On Wednesday 6 February, Robbert-Jan Merk defended his thesis in obtaining his PhD degree. Title of his thesis is: “Making Enemies: Cognitive modeling for opponent agents in fighter pilot training simulators”. Robbert-Jan spent four years on his research at NLR in the Department of Training, Simulation and Operator Performance.

The thesis focuses on improving computer-controlled opponents in tactical training simulations for fighter pilots. In order to train Dutch fighter pilots as realistic as possible using simulations, virtual opponents have to show intelligent and human behavior. The thesis shows how opponents can be created who exhibit such behavior, using cognitive modeling. In cognitive modeling computer models are made that simulate aspects of the human mind. Robbert-Jan modeled, for example, human decision making and ‘situation awareness’ (the ability to perceive the environment and to understand how it changes). The models have been tested successfully on NLR’s Fighter 4-ship at the Volkel airbase. Dutch F-16 pilots performed a defensive mission against computer-controlled fighter pilots who were equipped with the aforementioned cognitive models.

Supervisor of the promotion was Prof.dr. Jan Treur, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Co-supervisor Dr. Jan Joris Roessingh (NLR).

Photo: Robbert-Jan Merk (second from right) receives along with Dr. Mark Hoogendoorn of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (second from left), the Best Paper Award for their work on “Theory-of-Mind” at the IEA-AIE Conference 2012

Promotion Robbert-Jan Merk