ONR augmented reality system allows Marines to train anywhere

ONR augmented reality system a...
The AITT system could turn the whole world into a potential Marine Corp training ground (Photo: Shutterstock)
The AITT system could turn the whole world into a potential Marine Corp training ground (Photo: Shutterstock)
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The AITT system could turn the whole world into a potential Marine Corp training ground (Photo: Shutterstock)
The AITT system could turn the whole world into a potential Marine Corp training ground (Photo: Shutterstock)

While products like Google Glass tend to be the most publicized applications of augmented reality, uses of the technology extend far beyond niche consumer tech. To that end, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has unveiled the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT), a system that aims to transform any location into a dynamic, cost-effective training ground for Marines.

The objective of the project is to provide simulation-based training for Marines that they can use anywhere, even if they’re in the field. It works by creating virtual images of aircraft, vehicles, people and other objects, and projecting them onto a real-world environment. The ONR sees it as a much-needed development of traditional range training.

"Instead of going out to an old, stale range that has the same targets that people have been shooting at for the last 40 years, AITT provides a target-rich and dynamic environment for training without having to rely on external resources," said Marine Corp Capt. Jack Holloway of the ONR’s Expeditionary Manoeuvre Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department.

The system is able to accurately track where Marines are in the real world, while placing virtual objects in the environment, and keeping them in place throughout exercises. The versatility of the technology means that it could be used for a wide range of scenarios.

In its current state, Marines making use of AITT view the world through a head-mounted video camera, but the ONR plans to improve the technology involved, making the jump to optical see-through displays similar to those used on consumer-oriented devices like Google Glass. While the current setup works well for scenarios where Marines are stationary or moving slowly, it’s thought that a system wherein the virtual objects are projected directly onto the visor will allow for increased mobility.

AITT has been in development for some four years, but is still in the prototype stages. The ONR is currently working to integrate the system with existing Marine Corps’ tech, and plans to hand over development to the Marine Corps Systems Command and the Marine Corps Program Manager for Training Systems in Fall 2015 (Northern Hemisphere).

Source: ONR

Clearly we are heading towards a training environment first shown in Star Trek's Holodeck. As this interactive display technology matures an increasing amount of effort needs to be invested in the psychological effects on the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who use these training tools. Given the speed with which operations are launched and then concluded we have already seen problems where people go from a combat environment back to a peaceful civilian environment without time to acclimate and "decompress". This first became apparent during the Viet Nam war where a soldier or marine could and did, literally be in a fire fight on Monday, be back in Da Nang by chopper that evening and then be on an airliner by Wednesday to arrive in San Diego or L.A. by early Thursday and then processed for discharge by sometime the next week because his enlistment ended. In all prior wars it took months for armies to back track and return to bases or home countries. As these immersive environments continue to used care needs to be taken to ensure that users have time and training to wind down. For a long time now the Airforce has made a practice of transporting crews to and from flight trainers. Crews are not permitted to drive for at least eight hours afters using a flight trainer. Similar effort needs to be used for ground combatants to assisst them in winding down.
StWils, You describe two very different conditions. I am most familiar with the later one you mentioned which I believe is the one that most affects this type of system. I think on this one you nailed on the head. It is an issue that will come up shortly and should be addressed (the terms are cybersickness and simulator after effects).
In the case of pilots, they are not allowed to fly after simulator training due to after effects from the simulators. This is a very specific condition that takes place when sensory adaptation occurs within the simulator or virtual environment. As more immersive trainers are developed and fielded the issue will be compounded. I hope that folks will see the risk and develop 'sit out' periods for those trainers that have the potential for sensory adaptation. The research on this is out there but has been dormant waiting for the technology to catch up, now that it has finally done it should be brought back to light. I just hope it doesn't take a tragedy to do so.
People think that the risks are only with motion sickness-type symptoms. The real risk is when your sensory systems have adapted to a virtual world and you are unaware that you have to re-learn the real world after upon exiting the simulator.
There is little point or value in overly separating these effects. Training environments as well as deployments heightens awareness, response thresholds and reactions. Some of these effects last for months and even years and can trigger abrupt responses by little more than a small sound, an otherwise ordinary smell, all in all ordinary events can instantly return an individual to a stressful time and related responses. The very video games and training tools that "tuned " a soldier up can be refashioned to "tune down" the same soldier on return. The "Brain Training" software being popularized lately can be applied to redirect responses to calmer normal civilian appropriate environments. A recent study found that action video games can positively affect learning times. The same approach can redirect battlefield appropriate skills to civilian appropriate and calmer uses.