"I really enjoy doing research, preferably applied, that really keeps me motivated. It would be great if I could stay with NLR"

Where do you study, and at which faculty?
"I started out at the University of Tilburg, more specifically at the Tilburg Centre for Creative Computing, but I followed my supervisor when he switched to the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science."

What can you tell us about your research?
"I’m working on the automatic generation of smart adversaries for simulator training. To develop training scenarios, you need adversaries that take intelligent action, but it is costly to create scenarios of this kind. You need experts who know how specific adversaries behave under various circumstances. I’m using machine learning to develop intelligent, automated smart adversaries, using expertise that is incorporated in advance. In this way, scenarios could be developed more simply and inexpensively."

Who might be interested in the results?
"The scenario developers here at NLR, first and foremost. The idea is to use this in our Fighter-4-Ship simulator. But ultimately it will be most useful to pilots who will be training against these adversaries."

What results do you expect and what problems might be solved?
"The pilots learn from this, their skills are challenged. If an expert develops a scenario, he will do so only once and the adversary will always act in the same manner. Part of my research aims to assess whether we can make some of the adversaries adaptive, so that they begin to behave differently during the course of the simulation, as pilots learn new tricks to defeat them. This will make it more of a challenge. It is also a highly cost effective training tool for the Netherlands Defence Force."

How did you structure your research?
"Until now, I’ve been working on combining and assessing the proper learning methods and strategies. At the end of the year, we want to take the step to Fighter-4-Ship and hear from pilots what they think could be improved."

Why did you choose NLR for your research?
"They had the perfect vacancy, incorporating artificial intelligence as well as planes. The vacancy was for a PhD research post, so it couldn’t have been better."

What’s so special about NLR?
"They have all aviation-related research under one roof."

What are your colleagues like?
"The cooperation is fantastic. It’s never a problem if you want to pick someone’s brain. You just head over to the department and get the information you need. Everyone is always willing to answer your questions. Another interesting perk is that my supervisor focuses more on the human performance side of things, whereas I’m more of a ‘hard’ artificial intelligence man. That makes the exchanges between us very interesting. I get more insight into the human side, while he gets more insight into AI."

What kind of work would you like to do later?
"I really enjoy doing research, preferably applied, that really keeps me motivated. It would be great if I could stay with NLR."

Armon Toubman | Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science