New Defence HQ Could Be Set Up for Intelligent Listening

Researchers at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) are exploring the feasibility of providing an Intelligent Listener capability for the planned collocated Defence Headquarters, after successfully experimenting with speech and language technology.

The experiments will build on the first of a series of Intelligent Listener trials conducted by DSTO researchers earlier this year, during an exercise named EX TENDI WALK held at Headquarters Joint Operations Command. The experiment tested automatic speech recognition and automatic transcription technology in group settings during Theatre Planning Groups.

“Automatic speech recognition (ASR) and automatic transcription technologies already work adequately for individuals, and are now nearing the point of being useful for groups. Eventually such tools and the accompanying human processes will be embedded organically into command and control (C2) environments of the future,” says researcher Dr Dominique Estival.

“The Intelligent Listener experiments aim to ultimately provide the Australian Defence Force with the capability both to produce and retain electronic recordings of planning sessions, and to have archival access to drafts of transcriptions for those sessions, automatically segmented and aligned with the recordings. This will also lead to an in-depth analysis and understanding of collaborative planning in HQ.”

The EX TENDI WALK experiment explored security management and trialled the technology for data capture as it collected real conversational data from planning sessions to be used for further research on spoken language understanding, information presentation and pervasive computing. Conducted by Dr Dominique Estival and Dr Marilyn Cross with support from Jason Littlefield, the experiment was conducted in a live headquarters setting during the course of a complete planning exercise, making it particularly useful.

The researchers say even more important than the technical information gathered during the experiment or the data collected from real planning sessions were the findings obtained about users and their acceptance of the technology in their own environment.

According to the Australian Defence Science Magazine, the experiment showed the willingness of users to use the technology despite the relative inconvenience of having to wear a headset —necessitated by the high sound quality required for accurate voice recognition. One measure of success was that the experiment persisted through the full five days of the exercise, and feedback both during and after the exercise indicated that the users are already convinced of the benefits this technology offers.

Further experiments in the live headquarters setting will determine the feasibility of providing an Intelligent Listener capability in the new collocated Headquarters.

The trial tested the Automatic speech-to-text Transcriber for Meetings and Interviews (AuTM) developed by DSTO under the ‘Speech Task’ led by Dr Ahmad Hashemi-Sakhtsari, which is currently capable of handling up to sixteen meeting participants. AuTM automatically collected and collated textual and audio records using Dragon Naturally Speaking v.7. Records were organised according to the structure of the meeting, and the audio and textual segments were time-stamped, aligned and linked, with the transcription of each speaker in turn appearing in a Word or HTML document which was linked to the audio file for that segment. Output was organised according to an agenda set by the meeting moderator. With output customised to give any transcript a structure more relevant to the particular kind of interaction being recorded, researchers say during a collaborative planning session it could, for instance, follow the stages of the Joint Military Appreciation Process (JMAP).

The Government is to construct the new joint operational headquarters for the Australian Defence Force — Headquarters Australian Theatre (HQAST) — at a site outside Queanbeyan. The new HQ is expected to cost some $200 million and house around 1000 service personnel.

The Defence Department believes having a single joint command centre at the operational level will provide the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) with an effective and efficient means of commanding the ADF, ensure a more efficient allocation of resources and improve the information flow to Government with more informed and responsive advice.

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More about Australian Defence ForceC2Defence DepartmentDefence Science and Technology OrganisationDragon Naturally SpeakingLittlefield

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