SoarTech Scientists Power the Future of AI

 In Employees, Science

In its quest to shape the future of artificial intelligence and solve the toughest challenges for military warfighters, Soar Technology, Inc. (SoarTech), hired eight scientists in 2020 to add to their AI brain trust. This investment in people, and their knowledge and experience, allows SoarTech to continue building intelligent systems that emulate human decision making and create an AI powered future.

The new SoarTech team members are Dr. Hank Phillips, Dr. Roger Smith, John Allen, Dr. Daniel Barber, Dr. James Kirk, Dr. John Singleton, Dr. Jon Troyer, and Dr. Ryan Wohleber.

“We believe AI is most effective as a force-multiplier for humans.” said Mike van Lent, SoarTech’s President and CEO. “That’s why SoarTech emphasizes humans in our technologies and on our team. These new scientists are representative of the amazing and growing team SoarTech is leveraging to develop innovative, human-centered AI solutions to the military’s toughest problems.”

Dr. Henry (Hank) Phillips joined SoarTech as the Director of Learning Technology in November 2020.  Phillips recently retired as a U.S. Navy Commander and Director of Operational Psychology at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute.  During his 20 years of distinguished service as a uniformed scientist at Navy acquisition and operational commands, Phillips built diverse portfolios successfully transitioning research to operational technologies for the Military Services and DoD acquisition communities.  He holds a Doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Houston, as well as acquisition certifications in program management and engineering.

“I am really excited about joining this agile team and getting critical tools and technology into the hands of our warfighters faster,” said Phillips. “SoarTech is a great place to make a difference and I am grateful to be part of the team.”

Dr. Roger Smith recently joined SoarTech’s Orlando office as senior scientist.  Over his 30-year career, Smith held several leadership roles with commercial and government organizations including AdventHealth, U.S. Army Program Executive Office Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI), L3Harris, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. In these positions, Smith demonstrated expertise in military training, modeling and simulation, robotic surgery, medical simulation, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. Smith earned a Doctorate and Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland, a Doctorate from Century University, and a Master in Statistics and Data Science from Texas Tech University.

vI/ITSEC committees selected Dr. Smith to present both his tutorial, “A Comprehensive Introduction to Medical Simulation,” and his paper, “Machine Learning as an Effective New Tool for Assessing Human Performance During Simulation-based Training.”

In his role at SoarTech, Smith will pursue opportunities to employ human-centered AI applications to a variety of challenges to support the organizations SoarTech serves.

John Allen was hired as a senior scientist out of Honeywell’s Aerospace Advance Technology division where he worked in airline disruption recovery and condition-based management of civil, military and rotary-wing aircraft. Over his 36-year career, Allen supported AI solutions for UAV and UAM management and scheduling, military and civilian logistics, automotive cybersecurity, quantum computing, scheduling polymer plants, and helicopter flight data management.

He was the deputy program manager and researcher at NASA Ames Research Center where he utilized artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve problems for the organization.

Allen is now applying his knowledge and experience to continue supporting SoarTech’s mission. “I hope to drive some of SoarTech’s unique capabilities and intellectual property into products and services that continue to increase the speed and capability of our military personnel,” he said.

Dr. Daniel Barber is a lead scientist at SoarTech with over 15 years of experience conducting multi-disciplinary research for modeling and simulation, robotics, machine learning, human-agent collaboration, control systems, path-planning, computer vision, communication frameworks, and environment modeling.

In the execution of his research, Barber developed multiple prototype 3D simulation environments in a variety of operational disciplines. Barber also led and supported advancements in the use of physiological sensors. He is the primary developer and maintainer of the Mixed Initiative Experimental (MIX) Testbed used for Human-Robot Interactions (HRI) research by multiple universities and government organizations, and developed multimodal interfaces employing speech, gestures, and visual/auditory displays.

Barber holds a Doctorate in Modeling and Simulation, a Master of Science in Computer Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Central Florida.

Barber shared, “I’m looking forward to working on the advancement of mixed-initiative teaming where humans and autonomous counterparts, virtual and embodied, seamlessly work together, for increased force projection of our military.”

