SMU researchers partner with CAE USA to improve pilot training

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Dallas, Texas (SMU) ?? Researchers at SMU’s AT&T Virtualization Center are testing the effectiveness of an innovative approach they have developed to improve pilot training and better understand the stressors pilots may encounter in the cockpit.

Through a partnership with CAE USA, a technology company specializing in flight simulation and other digital immersion technologies and platforms, researchers at Southern Methodist University (SMU) have developed a method to use cognitive load sensing and machine learning to capture how pilots react to various scenarios in a flight simulator. This includes measuring pupil size, heart rate, and other physical responses to determine the pilot’s levels of interest, stress, or fatigue.

Researchers are now comparing the physical observations recorded by flight training personnel and students ?? self-assessments to the results of the SMU biometric analysis. The results are expected to produce the first real-time analysis of student situational awareness and will be used to improve flight training.

Pilots are traditionally asked several questions after each flight simulation exercise in order to determine the difficulty of certain stages of the training and to assess their reactions. However, polls and the way pilots answer questions can be very subjective.

?? Our theory is that biometrics during simulation will result in much more objective and accurate measurements than asking users questions after simulation to assess their experience, ?? said Suku Nair, Ph.D., director of the AT&T Center for Virtualization at SMU.

Suku Nair, Ph.D.

Nair is working with a colleague at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, Eric Larson, Ph.D. Associate professor of computer science and recognized expert in machine learning, Larson is the study’s principal investigator.

?? Accelerating learning with biometric detection is a difficult and unproven hypothesis, ?? Larson said. This research seeks to understand how detection can be used to understand a learner’s level of mastery in a difficult task, such as piloting an airplane. We hope to advance the field of research by being the first group to show whether personalized and automated learning can be effective in a real learning scenario.

Nair and Larson believe this application of biometric detection and machine learning can be used to measure user experience in other industries.

?? You can use technology to see how a reader reacts to an advertisement, ?? said Naïr. Is the reader excited or curious? This immediately helps marketing companies better understand the customer experience and how best to engage them.

Sandro Scielzo, Ph.D., senior human systems researcher at CAE USA, said it was Nair and Larson’s research backgrounds and their proven expertise in applying biometric machine learning to SMU that attracted the attention from CAE USA.

?? Our research will produce the first real-time measure of situational awareness, a critical higher-order cognitive construct for high-stakes dynamic domains such as military aviation, ?? said Scielzo. For example, our machine learning classifiers could identify a perception failure, thereby helping to remedy poor visual scans. A breakdown in comprehension could also be mitigated by ensuring that students stay within the zone of maximum adaptability via real-time adaptation of the complexity of the training. So, could mission readiness be achieved more efficiently and quickly? said Scielzo.

?? A big advantage of working with SMU is that not only do they have talented teachers, but also highly motivated students who want to make a difference, ?? said Scielzo. ?? And SMU is in our ?? backyard ?? facilitating the coordination and execution of complex experiments on human subjects. I would like to personally thank Drs. Nair and Larson for their support during these four years of research. It may seem like a long time, yet I have no doubt that this is just the beginning, ?? Scielzo added.

This research is just another example of the growing role virtualization plays in improving lives, and SMU is fortunate to work with industry leaders like CAE USA to help test solutions. innovative, ?? said Naïr.


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