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 Cognitive software captures experts’ performance on flight simulators

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Date posted: 18/05/2012

Navy pilots and other flight specialists soon will have a new “smart machine” installed in training simulators that learns from expert instructors to more efficiently train their students.

Sandia National Laboratories’ Automated Expert Modeling & Student Evaluation (AEMASE, pronounced “amaze”) is being provided to the Navy as a component of flight simulators.

Components are now being used to train Navy personnel to fly H-60 helicopters and a complete system will soon be delivered for training on the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft, said Robert G. Abbott, a Sandia computer scientist and AEMASE’s inventor. The work is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

AEMASE is a cognitive software application that updates its knowledge of experts’ performance on training simulators in real time to prevent training sessions from becoming obsolete and automatically evaluates student performance, both of which reduce overall training costs, Abbott said.

“AEMASE is able to adapt and is aware of what’s going on,” he said. “That’s what’s driving our cognitive modeling and automated systems that learn over time from the environment and from their interactions with people.”

Previous flight simulators have not done well with ambiguous or new situations that required time-consuming reprogramming, making it difficult for the military to adapt quickly to changing environments and tactics.

AEMASE bypasses lengthy interviews of instructors and reprogramming once the simulator is running. Instead, instructors fly the simulator themselves to capture their expertise, a feature that works particularly well in ambiguous situations where it’s difficult to program a set of explicit rules, Abbott said.

Melissa Walwanis, a senior research psychologist at the Naval Air Warfare Center’s Training System Division in Orlando, Fla., said AEMASE will give Navy trainees specific ways to improve performance through machine learning, automated performance measurement, and recordings of trainees’ voices during the training sessions.

AEMASE addresses a needle-in-a-haystack problem. Just as search engines find certain words across the Internet, AEMASE scans hundreds of training sessions to find specific actions or scenarios and makes comparisons, Abbott said.

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