August 8, 2007

Automated knowledge capture

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Sandia National Laboratories initiated its cognitive modeling efforts in 1999. It involved many hours interviewing people and reviewing records.

“We realized from the beginning that cognitive modeling may be a wonderful technology, but doing it by traditional methods required too much time and cost too much money for the technology to ever be broadly applicable or to realize its true potential for national security.” says Chris Forsythe, member of Sandia’s cognition research team. “There was a concern that our technology would only be applied for a handful of exotic applications where cost was not an issue. It was apparent that we had to automate the development and updating of models of individuals.”

As a result, research spearheaded into three different research arenas for building models — text-based models, training applications, and machine transactions. These became the basis for building models through “automated knowledge capture.”

Text-based models involve taking documents, papers, and emails and looking for information, including key words and word patterns — anything that might provide insight to what a person is thinking or interested in. This also gives researchers the opportunity to look at changes across time. When they see new key words emerge, something might have changed. Heading up this effort is Travis Bauer.

Training applications, headed by Robert Abbott and Elaine Raybourn, is another major part of automated knowledge capture. Sandia has been working with the U.S. Navy to develop a tool that can be part of their aviation training exercises. This involves building a model that can record students’ actions during training exercises. Computers monitor large numbers of people at once, detect when someone is doing something inappropriate, and bring it to the attention of the student or instructor.

The machine transactions segment of automated knowledge capture uses sensors to gather information about how a person drives. This information is put into a computer model. While a person is driving, the computer can detect when the driver is in a demanding driving situation (e.g. entering a high speed roadway or preparing to pass another vehicle). This recognition allows the car to delay non-urgent communications such as cell phone calls until the driver can better handle the extra activity. Leading the machine transitions research are Forsythe and Kevin Dixon.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Chris Burroughs,, (505) 844-0948