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President of Charles River Analytics Explains Human Behavior Modeling for the Boston Globe

Dr. Greg Zacharias, President of Charles River Analytics, a developer of cutting-edge technologies for intelligent systems, was interviewed on current advances in human behavior models for a Boston Globe article, Knowing the Enemy, One Avatar at a Time. The Globe article describes the US government’s effort to create software to forecast human behavior during conflicts, for example, by computer models of Afghan villagers that interact with US troops in response to questions posed by troops in training, in a “virtual” simulation of the village. Dr. Zacharias explained how the models have progressed from earlier crude versions that did repetitive “canned” responses, to more sophisticated ones that can respond to a range of factors, such as religion, economic status, or tribal relationships.

Human behavior modeling is a key area addressed by the human socio-cultural behavior (HSCB) program, which was created by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) in 2008 to improve the technology in developing these models, as well as to more rapidly transition the technology to meet today’s warfighter needs. The program was initiated in response to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which focuses on DoD strategy and priorities, and was shaped by a number of National Research Council (NRC) studies. Dr. Zacharias was a member of the NRC Committee on Human Factors (now Human Systems Integration) for more than ten years, and recently co-chaired the NRC study “Organizational Models: from Individuals to Societies.” The three-year study, sponsored by the US Air Force, was conducted by a committee of thirteen experts who evaluated the state-of-the-art in developing and applying individual, organizational, and societal models of human behavior, culminating in a broad set of recommendations for future Science and Technology investments for the DoD.

Charles River has developed HSCB modeling tools for over 25 years, most recently with a suite of tools supporting non-kinetic operations (for example, humanitarian missions and efforts to aid in the construction of critical infrastructure in developing nations). Dr. Jonathan Pfautz, Vice President, Cognitive Systems, said, “In our efforts, we continue to break new ground developing innovative models as well as methods that enable our military forces to make effective and appropriate use of those models.”

With one of the efforts, LIVIO, Charles River is addressing the military’s increasing dependence on Information Operations (IO). Users can create structured interpretations from different observations, and visualize and track them over time. Michael Farry, Senior Scientist at Charles River explained, “For instance, I may want to know about ‘Civil Unrest’ in a region, but my patrols are observing market activity, how many children are attending school, and so on. LIVIO enables you to draw numerical relationships between what you want to know and what you’re observing.” In another project, TACT-V, Charles River is developing a tool for soldiers to use while conducting interviews. TACT-V allows soldiers to detect gaps and misinformation during the course of an interview, enabling them to identify and assess false, inconsistent, or unreliable testimony. Under the Model Analysis Tookit (MAT) program, Charles River is developing tools to help social scientists develop and validate the correctness of their models before they are turned into computational models or used for decision making.

Dr. Scott Neal Reilly, Vice President, Decision Management Systems, and Principal Scientist at Charles River, said, “It is extremely challenging to develop models of human social behavior and to demonstrate that they are correct. Without correct models, we risk making bad decisions. And without sufficiently demonstrating the correctness of the models, we risk even correct models not being trusted.”

In recent years, Charles River expanded its scope in HSCB projects to improve virtual training for the US military. Multimodal Interfaces for Synthetic Training Environments (MIST) focuses on multimodal interaction capabilities that allow Soldiers to naturally interact with semi-autonomous forces within virtual training environments. Charles River designed and prototyped a reconfigurable, Soldier-worn hardware system capable of detecting and identifying the Soldier’s natural physical gestures and verbal command, and then communicating these commands to other entities within a virtual training environment. In Crowd.Builder, Charles River designed and developed a socio-cultural crowd artificial intelligence (AI) model to support training Soldiers in culturally realistic crowd interactions using its social network modeling and analysis tool, CONNECT™, and its agent-based behavior modeling tool, AgentWorks™. The CAATE project focuses on developing tools that make it possible to rapidly and cost-effectively develop training applications for soldiers that teach them key social and cultural skills. CAATE creates realistic, immersive virtual training environments soldiers can access on laptops to learn critical social and cultural skills. For instance, soldiers could use CAATE to learn how to successfully interact with realistic, but virtual, Afghans in a completely safe, virtual environment. ” Finally, the Culturally and Socially Aware Believable Agents (CASABA) effort builds on the CAATE effort to make the training more realistic and to make it adapt to changing conditions on the ground, such as critical events and shifts in public opinion.

The CAATE development tool

“It’s a delight to see so many years of basic research and development finally making it out into the hands of those charged with keeping the peace and ensuring effective stability and support operations in many places in the world,” noted Greg Zacharias. “As the global nature of future conflicts continues to evolve, we expect to see a greater emphasis on an understanding of socio-cultural determinants of human behavior, and an increasing need for validated and easy to use tools to help in training and in informing the day to day choices being made by our troops.”


The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this announcement are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as representing the official policies, position, or decision—either expressed or implied—of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, nor the U.S. Government.
Distribution statement A. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

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