Modeling Terrorists

New simulators could help intelligence analysts think like the enemy

21 min read
Barry Silverman
Barry Silverman peers deep into the heart of darkness to find what makes terrorists tick.
Photo: BIll Cramer/Wonderful Machine
“There are tools where they build a world in a bottle. They put down every single mosque, river, camel, and school in, say, Saudi Arabia. Then they have millions of software agents who each have desires, grievances, all these ­different variables. They go about their little lives and then you ask a question: What if we build a McDonald’s in Mecca? Does this lead to more people joining terrorist groups or not?” —Gary Ackerman, Director of the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies

Barry Silverman pecks at the keyboard, and suddenly his computer ­monitor is showing him the view down a scary-looking alley in the Bakhara market in Mogadishu, Somalia. On the big screen, Silverman sees the market through the eyes of his avatar, a software soldier. It’s a detailed scene, on a par with what you’d see in today’s best first-person shooter video games: in the market’s narrow lanes, militiamen scurry about, checkered headdresses flapping. It has rained recently, and the gray masonry walls of buildings surrounding the market are water stained. The streets are empty except for some abandoned cars and the smoldering wreckage of two helicopters. Silverman’s cybertrooper is part of a virtual squad replaying the scenario described famously in Mark Bowden’s 1999 best seller, Black Hawk Down, in which U.S. Army Rangers attempted a rescue after fighters loyal to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid shot down two U.S. UH-60 choppers.

The Ranger that Silverman controls wanders only a few steps toward the downed helicopters before he encounters a suicide bomber who blows them both to bits.

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Video Friday: Turkey Sandwich

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
A teleoperated humanoid robot torso stands in a kitchen assembling a turkey sandwich from ingredients on a tray

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!

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New AI Speeds Computer Graphics by Up to 5x

Neural rendering harnesses machine learning to paint pixels

5 min read
Four examples of Nvidia's Instant NeRF 2D-to-3D machine learning model placed side-by-side.

Nvidia Instant NeRF uses neural rendering to generate 3D visuals from 2D images.

NVIDIA

On 20 September, Nvidia’s Vice President of Applied Deep Learning, Bryan Cantanzaro, went to Twitter with a bold claim: In certain GPU-heavy games, like the classic first-person platformer Portal, seven out of eight pixels on the screen are generated by a new machine-learning algorithm. That’s enough, he said, to accelerate rendering by up to 5x.

This impressive feat is currently limited to a few dozen 3D games, but it’s a hint at the gains neural rendering will soon deliver. The technique will unlock new potential in everyday consumer electronics.

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Learn How Global Configuration Management and IBM CLM Work Together

In this presentation we will build the case for component-based requirements management

2 min read

This is a sponsored article brought to you by 321 Gang.

To fully support Requirements Management (RM) best practices, a tool needs to support traceability, versioning, reuse, and Product Line Engineering (PLE). This is especially true when designing large complex systems or systems that follow standards and regulations. Most modern requirement tools do a decent job of capturing requirements and related metadata. Some tools also support rudimentary mechanisms for baselining and traceability capabilities (“linking” requirements). The earlier versions of IBM DOORS Next supported a rich configurable traceability and even a rudimentary form of reuse. DOORS Next became a complete solution for managing requirements a few years ago when IBM invented and implemented Global Configuration Management (GCM) as part of its Engineering Lifecycle Management (ELM, formerly known as Collaborative Lifecycle Management or simply CLM) suite of integrated tools. On the surface, it seems that GCM just provides versioning capability, but it is so much more than that. GCM arms product/system development organizations with support for advanced requirement reuse, traceability that supports versioning, release management and variant management. It is also possible to manage collections of related Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and Systems Engineering artifacts in a single configuration.

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