US Navy Taps Charles River Analytics to Build System that Assesses Cognitive Workload to Improve Warfighting Effectiveness

Simulated image for Charles River Analytics seahawk sensors

Charles River Analytics Inc., developer of intelligent systems solutions, has been awarded additional funding from the US Navy to build SEAHAWK, a system that assesses cognitive workload. The nine-month contract is valued at $1 million, if all options are exercised.

“The Navy is always developing new technologies to improve warfighting effectiveness,” said Dr. Bethany Bracken, Senior Scientist at Charles River. “Aircrew learning to use these technologies risk being overloaded by the associated physical and cognitive demands, which can degrade their performance. Before they invest millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of training into a new system, SEAHAWK lets them unobtrusively and objectively assess not just the current cognitive burden of the system under development, but also what the physical and cognitive workload would be after Aircrew were fully trained to be experts on the system.”

Naval scientists and engineers monitor Aircrew workload as new tools are being designed; however, they are using methods that are manual, laborious, and often subjective, such as the NASA Task Load Index. These methods do not help predict advancements in expertise as personnel acquire skill at new systems and protocols. SEAHAWK will give engineers the capability to accurately evaluate the physical and cognitive workload imposed by new technologies developed for Naval Aircrew, and to forecast changes in workload as Aircrew become more expert at using the new tech.

SEAHAWK has four components:

  • Sensor Suite with near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), physiological monitors, and eye-tracking
  • Data Processing, Fusion, and Interpretation Engine that uses statistical and probabilistic modeling techniques to extract, fuse, and process indicators of physical and cognitive workload
  • Expertise Tracking and Prediction Engine that predicts the impact of practice and advancing expertise
  • Custom-designed user interface to display results

Charles River will build SEAHAWK on our Sherlock™ platform, which is designed to prototype solutions based on physiological, neurological, and behavioral state.

SEAHAWK will expand on our previous human state sensing and prediction efforts, including a toolkit that models individual and team cognitive state (ADAPTER), a system to automatically sense indicators of cognitive workload (MEDIC), and a system to measure, assess, and predict astronaut’s cognitive workload (CAPT PICARD).


This material is based upon work supported by the Naval Air Warfare Center under Contract No. N68335-18-C-0134. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NAVAIR.

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