The US Navy Wants a Virtual Assistant to Help Hunt Submarines
The United States Navy is planning to enlist a virtual assistant to help look for submarines. The military service issued a research solicitation asking for formal ideas on designing an interactive artificial intelligence that could be installed on Navy ships to help run sonar stations scanning the seas for submersibles.
Sonar operators on Navy ships have to manage the complexities of modern sonar technology, adjusting active sonar scans from pulsed to continuous and fine-tuning depending on weather, location, and other factors. The scans vary in interpretation depending on those same circumstances, which only becomes more difficult should there be an active battle. The Navy wants to augment the operator’s system with an AI that could gather and understand sensor data from the ship, recommending the best sonar configuration and helping interpret the results. The Navy suggests in the solicitation the AI would improve sonar detection and lower the cost of training at the same time. The first phase of the project will get the AI developed, and phase two will move into testing the new system on actual ships.
“This assistant would have a significant analysis component, but would also have a direct interface with the operator through additional display elements and/or updates to existing display elements,” the Navy’s solicitation states. “In addition to realizing performance gains of at least 25% on active sonar detection, active sonar classification, active sonar tracking and end-to-end metrics relative to naïve employment of the system, this will enhance affordability by reducing the training time needed to realize a given level of operational performance.”
The Navy isn’t alone in pursuing AI assistants for military purposes. The U.S. Army is developing a conversational intelligence platform of its own that will let soldiers give voice commands to robotic vehicles. The Joint Understanding and Dialogue Interface, JUDI, will be able to understand and interpret intent in its orders, clarifying them with questions as needed. The Russian military is working on something similar, testing a voice assistant in Marker combat drones, autonomous tanks. Russia has plans for AI in the sky too, adding a voice assistant named Rita to the new MiG-35 fighter jets. Rita is supposedly capable of offering ideas to pilots during combat. Experiments in adding AI to military tech are only going to become more common as the tech improves and gets better at understanding what people want. Whether that will be a net positive remains to be seen.