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  • Writer's pictureLAVA Lab

LAVA Students Win National Security Innovation Network’s Visualization Cyber Operations Competition

Masterʻs students, Michael Rogers (right), Roderick Tabalba (middle), and PhD student Yoshiki Takagi (left) are one of four winners in the 2022 National Security Innovation Network NSIN Hacks Reality Bytes: Visualizing Cyber Operations competition. All three are students in Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Partner sponsors of the competition included: Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, Arizona State University, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Washington University, Georgia Tech, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Cyber Center of Excellence, California Advanced Defense Ecosystems & National Consortia Effort.

The students’ winning submission, CyberCOP (Common Operating Picture) was a virtual reality application designed to support cyber operators in denied, degraded, intermittent, or low-bandwidth (DDIL) environments. Most common operating pictures (COP) are shared on two-dimensional screens. The team's solution places cyber operators inside the COP using stereoscopic 3D and spatial audio to provide the ultimate level of situational awareness. Cyber operators can focus on their missions and experiences can be shared real-time with other key stakeholders for faster and more accurate decision-making. Using visual and aural cues, CyberCOP alerts users of electronic or cyber attacks and automatically reroutes network traffic based on a modified shortest-path algorithm, optimized for network capacity.

Michael Rogers is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran pursuing his master’s degree, specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP). Michael managed the project and coordinated with NSIN mentors and potential end-users to identify specific needs, operating satellite links in DDIL environments. He also served as the application’s subject matter expert.

Born and raised in Kauaʻi, Roderick Tabalba is a master’s student conducting research to enable users to create data visualizations using natural language. Tabalba was responsible for adding visual and aural cues to CyberCOP and he worked tirelessly to finalize the pitch video.

Yoshiki Takagi is a research staff at the Aircraft Equipment Research Section, Aircraft Research Division, Air System Research Center (ASRC), Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA), Japan Ministry of Defense (MOD). He is currently pursuing his PhD specializing in user interaction techniques for commanding drone swarms. For CyberCOP, Takagi developed an algorithm to find the optimal satellite network path under a jamming environment.

CyberCOP was based on SatWatch- an earlier work of LAVA undergraduate National Science Foundation REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) student, Ryan Theriot (who became a full time research software engineer at LAVA in 2021). SatWatch was exhibited at the AMOS conference in 2016 and is believed to be the first-ever virtual reality application for visualizing satellites orbiting the Earth.

By pulling publicly available TLE (Two-Line element) data from the Celestrak website, SatWatch is able to create a predictive model of orbits for a wide variety of satellites. The TLE dataset is converted using the OrbitTools library. The entire program is built in the Unity game engine, a popular tool for developing interactive applications. For hardware, SatWatch utilizes the HTC Vive, which allows a user to interact with the virtual, 3d environment using motion tracking. This combination creates a natural way for users to explore the data in an immersive experience. SatWatch is an example of a complex dataset represented in an intuitive way, allowing users to easily understand satellite orbits in an interactive visualization environment.

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