Tactical AI beats a US Air Force colonel in a dogfighting simulation

Whether it’s Deep Blue beating Garry Kasparov at chess, Watson defeating Ken Jennings at Jeopardy!, or Google DeepMind’s AlphaGO besting Lee Sedo at Go, artificial intelligence can’t be underestimated when it comes to taking on the champions and winning.

Well, chalk another win up for AI!

That’s because a new AI system called ALPHA — developed by recent University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate Nick Ernest, now CEO of Psibernetix — recently defeated retired United States Air Force Colonel Gene Lee in an air combat simulator. Not only did Colonel Lee, who has extensive aerial combat experience as an instructor, fail to kill ALPHA’s aircraft during combat, he was also repeatedly shot out of the air by the bot.

According to Lee, ALPHA is “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI I’ve seen to date.”

“ALPHA is an incredibly difficult opponent to face,” Psibernetix CEO Nick Ernest tells Digital Trends. “Even flying against other pilots when ALPHA has severe handicaps to a number of its systems — including speed, turning, missile capability and sensors — it is able to win. There is additional work to be done to both increase ALPHA’s capabilities and improve its model fidelity, but these results represent a significant breakthrough.”

But haven’t there been hard combat video game simulators for years? What is it that makes ALPHA any different to any of the other popular combat sim video games out there?

“Typically, video games have extremely simplified underlying simulation mechanics,” Ernest notes. “These immense simplifications greatly reduce the scope of the problem. AFSIM, the environment ALPHA flies in for this study, is a high-fidelity simulator, which can realistically represent a modern air combat environment with appropriately behaving models for aircraft, sensors, and weapons. Rather than relying on cheating by giving the AI an unfair advantage with its capabilities, we create virtual opponents that present real challenges through legitimate means.”

As for the future, Ernest says he sees tools like ALPHA playing out as next-gen autopilots in real aircraft: possibly as part of manned/unmanned teams in the theater of air combat. “This isn’t just about reaction times; the raw quantity of information flying around is staggering,” he says. “Calculations need to be performed constantly on this massive flow of data, and AI systems are perfectly suited for that job.”

Move over Maverick. In 2016, it turns out you’re no longer the Top Gun!

Emerging Tech

Wreckage, reefs, and robots: The high-tech quest to find Amelia Earhart’s plane

Over 80 years ago, American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared while trying to fly around the world. Now an autonomous water-based robot could help find some answers. Here's how.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Gaming

From the very best to the worst, here are all the Pokémon games ranked

With Pokémon Sword and Shield en route to Nintendo Switch later this year, we decided to rank the first seven generations of Pokémon games from best to worst. Which generation made us want to catch 'em all the most?
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Emerging Tech

Astro the dog-inspired quadruped robot can sit, lie down, and… learn?

Move over Spot! Researchers from Florida Atlantic University have built a new dog robot called Astro. Thanks to deep learning technology, it promises to be able to learn just like a real dog.
Health & Fitness

We spit in a ton of test tubes to find the best and most unique DNA tests

DNA tests aren’t just limited to ancestry. You can test for your risks for certain diseases, the best workouts and diets for your health and fitness, and more.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Racing drones and robotic ping pong trainers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Artificial tree promises to suck up as much air pollution as a small forest

Startup Biomitech has developed an artificial tree that it claims is capable of sucking up as much air pollution as 368 real trees. It could be a game-changer for cities with limited free space.
Emerging Tech

Mars 2020 rover now has a rotating array of drill bits for sampling Martian rock

Most the key components in the Mars 2020 rover are installed and ready to go. The next phase of construction was to install the bit carousel, an important mechanism for the gathering and sorting of samples from the Martian surface.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects landing site candidates for OSIRIS-Rex to sample asteroid Bennu

Last year, the OSIRIS-REx craft arrived at asteroid Bennu, from which it will collect a sample from the asteroid to be brought back to Earth. Now, the NASA team has selected four potential sites to choose from for the sampling mission.
Emerging Tech

NASA wants to send two more missions to Mars to collect rock samples

With its Mars 2020 mission, NASA hopes to collect samples from the surface of the planet. The challenge is how to get those samples back to Earth. Now, NASA has revealed its plans for two followup missions to Mars.
Emerging Tech

Eric Geusz: Apple engineer by day, spaceship designer by night

An Apple software engineer by day, artist Eric Geusz spends his nights drawing everyday household objects as amazing, science fiction-style spaceships. Check out the impressive results.
Emerging Tech

The black hole at the center of our galaxy is flaring and no one knows why

At the heart of our galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. Normally this giant monster is relatively docile, but recently it's been a hotbed of unexpected activity, rapidly glowing 75 times brighter than normal.
Emerging Tech

SpaceIL’s crashed lander may have sent thousands of tardigrades to the moon

When the SpaceIL craft Beresheet crashed into the moon earlier this year, it left more than just an impact mark. Thousands of micro-animals called tardigrades were along for the ride and may have survived the crash.