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UC Grad Beats Air Force In Simulated Sparring Match

Lisa Ventre
University of Cincinnati
Standing at left is UC grad and Psibernetix President and CEO Nick Ernest. David Carroll, also of Psibernetix, is standing at right. Seated at the simulator controls is retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gene Lee.

Using the processing power of a $35 tiny computer, a University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate's artificial intelligence (AI) program has beaten the Air Force in simulated aerial combat at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

To do it Nick Ernest used something called a genetic fuzzy tree that ran on a 35 dollar computer. He’s assures people that it’s not the next terminator. "We're not talking about some actual intelligent being that has thoughts and desires to fly airplanes in the simulator. It's just a very high-tech controller for a very specific problem."

The details are somewhat secretive, but earlier this year Ernest's artificial intelligence system, named ALPHA, went head to head with Colonel Gene Lee, who has trained thousands of Air Force pilots. Lee is not used to losing.

But, every time they played, ALPHA shot Lee's aircraft out of the sky. Ernest, a University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate, has a relationship with the military. He worked inside the Air Force Research Lab when he was a student and the Air Force has been following his career at Psibernetix, Inc, the company he owns.

The way Ernest tells it, fuzzy logic doesn't have a lot of respect in the scientific world. One researcher called it the cocaine of science because of its simplistic non-mathematical nature.

Think of a football receiver trying to adjust what he does based on the cornerback covering him. The receiver doesn’t think to himself: ‘During this season, this cornerback covering me has had three interceptions, 12 average return yards after interceptions, two forced fumbles, a 4.35 second 40-yard dash, 73 tackles, 14 assisted tackles, only one pass interference, is 28 years old and it’s currently 12 minutes into the third quarter and he has seen exactly 8 minutes and 23.3 seconds of playtime.’

He would just consider the cornerback as ‘really good.’ He would also take into consideration his height, deciding,  ‘This cornerback is really good, a lot taller than me, but I am faster.’

Normally fuzzy logic would take a supercomputer to run, but Ernest created a network of fuzzy systems each solving a sub problem so it could run on a tiny computer called Rasberry Pi.

Colonel Lee called it "the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible artificial intelligence" he's ever seen,"