College of Engineering News Room

USF Researchers Awarded $5 Million Grant to Study AI Models for the U.S. Military

By Brad Stager
For military planners concerned with optimizing the deployment and use of resources, artificial intelligence is seen as a useful tool. How AI can be developed and tested for use in military operations will be the focus of study for an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of South Florida Institute for Artificial Intelligence + X (AI+X) from Computer Science and Engineering, Industrial Management and Systems Engineering, and Psychology
The institute draws upon the expertise of subject matter experts from departments and centers across the USF campus, quantitative and qualitative in their orientations, to teach and conduct research related to AI and associated technology. The X factor in the organization’s name represents the varied areas of interest to its researchers and range from public health to cybersecurity.

A U.S. Army grant awarded to the institute will fund research to support testing and evaluation of AI for the Development Command Analysis Center, which is located at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. This grant is part of a larger effort led by the Kostas Research Institute at Northeastern University. Externally-funded research such as the DEVCOM grant provides opportunities for USF researchers to explore the science of AI with the goal of generating products that benefit those funding the work and society at large.
Titled "Testing & Evaluation for Soldier-Device Teaming Compatibility, Vulnerability, and Durability in Emergent Situations," the project is funded for $5 million over five years (2022 - 2027) and brings together experts from different fields.  Professor Sudeep Sarkar, who is the principal investigator explained the purpose of the grant in an email. 

"This is part of a larger Congressional program focused on developing a robust analytical and simulation framework for systems that leverage artificial intelligence and assistive automation (AI/AA) to ensure these systems can be assessed and evaluated properly by the Army," wrote Sarkar, who is the  chair of Computer Science and Engineering and USF Distinguished University Professor.

Besides Sarkar, the other co-principal investigators are Tapas Das and John Licato.

Developing complex systems involving AI, machine learning and human behavior is the kind of management task that the USF College of Engineering's Department of Industrial Management and Systems undertakes as well as teaches. Professor Tapas Das, who is also the department's chair, is joined by his colleagues Assistant Professor Ankit Shah, and associate professors Hadi Charkhgard and Susana Lai Yuen in the project. They are looking at energy efficiency considerations for vehicles with AI and performance in combat simulations.

The USF team will collaborate with army researchers to study three areas of AI that have human involvement.  

Modeling how military personnel interact and exchange information with technology in a variety of stressful situations, such as combat, will be examined. The ultimate goal is improving and expanding the use of AI in operations, particularly in situations where there is a mix of human and AI resources to be deployed.

Since recognizing legitimate targets is an important function of combat activities, this is another area the researchers will study. Researchers will identify how various factors, such as the operational environment, affect current recognition technology as well as potential ways to improve understanding of those capabilities for future development.

With AI’s capabilities to monitor, evaluate and control systems, using it to improve energy efficiency has become an area of interest across many fields. Under this contract, distinctions between autonomous and human-driven vehicles will be measured and evaluated with the aim of eventually developing ways of improving the efficiency of autonomous vehicles in an operational setting.

Research goals involve creating ways of measuring and evaluating AI tools involving human interaction with technology. According to Licato, research such as this project, which explores the junction of humans and technology, is likely to grow in the future. 

“This project is possibly the largest CSE+Psychology collaboration I've seen, and I'm hoping it will lead to much more. The intersection of AI and human reasoning is a booming area of research that we are very well-positioned to tackle.”

To help with understanding the behavioral and sensory aspects of the research, Professor Michael Gillespie from Psychology department at USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, Professor Max Owens from Psychology department at USF Tampa campus, and Professor Shaun Canavan from Computer Science and Engineering  are also participating in this effort.