Navy Applications of Machine Learning Workshop tackles challenges facing Information Warfare mission

By By Patric Petrie, lead staff writer  
Parking was tight, and Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific was awash with a sea of visitor badges, as academic, industry, Department of Defense (DoD) and intelligence community members attended the fourth annual Navy Applications of Machine Learning (NAML) Workshop, Feb. 24-27.

More than 500 interested parties attended the Navy-hosted, four-day event featuring oral and poster presentations on technical topics including autonomy, computer vision, and cybersecurity. Since 2017's inaugural workshop, participants have seen an exponential increase in the size and scope of the community, the quality of the research presented, and the spectrum for which machine learning is being put to use.
This year, in fact, more than 250 submissions were received, said event founder Katie Rainey. "Over the past three years we've seen a dramatic rise in the quality of presentations, the breadth of applications, and the diversity of organizations participating. We have more representation from academia and national labs, allied partners, and federally-funded research and development centers such as the national labs and university-affiliated research centers such as Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory," she said.
Why is that, you may ask? Well, for one thing, people are excited about developing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for Department of Defense and even private sector challenges.
"Our community is growing because, especially with Information Warfare being a focus, it puts us at the forefront of where AI can be put to use, making our community a leader in developing machine-learning solutions for Navy applications," Rainey said. "That's why we began hosting this event. We wanted to share our research with peers, joint partners at other labs, and across the Naval Research and Development Establishment (NRD&E). Since then, we've grown to include other participants outside the research community such as warfare application experts, Joint and international partners, commercial entities and academia." 

The objective is to build collaboration between different parts of the community, to increase awareness of the technology, and close the gap between challenges and solutions.  Rainey said the event also heightens the profile of the work being conducted at the Center, and sharpens awareness of how other subject matter experts across the field are working on related challenges. "In addition," Rainey said, "collaboration helps us see how our technology could be used in domains outside our expertise and how it applies to a broad range of Navy applications we may not be considering."
Rainey was especially impressed by keynote talk speaker Gert Cauwenberghs, a leading University of California, San Diego researcher in neuromorphic computing, who is collaborating with NIWC Pacific.  

Dr. Cauwenberghs provided a rich overview of the insights emerging from the interaction of neurobiology and computer engineering.  The talks in the subsequent session on neuromorphic computing illustrated the importance of this technology for developing AI solutions for size, weight, and power (SWaP) constrained naval platforms.
Meanwhile, NAML has outgrown the Center's facilities, and Rainey expects to look elsewhere for next year's workshop.​

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