Robbert-Jan Merk on HoeZoRadio

On Wednesday February 6, Robbert-Jan Merk (Computer Science) will give an interview about his PhD project.merk_robbert-jan
The interview will be broadcast between 8pm and 9pm on Radio 5 (747AM).
If you can’t make it at the time, you can listen to the interview on HoeZo Radio from 11pm that same day. Scroll ahead to 15:36m in the broadcast to jump straight to the interview.


Making enemies:
cognitive modeling for opponent agents in fighter pilot simulators


It is not easy to become a fighter pilot. The challenges that modern air combat poses on pilots are extreme. In a fraction of a second, a pilot must make complex decisions, determine the correct tactics, estimate the situation and execute his maneuvers. Seeing that the tasks of the Dutch fighter pilots are important for the defense of the Netherlands and of its allies, it is of vital importance that these specialists are trained as well as possible.

As the training of pilots is done increasingly in flight simulators, there is a lot of interest in improving these simulators as training environments. A vital aspect of such training simulators are the computer-controlled actors, commonly called ‘agents’. The interaction between pilot and opponent determines for a large part the challenge of air combat. In order for flight simulators to provide pilots with realistic tactical training, their computer-controlled opponents need to behave intelligently and humanlike.

The approach to create humanlike opponent agents in this thesis is cognitive modeling. The idea behind this approach is that to have agents behave humanlike, they need to have computer models of human cognitive processes. Development of these models is based on cognitive theories, input from domain experts and artificial intelligence modeling techniques.

For this thesis, several cognitive models have been developed that can be used for opponent agents, i.e.

– Naturalistic decision making (not purely rational but also influenced by intuition and emotion),

– situation awareness (the ability to perceive one’s surroundings and understand how it changes),

– surprise (the ability to be surprised) and

– theory of mind (the ability to imagine the perspective of someone else).

The contribution of this thesis to science does not consist solely of the design of new models. The validation of these models on various levels of realism was given as much attention as model development itself. In particular, the situation awareness and surprise models have been validated in a flight simulator against Royal Netherlands Air Force pilots.