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25 Jan 18. Charles River to develop hands-free HMI for US Army. US-based intelligent systems solutions developer Charles River Analytics has been contracted to develop a hands-free human-machine interface (HMI) for soldiers. Awarded by the US Army, the two-year, follow-on $1m contract is part of the Supervisory HMI Enabling Practical Autonomous Robot Direction (SHEPARD) effort proposed by the company.
The SHEPARD programme seeks to combine several robot control technologies to offer a natural and reliable hands-free HMI for soldiers operating in various environments and keep them safe.
Currently, the latest unmanned vehicle (UxV) systems need active remote control or teleoperation, where a commander orders a trained human operator to remotely control the system.
Charles River Analytics senior scientist Stan German said: “Our approach to managing UxVs is in stark contrast with how robot operators currently direct platforms. They use cumbersome, hands-on, head-down controllers.
“Our goal is to develop controls that let robots seamlessly integrate into human teams.”
SHEPARD promotes more reliable communication that enables commanders to issue instructions directly to the vehicles. This enhances situational awareness and reduces delays.
Currently, Charles River Analytics is developing a hands-free HMI that combines speech and gestures to facilitate reliable command and control of multiple UxVs.
SHEPARD is proposing to use smart devices, such as a watch, in order to ensure seamless communication with military robots.
The effort aims to help reduce the cognitive burden on troops and their commanders and speed-up the adoption of UxVs into military operations.
24 Jan 18. Budget uncertainty weighs on Air Force research efforts. Budget uncertainty is taking a toll on research and modernization efforts at the Air Force, leaders said.
In remarks in speeches and conversations on the sidelines of the Air Force’s Jan. 18 Science and Technology 2030 summit in Washington, D.C., leaders worried about the prospect of a government shutdown and the problems that come with funding by continuing resolution.
Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley said he doesn’t plan on initiating any significant projects until he completes the service’s year-long comprehensive study into the science and technology directorate’s strategy announced in September 2017. But living on temporary solutions is “wholly inefficient.”
“There’s a ripple-effect cost that’s very difficult to measure, and it’s the same as every other government agency that would have to do the start-stop kind of thing.… Budgeting and planning by continuing resolution makes it very challenging and inefficient, to be perfectly honest,” Cooley said.
Speaking at an Air Force Association breakfast on Jan. 18, Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan said that “on the modernization side, a long term CR would limit execution on the engineering, manufacturing and development phase on the B-21 [Raider],” the bomber jet, and could delay the Air Force’s modernization efforts overall. Donovan said that for the B-21, the service would be limited to 2017 budget funding, which is 54 percent lower than the program’s 2018 budget.
Research efforts could also potentially take a hit because funding is already anemic. During her speech at the science and technology summit, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said only 2 percent of the service’s budget was allocated for research and development — the vast majority of which is spent on tests and assessments rather than developing new capabilities.
“The sad reality is that less than 2 percent of the Air Force budget today is being used for research, development, test and evaluation,” Wilson said, adding that the research budget standard for a peacetime Air Force was