the 2/1 AD Soldiers to commence evaluations.
With NIE 15.2’s kick off, the initial phase will focus primarily on Operational Tests and data collection.
“We are currently working in a field support role. We control and monitor field service representatives and local acquisition representatives to ensure the network remains up and stable so that capabilities are evaluated properly,” said Harris.
If the systems that are under test pass onto the next level, they can potentially become a part of a capability set that will eventually be fielded out to Brigades across the country and even go into theater.
Harris explained that future AWAs will differ because the focus consists of a heavy mix of networked and non-networked capabilities. An example is comprehensive reviews of the command posts, encompassing hardware consolidation, modular tactical operation center configurations and reduction of clutter.
“While 15.2 has command post capabilities and systems, many efforts will serve as a proof-of-concept into what we will further expand upon during AWA 16.1, when we really get into expeditionary command posts, mission command on the move and mission command at the halt,” said Harris.
Photo: As NIE 15.2 kicks off, Soldiers operate various technologies integrated on Army vehicles within the Fort Bliss, TX area. (U.S. Army photo by Theotis Clemons, CP Plans Ops)
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. (May 5, 2015) — New research aims to get robots and humans to speak the same language to improve communication in fast-moving and unpredictable situations.
Scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies are exploring the potential of developing a flexible multi-modal human-robot dialogue that includes natural language, along with text, images and video processing.
“Research and technology are essential for providing the best capabilities to our warfighters,” said Dr. Laurel Allender, director of the ARL Human Research and Engineering Directorate. “This is especially so for the immersive and live-training environments we are developing to achieve squad overmatch and to optimize Soldier performance, both mentally and physically.”
The collaboration between the Army and ICT addresses the needs of current and future Soldiers by enhancing the effectiveness of the immersive training environment through the use of realistic avatars, virtual humans and intelligent agent technologies, she said.
For ICT, an Army-sponsored university affiliated research center, the study builds on a body of research in creating virtual humans and related technologies that are focused on expanding the ways Soldiers can interact with computers, optimizing performance in the human dimension, and providing low-overhead, easily accessible and higher-fidelity training.
The mission of the Los Angeles-based institute is to conduct basic and applied research and create advanced immersive experiences that leverage research technologies and the art of entertainment and storytelling to simulate the human experience to benefit learning, education, health, human performance and knowledge.
Toward that goal, much effort focuses on how to build computers — virtual humans and also robots — that can interact with people in meaningful ways.
“Our scientists are leaders in the fields of artificial intelligence, graphics, virtual reality and computer and story-based learning and what is unique about our institute is that they bring their disparate expertise together to find new ways to solve problems,” said Randall W. Hill Jr., ICT executive director. “Being managed by ARL also provides great opportunities for collaboration and for aligning our research priorities with Army needs.”
ICT’s interactive virtual humans serve as mentors, role players, screeners and more. Some of these autonomous intelligent agents are designed to help develop leadership skills or to help prevent suicide, sexual assault and harassment.
Researchers are advancing techniques and technologies for allowing them to speak, understand, move, appear and act in ever more believable ways. Their work in these areas has led to virtual human research efforts that inform fields beyond virtual humans, including robotics.
Studies of emotion and rapport are leading to computational systems that communicate more effectively. Ellie, one of ICT’s most advanced virtual humans, can read and react to human emotion by sensing smiles, frowns, gaze shifts and other non-verbal behaviors, as well as analyzing the content of the speech. She can engage in dialogue, deciding when to prompt for more information, or give empathic feedback to a user response. Ellie has interviewed more than 600 people as part of ICT’s SimSensei project, a DARPA-funded effort to help identify people with depression and PTSD.
It turns out Ellie is good at her job. A recent study suggests people who spoke to Ellie were willing to reveal more to her than to a real person.
“Our group has been working since 2000 on studying human dialogue, developing computational models of dialogue, building dialogue systems to interact with people and building dialogue components of integrated virtual humans,” said David Traum, director of the ICT Natural Language and Dialogue Group. “Our goal is to create computational models of purposeful communication between individuals, and it is gratifying that our basic research has led to a variety of Army applications.”
ICT virtual characters and supporting architecture contributed to the Army’s Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer. Within the Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation, known as PEO STRI, a Project Manager Constructive Simulation value engineering proposal estimated that the project saved the Army close to $35 million by incorporating ICT-based natural language capabilities.
Other applications include the virtual Sgt Star, who answers questions about Army careers for the Army Accessions Command and Radiobots, dialogue systems that could function as radio operators for constructive simulations. This frees up operators from routine communications and data entry.
Current applied projects using ICT natural language research include the Virtual Standard Patient, or VSP, and Emergent Leader Immersive Training Environment. VSP allows educators to create virtual role players for medical students to engage to practice interview and diagnostic skills.
Natural language understanding, or NLU, and dialogue management technology developed at ICT allows the virtual role players to respond appropriately to student queries. An NLU component also enables Soldiers Army-wide to practice interpersonal communication skills with the virtual staff sergeants in ELITE. The trainer can be downloaded from the Mil.Gaming portal and is in use at the U.S. Military Academy, ROTC, the Basic Officers’ Leader Course and the Warrior Leader Course.
In their collaboration looking into developing a possible a human-robot dialogue, ICT researchers, along with their ARL collaborators, are exploring more than whether they can enable robots to function better in uncertain conditions, they are expanding the ways Soldiers will interact with robotic team members, autonomous vehicles, training and simulations.
“By developing tools and technologies for man and machine to converse with and understand one another, ICT researchers, in collaboration with the Army Research Lab and many groups throughout the Army and DOD, are providing ways to better communicate, be it personal information that can lead to mental health support, or planning information for better situational awareness,” said John Hart, ICT program manager at ARL-HRED’s Simulation and Training Technology Center. “Their work in human-computer interaction is also paving the way for what will be possible in the future.”
Now that is something to talk about.
This article appears in the May/June 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on Future Computing. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.
The Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to empower the Army and joint warfighter with technology and engineering solutions that ensure decisive capabilities for unified land operations. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
ELGIN, Okla. — BAE Systems of Elgin, Okla., delivered the first low-rate initial production (LRIP) M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer April 9 bringing the Army one step closer to gaining a more lethal and responsive weapon system in its arsenal.
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. –Reservists from every military branch can learn communications-electronics systems troubleshooting and repair techniques here to improve their maintenance and repair readiness.