Army Warfighting Challenges focus of recent Science and Technology Demo Days

June 17, 2016

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • ARL team discusses initiatives to conduct sensor based Soldier and team assessment
  • Technologies address need for Army systems to complement Soldiers' individual and team performance
  • Technology leverages people to operate in complex world

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 9, 2016) -- U.S. Army Research Laboratory researchers attended the first ever Mission Command Battle Laboratory's Science and Technology Demo Days held this spring in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The two-day event was attended by more than 150 people from across the community.

Several organizations involved in science and technology development were invited to showcase their work and demonstrate technologies linked with the Army Warfighting Challenges. The invitees were asked to address long-term capability gaps that have the potential to improve future forces' execution of the operations process.

ARL researchers, Drs. Arwen DeCostanza, Katherine Gamble and Jean Vettel, all from the Human Research and Engineering Directorate, demonstrated initiatives focused on sensor-based Soldier and team assessment. The team's research focuses on enabling high fidelity, omnipresent multi-aspect individual and team-based assessment and prediction that can account for continuous changes in Soldiers' physical, cognitive and social states – such as stress, fatigue, task difficulty, trust and situational awareness.

"The goal is to exploit the array of sensors and information streams that will be present in the operational environment of 2040 to provide real-time prediction of Soldier dynamics with sufficient resolution and robustness to adapt systems and directly enhance performance in training and operational environments," said DeCostanza.

DeCostanza and Gamble provided a demonstration on the Automated Collaboration Collection and Relationship Understanding Environment, or ACCRUE, which is currently used in MCBL training exercises to provide metrics of unit performance. The Command Operations Dashboard user interface provides the observer, coach, or trainers with a low overhead interface for individual mentoring and after action reviews during unit training events.

Brig. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, director, Concept Development and Learning Directorate in Fort Eustis, Virginia, attended the demos and received a briefing on ACCRUE. He was impressed by what he heard and said, "This is great; these capabilities are what we need at the tactical edge."

Other areas the team showcased included translational neuroscience, which tracks ongoing changes in brain activity that relate to and can be used to predict differences in task performance, and visual attention, which is measured using eye-tracking technology to determine where individuals are focusing and scanning.

"In translational neuroscience, we examine both structural and functional brain networks to capture individual differences in performance, and we envision future technologies that can use this information to enable mutual adaptation between the Soldier and the system," said Vettel.

Additionally, the team showcased research on visual attention, where metrics can be developed for both individual- and group-level states and processes, such as situational awareness and decision making. Tracking of visual attention can be used to assess intent, as well as how and when decisions are made, and ARL is pushing research from indoor experimental to outdoor live training environments.

According to the researchers, "omnipresent, real-time, multifaceted Soldier assessment technologies" will provide the foundational elements for future Army systems to generate high-resolution, moment-to-moment, predictions of individual Soldier's internal and external behavioral, group interactions, and performance dynamics across training and operational environments.

Commanding General of the Combined Arms Center, Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown said these technologies will address the need for Army systems to better complement Soldiers to improve individual and team performance.

"People are our advantage, and we have typically adjusted to technology. Here we are using technology to leverage people to operate in a complex world," said Brown.

Vettel said these predictions will enable future Army systems to adapt to individual Soldier's states, behaviors, and intentions in real-time, which will provide enable highly adaptive systems that can decrease time-to-train; augment physical, cognitive, and social performance; enhance team and organizational performance; and improve human-autonomy and human-network interactions.

"These advancements will result in individualization of equipment and maximizing and sustaining Soldier, unit, and organizational peak performance during mission critical tasks. In addition to direct impact on operational performance, these technologies will also provide the foundation for advances in quality-of-life, educational, occupational, and medical domains that extend beyond military applications," added DeCostanza.

The team said the advancements are critical to multiple Army Warfighter Challenges such as to develop situational awareness, enhance realistic training, improve Soldier, leader and team performance, and to develop agile and adaptive leaders.

"High-resolution, moment-to-moment prediction of human behavior is also essential for enabling the vision for the third offset strategy, particularly in relation to advanced human-machine teaming," said DeCostanza.

ARL and their research partners are currently focused on addressing research challenges related to this future vision. Some of these challenges include aggregation and interpretation of big data to understand human dynamics, measuring states, processes, and performance in complex organizational forms, and real-world assessment in increasingly complex operational environments.

DeCostanza, Gamble and Vettel will continue to collaborate with MCBL in executing research, including technology integration into the lab's experimentation activities and collective training events, and development of research partnerships within Army Training and Doctrine Command schoolhouses.

"We are excited to unite the expertise in experimental methods and analysis from us here at ARL with the operational needs and constraints well-known to our colleagues at MCBL. This collaboration is an important step to ensure overmatch capabilities for Soldiers in 2040," said Vettel.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.


Last Update / Reviewed: June 17, 2016