“Air Force Awards Contract for GURU to Put the Simple in Simulation” was the headline of a news release issued by software developer MSBAI announcing it was awarded an AFWERX Small Business Innovation (SBIR) Phase 1 contract to examine integrating its GURU technology with U.S. Air Force applications.
“Engineers use computer simulations for anything from airflow over wings to thermal analysis of the hot section in gas turbines,” the company notes, citing typical defense-related uses. “The problem is the simulation software is too complicated to learn so they’re not getting the most out of it”—a familiar complaint heard from highly skilled engineers and discipline leads who are not however specialists trained in the arcana of CAE.
MSBAI is a privately held small business located in Los Angeles, CA, focused on development and deployment of its GURU cognitive AI assistant for engineering, and is now an Air Force Techstars 2020 company. The Air Force says this program, formally known as Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars, “focuses on the next generation of technologies for unmanned systems, human-machine interfaces, and immersive training.”
AFWERX describes itself as a “community of Air Force innovators who strive to connect Airmen to solutions across the force: whether that be funding, collaborating with industry, or simply receiving guidance on a project. We were established in 2017 by the Secretary of the Air Force, report to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and are comprised of active duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, Air Force Civilian Service, and contractor personnel.”
GURU: “AI-driven assistant that learns to run the complicated software itself so you don’t have to”
MSBAI characterizes GURU as an “AI-driven assistant that learns to run the complicated software itself so you don’t have to—minimizing the human workload needed to translate engineering questions into computational workflows. With cloud systems already offering the compute power of government supercomputers from not long ago, it takes more time to set up a structural/thermal/fluid/trajectory analysis than it does for the computers to run them. The newest exascale and coming quantum systems will require this kind of AI layer for humans to be able to keep up.”
According to MSBAI, “there are numerous dual-use applications that come from enabling more engineers to use the best design and analysis software and deploy it at high-performance computing scale: manufacturers stand to gain a 500-to-1 return on investment, and the DoD will save billions of dollars in aircraft sustainment and gain advantages in rapid reaction.” Also, especially relevant in context of the COVID-19 pandemic, “GURU’s commercial deployment is SaaS B2B, and it will be a game-changer for remote work.”
Techstars director KATZ: “Will enable engineers throughout the DoD…to make many more trials per day and enable many more engineers to use these impossibly complex tools”
Warren Katz, managing director of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars program, remarked, “As an engineer who struggled with these overly complicated simulation software packages myself, I felt the pain that GURU relieves. The award of this Phase 1 SBIR to MSBAI will ultimately enable engineers throughout the DoD that are working on our toughest problems in hypersonics, quantum computing, heat transfer, optics, electromagnetics, fluid mechanics, etc. to make many more trials per day and enable many more engineers to use these impossibly complex tools.”
AFRL and AFWERX have partnered to streamline the Small Business Innovation Research process in an attempt to speed up the experience, broaden the pool of potential applicants, and decrease bureaucratic overhead. Beginning in SBIR 18.2, and now in 20.1, the Air Force has begun offering “Special” SBIR topics that are faster, leaner and open to a broader range of innovations than before.