Dr. James Kirk started as a research scientist at SoarTech in January 2020. He completed his M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Michigan in 2019, studying artificial intelligence. His thesis focused on interactive task learning: enabling AI agents to be taught tasks through natural instruction by humans.

Before graduate school, Kirk earned his Bachelor of Science in computer engineering at Northeastern University (2011) in his home state of Massachusetts. He is passionate about research to enable online task learning in AI agents through interaction and instruction and is interested in research related to interactive learning, game learning, robotics, and cognitive architectures.

“I hope to explore and expand the ways we teach and interact with AI agents,” said Kirk. “The driving research question is ‘how can AIs learn new behaviors and concepts quickly from humans?’ This research is motivated by how humans teach each other tasks: through online situated interactive instruction with language and demonstrations.”

Dr. John Singleton is a research scientist and technical lead in SoarTech’s intelligent systems business area where his research is focused on application of formal methods in the domain of machine learning, graph-based techniques for inference and knowledge representation, AR- and VR-based training tools, and sensor-based cognitive state inference.

In addition to his research experience, Dr. Singleton has over 18 years of commercial experience developing architecture and design of solutions for the cruise industry that integrated contactless identity management, guest experience, and augmented reality. He also supported innovative systems in the analytics space, pioneering techniques in big data and multi-attribution analytics for customers such as General Motors (GM) and large internet brands such as eHarmony.

“With regard to AI, a question that constantly inspires me is: How can you trust a system you can’t understand?,” Singleton said. “To that end, I am interested in identifying and developing new tools and technologies that make trusting and reasoning about automated systems easier so that the AI systems of the tomorrow are safer, more trusted, and more effective than they are today.”

Dr. Singleton is an active member of the research community. In 2020, he was a program committee member of the European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP)’s Formal Techniques for Java-like Programs, and was a chair for the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE).

Dr. Jon Troyer is a research scientist developing and executing new concepts to address some of the most challenging issues associated with the use of artificial intelligence. Troyer helps create R&D proposals and is the authority over the execution of projects including research outcomes, engineering accomplishments, transition, and budget oversight. Specifically, he works on machine learning technics to predict float motion for the DARPA CLUE project and leads SoarTech’s efforts with their Manta Ray and NOMARS projects.

Dr. Ryan Wohleber joined SoarTech as a research scientist in April of 2020. He has over 10 years of experience investigating stress, fatigue, workload, attitudes, over-confidence, trust, personality, HCI, HRI, decision-making bias, emotional intelligence, deception, and executive processing. He has six years of experience using psychophysiological methods in these efforts including eye tracking, electrocardiogram, functional near-infrared spectroscopy, electroencephalogram, transcranial Doppler sonography, and thermal imaging.

His use of psychophysiological measures along with implicit measures, performance indices, and subjective approaches aims to provide convergent evidence of the state of an individual and an understanding of the influence of individual differences on state propensity. Often these efforts inform augmented cognition systems and AI-powered user interfaces.

“I aim to identify new ways to use and apply AI to improve human performance and emotional wellbeing, whether it involves making AI more understandable through effective design and communication with human users or partners, or using it to better gauge and understand human function to improve user experience,” said Wohleber.

Dr. Wohleber has a bachelor’s degree in industrial design, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from University of Cincinnati, and a Ph.D. in modeling and simulation from University of Central Florida. He has written more than 35 publications on a range of topics including investigations of the multifaceted nature of stress response, work on the multidimensionality of workload, and fatigue detection in drivers and UAV operators. His current work involves using AI to create a robust fielded state detection capability and to model human performance in response to counterfactual interventions.

SoarTech’s Chief Operating Officer, Denise Nicholson, and her leadership team, recognize their role in bringing the best scientists together to achieve their mission. “SoarTech is a pioneer in artificial intelligence research and innovation and was founded to address the challenges in the military, simulation, and training communities dating back TacAirSoar for DARPA’s Synthetic Theater of War Program,” said Nicholson.

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