With computing power increasing by leaps and bounds, the U.S. government and the defense industry are looking at ways to leverage emerging technology and assist human operators.
Cyber-human systems include technologies such as robots, wearable devices, personally-embedded sensors and computers, and virtual and augmented reality, said Jim Keffer, director of cyber at Lockheed Martin and a former Air
Force major general who served as the chief of staff for U.S. Cyber Command. Such systems could help military analysts comb through mounds of data or alert commanders to when a soldier is fatigued.
Man-machine teaming is a key component of the Pentagon's so-called "third offset strategy," which seeks to give the U.S. military a technological edge on the battlefield against sophisticated adversaries.
"Our world... increasingly revolves around computers, computing, networks, information and data," Keffer said. "That has come to play a very central role in how we will live our lives as humans--how we live, how we work, how we play, how we learn, how we discover, how we communicate."
The boundaries between technology and the human dimension are shrinking, he said during a panel discussion at the National Defense Industrial Association's Cyber-Enabled Emerging Technologies Symposium in McLean, Virginia.
These "environments are just becoming a natural extension of our human existence," he said.
"This rapid emerging technology will provide boundless opportunities for our businesses, for our people, for mankind," he said. "At the same time there is absolutely no doubt that we're going to be faced with some very significant and tough challenges to work through, and some of them are ethical- and values-based."
William Casebeer, senior manager at Lockheed Martin's human systems and autonomy team, said his group consists of 35 scientists and engineers who focus on conducting basic research to improve the performance of human-machine teams.
"We see our mission at the end of the day as building what you might call preproduction prototypes that are living examples of human-machine interactions for performance improvement," he said. "In order to do that, we use a fairly simple, but hopefully not simplistic, framework that is... created around sensing, assessing and augmenting performance."
A cyber-human system is when "you put together a sensing assessment and augmentation in a closed loop fashion ... that could be used to improve the performance of the...