Applied Research in Acoustics LLC developing cognitive-computing tool for United States Air Force to enhance government-acquisition process


August 4, 2015


(202) 629-9716

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WASHINGTON, D.C.– Applied Research in Acoustics LLC is excited to announce that it has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with the United States Air Force to develop a natural-language query system that leverages commercial-sector advances in cognitive-computing algorithms to provide users actionable insights into government-contracting statutes, regulations, practices, and policies.

MICA™, the Machine Interface for Contracting Assistance, will assist both government contracting officers and organizations seeking to do business with government in understanding and maintaining compliance with the requirements of government-acquisition regulations, while affording efficiency and flexibility in the process. Making sophisticated research algorithms and new technologies available in an easy-to-use tool, MICA™ is a characteristic product for Applied Research in Acoustics LLC (ARiA), a Washington, D.C. based firm of scientists and engineers that specializes in rapidly translating cutting-edge research into fieldable prototypes and commercial systems.

“The ARiA team and I are particularly excited about MICA™, not only because of the important technical challenges it presents, but because of the impact it can have on the entire process of government contracting: from improving efficiency in the decision-making process leading up to the issue of a contract to helping business make go/no-go bid decisions, to reducing the possibility for and incidence of bid protests,” Dr. Jason E. Summers, Chief Scientist of ARiA, said. “There is a sense that the complexity of government-acquisition regulations has limited participation by those particular nontraditional providers able to support innovative, affordable, and rapid acquisition. MICA™ gives government and industry some of the tools they need to navigate that process.”

With development of MICA™, ARiA will build on their history of developing machine-learning and knowledge-based systems that learn and represent structure and meaning in complex data to enable users to better perform incredibly complex tasks that require uniquely human judgement. “One of the crucial attributes in developing an automatic system is that it work with the user and refine its capabilities based on user feedback.” Summers said. “Automation needs to be an enhancement to the experience of a user in performing her job, not a hindrance or a complete substitute for human judgement.”

To ensure MICA™ provides that enhancement, ARiA will be working with a team of experts in government contracting and regulation compliance. “Automation is only useful when it earns the trust of the user,” Summers said. “To do that, it has to do two things. It has to be correct and it has to have a reasonable justification for its judgements. The combination of our design for the system and our working with experts ensures that MICA™ can provide those two critical elements.”

Summers hopes that the advancements introduced with MICA™ will have a broad impact beyond the Department of Defense. “This is an important topic for the Air Force and I commend Dr. Gorguinpour [Director of Transformational Innovation for the United States Air Force, Office of the Assistant Secretary (Acquisitions)] for taking the bold step of introducing it,” he said. “But the challenges MICA™ is designed to address are important for all of the federal agencies and across government at all levels, and the positive changes MICA™ can introduce there are motivating for our team.”