As the Russian soldiers spoke in the recent war, an AI was listening. Their words were automatically captured, transcribed, translated, and analyzed using several artificial intelligence algorithms developed by Primer, a US company that provides AI services for intelligence analysts. Using AI systems to surveil Russia’s army at scale shows the growing importance of sophisticated open source intelligence in military conflicts.
The tool developed by Primer also shows how valuable machine learning could be for parsing intelligence information. Primer has already sold AI algorithms trained to transcribe and translate phone calls, as well as ones that can pull out key terms or phrases. Sean Gourley, Primer’s CEO, says the company’s engineers modified these tools to carry out four new tasks: to gather audio captured from web feeds that broadcast communications captured using software that emulates radio receiver hardware; to remove noise, including background chatter and music; to transcribe and translate Russian speech; and to highlight key statements relevant to the battlefield situation. In some cases this involved retraining machine learning models to recognize colloquial terms for military vehicles or weapons.
Tapping into open source intelligence data means sifting immense quantities of information. Primer has distinguished itself for its ability to parse language. In recent years, AI has become capable of summarizing or answering questions using text thanks to a particular kind of large machine learning model known as a transformer. This type of AI model is better able to make sense of input such as a long string of words in a sentence. Transformers have yielded AI programs that are capable of generating coherent news articles or even writing computer code to perform a given task.