Army Research Lab Award to Focus on Advanced AI, Machine Learning
By Chris Bender
Photo illustration by iStock
The Army Research Lab has tapped the University of Maryland for an ambitious effort to integrate data science and engineering on a sweeping array of projects, ranging from a “smart nose” to sniff out hazardous materials to lightning-quick “fingerprinting” of cell phones and other radio-emitting devices.
ARL, part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, recently awarded the A. James Clark School of Engineering a five-year, $78.2 million cooperative agreement to spearhead the Data Driven Engineering Research (DataDrivER) program.
“Engineering and data science are merging,” said Don Woodbury, director of innovation and partnerships for Maryland Engineering. “DataDrivER gives us a chance to make that merger happen more quickly.”
Goals include developing hardware and software—including advanced AI and machine learning algorithms and related analytics—that engage with and extract knowledge from massive data sets to improve decisions made by humans and autonomous systems. Researchers will also focus on data visualization approaches to help people better absorb and interact with data, and understand the conclusions it suggests.
DataDrivER isn’t standard academic-based R&D, Woodbury said: Projects are planned and resourced to support an accelerated 18- to 24-month timeframe from inception to a laboratory prototype demonstration. They’ll build on existing knowledge in a similar manner to pharmaceutical companies’ race in 2020 to develop COVID-19 vaccines.
“We have a fantastic foundation of fundamental research discoveries and a workforce that is at the leading edge of key emerging technologies,” he said. “We can leverage our technology and workforce to efficiently deliver compelling research outcomes to our partners and sponsors in a timeframe that is not typical for university research.”
Six projects are planned for the partnership’s first year:
UMD’s close proximity to the nation’s capital and core government research institutions like ARL provide UMD with unique opportunities for collaborations like these, Clark School Dean Samuel Graham, Jr. said.
“We seek impactful innovations and discovery with our research, exploring new possibilities and multidisciplinary solutions in every engineering discipline—from industrial AI to autonomous systems that better serve our service members,” Graham said. “We hope our ARL partnership serves as inspiration for other collaborations inside and outside our university, and look forward to jointly creating new solutions that merge big data and classical engineering.”
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