Researchers from the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s (CCDC) Army Research Laboratory have developed the Joint Understanding and Dialogue Interface (JUDI) capability to transform soldier-robot interaction.

For this capability, the researchers collaborated with the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).

The JUDI capability enables bi-directional conversational interactions between soldiers and autonomous systems.

The Department of Defense (DoD)-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) ICT is working in collaboration with DoD services and organisations.

The latest effort reduces Soldier burden when teaming with autonomous systems and by allowing verbal command and control of systems, supporting the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Army Modernization Priority and the Army Priority Research Area for Autonomy.

CCDC Army Research Laboratory research scientist Dr Matthew Marge said: “Dialogue will be a critical capability for autonomous systems operating across multiple echelons of multi-domain operations so that soldiers across land, air, sea and information spaces can maintain situational awareness on the battlefield.

“This technology enables a soldier to interact with autonomous systems through bidirectional speech and dialogue in tactical operations where verbal task instructions can be used for command and control of a mobile robot.”

The software, which has been developed as part of the collaboration with USC ICT, leverages technologies developed in the institute’s Virtual Human Toolkit.

Marge said that the development is aimed at shifting the paradigm of soldier’s hands-on joystick operation to a hands-free mode of interaction.

This will also allow Soldiers to team with one or more robots while maintaining situational awareness of their surroundings.

The approach uses dialogue processing based on a statistical classification method to interpret a Soldier’s command.

Marge further added: “In turn, the technology gives the robot the ability to ask for clarification or provide status updates as tasks are completed. Instead of relying on pre-specified, and possibly outdated, information about a mission, dialogue enables these systems to supplement their understanding of the world by conversing with human teammates.”

Going forward, the robustness of JUDI will be assessed by the researchers with physical mobile robot platforms at an upcoming AIMM ERP-wide field test that is planned for September this year.