back to article US Army develops natural-language voice-command AI for robots, tanks, etc. For search'n'rescue. For now

The US Army is experimenting with machine-learning software that could be used to give tanks, trucks, and robots the ability to follow verbal orders from soldiers and communicate in natural language on the battlefield. Researchers at the Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command (aka DEVCOM) and the University of Southern …

  1. jake Silver badge

    Earth to Felix Gervits ...

    "robots that are situated in the physical world and reason over their real-time sensory perceptions,”

    ... that word "reason", I don't think it means what you think it means.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Earth to Felix Gervits ...

      What do you think it means?

      Serious question.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Earth to Felix Gervits ...

        "the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways"

        Machines do not think, nor can they comprehend or infer.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Earth to Felix Gervits ...

          So your argument is that "thinking", "comprehension" and "inference" are processes that, by nature, can never be performed by a machine?

          May I inquire as to your reason for that belief? I don't see anything in the definitions of any of those words that make it either logically inevitable or self-evident.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Earth to Felix Gervits ...

            "So your argument is that "thinking", "comprehension" and "inference" are processes that, by nature, can never be performed by a machine?"

            Yes.

            "May I inquire as to your reason for that belief? I don't see anything in the definitions of any of those words that make it either logically inevitable or self-evident."

            Because machines cannot think, and I firmly believe that they never will be able to think. All they are is a pile of parts that blindly follow a path set forth by their programming.

  2. HildyJ Silver badge
    FAIL

    Is it just me?

    Or do people here suspect that robots will be better trained to recognize a White Southern Drawl than a Black, Hispanic, or Asian accent?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Is it just me?

      Not a lot of good ol' suthun boys in CompSci, for what should be obvious reasons. More likely, computers will be best at both California Neutral and Received Pronunciation (for my fellow Yanks, that second one is as close as makes no nevermind to what we usually call "BBC Pronunciation").

      But yes, your point is quite valid. It is an issue that is quite real, and will be extremely hard to resolve.

      1. oiseau Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Is it just me?

        No.

        ...your point is quite valid. It is an issue that is quite real, and will be extremely hard to resolve.

        It won't be.

        Because by the time it comes to that, you won't know if it understood or not.

        Or if it simply does not intend to comply.

        An “I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that” moment ...

        O.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Is it just me?

      Considering that Blacks are significantly over represented in the US army, at pretty much all ranks, it seems unlikely.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Is it just me?

        How can there be over representation in a purely voluntary force?

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Is it just me?

          Blacks make up one-eighth of the US population, but almost one-fifth of its army. Is this a trick question?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Is it just me?

            Your claim was that blacks are "over represented". My reply was based on the fact that the force is self selected, each individual makes that choice for him or her self, and thus the force can't possibly be over represented by any particular group.

            If there was a draft and the end results were similar to what we see today, I'd agree with you.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Terminator

    Turn 45 degrees

    Will it also understand things like "no, the other left"?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Turn 45 degrees

      I wonder if it could translate much from the average British platoon sergeant?

      "What are you a fckn donkey or a dildo, fckn move!!"

      Maybe language has changed since the seventies but I am willing to bet the armies that use this kind of thing will need to send squaddies on courses to learn how to speak to machines.

      1. James O'Shea

        Re: Turn 45 degrees

        I was just about to point out that the typical NCO uses variations on 'fuck', 'shit', 'cock', and 'cunt' (but especially 'fuck') roughly every second word. Marines and sailors tend towards two of three words. I can recall a long service chief petty officer having a little discussion with a new recruit in which five of six words were from the above list. (The recruit had managed to do the impossible, and had broken a Mk VIII* torpedo. The original Mk VIII entered service in 1927. That's One Nine Two Seven. They are commonly considered to be unbreakable.. except this boy managed. The CPO was... annoyed. The rest of us stood well clear of blast range.) (Note that Mk VIII* torps launched from a British nuke sub sank General Belgrano in 1982, being considered to be way more reliable than newer fish. The Navy never throws anything away. They probably still have cutlasses suitable for arming boarding parties still around.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Turn 45 degrees

          I remember reading about an experimental voice controlled vehicle years ago. The designers hard coded "Fuck!" to perform an E-stop.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Turn 45 degrees

          "They probably still have cutlasses suitable for arming boarding parties still around."

          So THAT'S how you lot are planning on getting a functional aircraft carrier ... Remember, as Sir Francis Drake showed us, it's only piracy when some other country does it!

        3. ST Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Turn 45 degrees

          > Marines and sailors tend towards two of three words.

          I rarely said - or heard - 'cock' when I was in the Navy. It's kinda too 'fru-fru' and pretentious.

          Preferred form was - back then - 'dick'. I think it still is, at least in the USN.

          USN has a large collection of semi-official acronyms or expressions containing the word 'dick'.

      2. veti Silver badge

        Re: Turn 45 degrees

        Soldiers aren't morons. They know there's a difference between talking to people (where the hard part is convincing them you're serious) and machines (where clarity is everything).

        At least, until the machine develops a sense of humour. Then we're all in deep trouble.

  4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
    Terminator

    ED-209 situation?

    "You have 30 seconds to comply!"

    "You have 20 seconds to comply!"

    "You have 10 seconds to comply!"

    ZZAP!

  5. Scott Broukell

    "Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance."

  6. John G Imrie
    Terminator

    Marvin; I got very bored and depressed, so I went and plugged myself in to its external computer feed. I talked to the computer at great length and explained my view of the Universe to it," said Marvin.

    Ford: And what happened?

    Marvin: It committed suicide

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Will the naval version understand "Left hand down a bit"?

  8. codejunky Silver badge

    Awesome

    Maybe this can help drive forward natural language processing. Especially accents. Although I expect it will result in people talking in that voice they only use for machines.

  9. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    IFF needed

    What's to stop the enemy shouting commands at it?

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: IFF needed

      Johnny Foreigner doesn't know English. And has a funny accent.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: IFF needed

        We're talking about USians. Your remarks don't apply.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For search'n'rescue. For now

    search'n'rescue DOES have a rather peculiar resemblance to "seek & dest

  11. Dwarf Silver badge

    In the real world

    People look at their chosen phone/automation gadget and realise that even simple commands can't be reliably executed by the device. "Phone mum" somehow translates to "Sending a text to Dave" or "Scheduling a reminder for <random thing>" or perhaps Siri | Alexa | Google deciding to join a conversation when nobody was talking to them. Anyone remember the "Cocaine Noodles" activation for Google ? None of these things are that smart, so the idea of something far more imposing with access to anything offensive is really not a great idea.

    I wonder how they work with background noise like a war going on or when in the middle of theatre or perhaps when the operator is a little pre-occupied by some other event that really affects MeatSpace more than MachineSpace..

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Punch and Judy

    JUDI packs a punch

    JUDI whacks Punch

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Punch and Judy

      I'm pretty certain it was Julie whacking Teddy Ruxpin ...

      Count yourself lucky if you didn't run across the Julie Doll ... my sister's gave me the heebie-jeebies

  13. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Out of tree error

    In my mind I just see a video of two Scotsmen in a voice activated lift wanting to go to a certain floor number.

    "ELEVEN!!!!!"

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