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Urban warfare will be a defining characteristic of future conflict. Being able to predict the layouts of buildings would be a big boost to not only dismounted tactical teams of soldiers but also in planning more precise drone strikes. 

A new formula promises to help tactical teams by predicting a building’s internal structure from its external appearance. The formula was one of the five winners of the most recent US Army soldier innovation program dubbed Dragon’s Lair.

Factors such as building materials, symmetry and the placement of entries and exits can indicate the location of key internal features like stairs, and supporting walls, even bathrooms. Small and high-placed windows are much more likely to be bathrooms whereas larger ones are more likely to be offices, etc. The roof color also suggests the material used and the location of supporting structures underneath. 

The technology of analyzing exterior architecture as a framework to predict interior layout: a simplified algorithm for aggregating database for artificial intelligence and machine learning, was developed by Christian Lance Relleve, a Navy architect. He began working on the formula in 2019 and soon drew the attention of defense contractors. Instead of selling it, he sought military support to keep developing it on his own. 

He told that countries run by autocratic regimes, in particular, make heavy use of repetition: a string of buildings of similar size and shape are likely to have similar internal plans.

The formula can predict a more-or-less symmetrical building’s internal structure with roughly 70 percent accuracy, but he acknowledged that it doesn’t work well for buildings that are asymmetrical. 

The next step will be to apply machine learning to the dataset of building types and features to train algorithms to predict internal layout more accurately and quickly.