SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  OSD10-HS8 (OSD)
Title:  An Adaptive Cultural Trainer for Development of Cultural Aptitude in Warfighters
Research & Technical Areas:  Information Systems, Human Systems

Acquisition Program:  
  Objective:  The objective of this topic is to develop a virtual environment (VE) simulation that incorporates cultural models in order to show how the effects of kinetic and non-kinetic interactions can propagate and affect the community as a whole.
  Description:  The U.S. military is currently undergoing more and more non-kinetic operations overseas and needs a better understanding of how cultural interactions with individuals or leaders in a community can affect the local population. As Irregular Warfare (IR) becomes of greater importance to the military, the training tools for cultural settings must increase and adapt as well. Further, into today’s combat environment warfighters must be skilled at switching between kinetic and non-kinetic operations. A fire fight can happen on one block while humanitarian assistance is ongoing only a few blocks away. Warfighters can and will be called on to perform both kinetic and non-kinetic operations on the same mission. How these warfighters respond in given scenarios affects the local population’s movement, perceptions, opinions, and so forth. VE simulations that allow warfighters to practice both language and cultural skills could benefit from incorporating social network, cultural, and geospatial models in order to show how interactions with indigenous people effect societal changes and shifts in local opinion, perception, movement, and so forth. Further VE simulations that incorporated both kinetic and non-kinetic scenarios would be of added value, inculcating warfighters with the skills needed to be successful in today’s asymmetrical warfare environment. Currently, language/cultural trainers teach language and cultural skills without population scenarios and first person shooter trainers do little to teach language or cultural skills. For example, if a player makes a poor decision say by insisting on speaking directly to a young single female when her older uncle is there, instead of speaking to her through her uncle to her, the program does not model how that interaction affects the local population’s opinion, perception, movement, and so forth. By creating simulations where warfighters can learn cultural negotiation skills, cultural aptitude, and language a new cultural trainer that incorporates all the behaviors and types of interactions a warfighter will be called on to perform, as well as incorporating adaptive models, warfighters will be better able to see how their actions and reactions to events impact not only the person they are interacting with but the population as a whole. The proposed solution will leverage an existing cultural and language trainer and incorporate social network, cultural, and geospatial models effects on population parameters. Further, the proposed solution will integrate their solution and the existing cultural/language trainer into a first person shooter scenario. Trainees will be able to speak to and interact at any level with indigenous non-player characters (NPC), complete with voice recognition, speech, and facial gestures. Further, these characters can be hostile, friendly, and/or neutral. Neutral characters will lean towards being either friendly or hostile on a sliding scale. The characters will react according to how the trainee interacts with them. Further the game will track how the local population reacts to these interactions. The game will adapt to these changes in local population response. For example, if a player comes in and insults the local tribal leader the game scenario will change and the trainee will find that future interactions with the local population are more difficult and more hostile. In addition, the trainee will be monitored for neural/physiological markers (e.g. EEG, eye tracking, pupil diameter, heart rate, respiration, and so forth) of workload and the game will adjust in difficulty based in part on these neural/physiological metrics; this is designed to keep players motivated, interested, and at an optimal learning level. To assess users’ performance, trainees’ behavioral responses in the game will be monitored. Further, neural/physiological markers of cultural aptitude will also be monitored (e.g. is the trainee focusing their eyes in the correct location when conversing with a NPC for the given culture).

  PHASE I: Define a culture-general framework that can link into the back end of an existing language and culture trainer and first person shooter trainer. This should be able to implement culture-specific models and gauge from interactions how individuals would respond-- both in terms of the conversation and how they would adapt their views of the trainee, the U.S. military, other coalition forces. Develop goal-oriented scenarios for warfighters of different levels (commanders might be talking to regional leaders, while lower enlisted men would only be talking to civilians) and for different segments of the target population (i.e. kinetic and non-kinetic).
  PHASE II: Develop a prototype system based on the preliminary design from Phase I. An After Action Review module will show users how their interactions with the NPC affected not only the NPC but the population as a whole. Allow for repeated interactions where prior conversations are used to shape attitudes coming into new scenarios. Allow for level of difficulty changes. For example, early on the trainee may only have to perform non-kinetic operations interacting with a fairly friendly population but later after they have learned some language and culture scenarios become more difficult and include both kinetic and non-kinetic interactions. Finally, incorporate neural/physiological metrics in order to gauge workload in the individual and create adaptive scenarios and monitor their cultural aptitude.

  PHASE III: This technology will have broad application across military, governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations; as well as in commercial settings. This technology will expand on the militaries current ability to train warfighter’s cultural aptitude.

  References:  [1] Deaton, J.E., Barba, C., Santarelli, T., et al. (2005). Virtual environment cultural training for operational readiness (VECTOR). Virtual Reality, 8, 156–167. [2] Berka C, Levendowski DJ, Lumicao MN, et al. (2007). EEG correlates of task engagement and mental workload in vigilance, learning, and memory tasks. Aviat Space Environ Med, 78(5, Suppl.), B231-B244. [3] Wierwille, WW, Rahimi, M, Casali, JG, (1985). Evaluation of 16 Measures of Mental Workload using a Simulated Flight Task Emphasizing Mediational Activity. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 27(5), 489-502.

Keywords:  Training; Cultural Aptitude; Virtual Environments; Adaptive Training; Workload; Social Networks

Questions and Answers:
Q: Could you please provide links to your references for this topic?

I am interested in this project as it can affect a family member. I would like to read the references shown above. My background is in aerospace and I am also familiar with Al Santoli's project in the Phillipines. I have my master's in Educational Administration and did a lot of development of human effects for training air force personnel. I have a lot of interest in languages and customs of other countries and would like to develop programs to train our military how to better blend in with other cultures.
A: All articles are available via standard web searches. I recommend Google Scholar.
Q: The requirement to link to "an existing language and culture trainer" suggests that you have one or more specific ones in mind, true?
If so, could you state your preferences?

Also, will access to these be provided as GFE?
A: No we currently do not have a specific one in mind. The reason it was suggested that this be linked to an existing cultural trainer is that the time and money allotted for the current effort will likely preclude most from developing a trainer from the ground up. If a company wanted to build their own trainer they would be more than welcome to do that but they would need to meet the deadlines for all of the existing requirements.

Alternatively, a company could partner with an existing developer and offer to do a joint proposal. A good place to start looking for companies that build language and cultural trainers is just doing a web search. Hope that helps. All the best.

Record: of