The “Amelia” AI interface.

The “Amelia” AI interface. Courtesy of GDIT

US Navy to Test AI-Powered Virtual Assistant for Crews

Sailors with tech problems at sea will soon be able to chat with a new AI.

Amidst severe staff shortages, the U.S. Navy is set to launch an AI tech support pilot program.

“She's going through her testing and evaluation periods right now with the government and we have a pilot planned for later this month where the Navy will give us some specific programs to test against it,” Travis Dawson, chief technology office for the Navy and Marine Corps sector at GDIT, told Defense One

The program, dubbed Amelia, will lead sailors through the process of fixing technical problems with any of the hundreds of information technology systems aboard Navy ships (primarily one of the many command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems).

GDIT said they’ve been working with the program managers and manufacturers of those systems to make sure Amelia’s responses are accurate. The systems are used across the Navy and around the world. 

But the interface is intended to be just a recording of instructions. Amelia is already a popular AI program that financial and other institutions use to let clients do banking without having to talk to people. 

However, in those instances, the civilian customer has assured, high-bandwidth connectivity, which a sailor deployed aboard a naval vessel may not. GDIT worked to make sure the program can operate under a variety of circumstances. Getting those efforts over the finish line is a big part of the reason they want to begin working with a small number of sailors for the upcoming pilot. 

“We're going to be testing…with some afloat units, with high bandwidth, with low bandwidth capabilities, over some remote locations overseas. And we just want to see what it's like, you know, for the throughput, what are we looking at as far as the response times? How long does it take them to actually log in and get a connection?” Dawson said. “So, just basic user acceptance testing?... Will the end user tell us that hey, just based off of their location, if I'm on X type of ship, and I have this type of bandwidth, was my connectivity satisfactory based off of other systems that we're using?”

That pilot will lead to a phased rollout of the program in July and August.