Arlington, VA – Commander Dylan Schmorrow of the U.S. Office of Naval Research became the first recipient of the Leland S. Kollmorgen Spirit of Innovation Award, presented by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) on October 2. The officers of the HFES Augmented Cognition Technical Group selected Schmorrow for this award, which was presented at the 4th Augmented Cognition International Conference in Baltimore.
The award is named in honor of retired Navy Rear Admiral Leland S. Kollmorgen, a former Chief of Naval Research. It recognizes exceptional scientists and engineers who have made substantial and innovative contributions to the field of Augmented Cognition. CDR Schmorrow, who holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Western Michigan University and is the founder of this new scientific discipline, was an obvious choice for the inaugural honor. He is the founder and chairman of the Augmented Cognition International Society.
Researchers in augmented cognition use computing technologies to extend the abilities of individuals to manage information. They study human limitations in attention, memory, learning, comprehension, visualization abilities, and decision making.
"We want to remove the burdens of technology," said Schmorrow in a recent interview. "We´re overwhelmed with technology and all these supposed solutions to our problems. People need more time to think and make decisions, rather than spending their time sifting through information." For example, a "smart" car could disable your cell phone while you´re making split-second decisions in freeway traffic so that you could concentrate on your driving. When things calm down—say, if you were waiting in line at a toll booth—the car could keep you alert by reminding you to change the oil soon or by giving you a weather forecast.
Navy designers made use of augmented cognition methods as they developed the control interface for the Tomahawk cruise missile. "We had our guys wear ´brain caps´ as they tested the control interface," said Schmorrow. Instead of relying on the users´ subjective evaluation of how easy it was to learn the control system, researchers could observe their brain activity directly and identify the situations in which the users became overwhelmed with information.
The Marine Corps is interested in augmented cognition as well. Virtual reality-based training systems now under development use computer-generated visuals that enable Marines to practice their skills in a variety of realistic situations. Augmented cognition techniques allow researchers to observe trainees and fit the level of training to the individual. By directly observing a trainee´s brain activity, test observers can take the training to a more advanced level or scale it back if the trainee shows signs of overload.
Schmorrow currently serves as the executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Research, in addition to conducting his research work. He is an aerospace experimental psychologist in the Navy´s Medical Service Corps and is an acquisition professional in the Naval Acquisition Corps. As director of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Warfighter Enhancement Program Office, Schmorrow manages research programs dealing with warfighter training and performance.
He came to the ONR in 2005, after a five-year stint as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Prior to that, he was the technology integration chief scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, a flight deck research officer aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), a branch head and project officer at the Naval Air Warfare Center, and a flight student at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute. He has held fellowships at Georgetown University and the Naval Postgraduate School. Schmorrow also holds two Master of Science degrees and two Master of Arts degrees. He received his commission in the U.S. Navy in 1993.
RADM Kollmorgen helped to establish the original defense program based on augmented cognition science and technology. For the past two decades, Kollmorgen has managed his own consulting company, where he advises companies and agencies on marketing strategies and the assessment of future developments and technical innovations.