Thursday, February 05, 2004

"NEURAL: software could become soldier's best friend"
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are using neural-network technology to create software that automatically offers individual real-time advice to soldiers and other government teams in the field. Akin to the promptings that newscasters get from their producers via earplugs during a broadcast, mentoring (as the technique is called) has already proved valuable to military teams in achieving mission goals. But instead of a human mentor, the Sandia group is looking to devise a software mentor that could offer advice like "take a deep breath and relax your upper body" or "pay attention to what Private Smith is about to say, his excitement level indicates it could be important." The researchers recently used a neural network to learn the signatures of abstract desirable traits like "leadership," as well as warning signs such as "nervous," "afraid" or "daydreaming," by analyzing the pulse, respiration, perspiration, facial expressions, head movements and other biometric data streams coming from sensors attached to group members. Goals could be achieved in a stressful virtual environment only if the group cooperated effectively. By perfecting their approach in virtual reality, the scientists hope to someday enable automatic advice and counsel from a virtual mentor.
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