Marines tested an augmented reality system from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) last week that could revolutionize the way they prepare for battle, allowing them to transform any location into a dynamic training ground.
The Nov. 6 demonstration, held outdoors at Lejeune Field at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, was an opportunity for ONR to showcase progress with the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT). The program brings simulation-based training to Marines in the field so they can train anywhere. The system works by injecting virtual images—indirect-fire effects, aircraft, vehicles, simulated people, etc.—onto a real-world view of one’s surroundings.
“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 Corps Capt. Jack Holloway, a Marine assigned to ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department.
“This is true augmented reality: the system knows where you are in the real world and is able to accurately place other objects in that environment and keep them there, which has been a major challenge for other systems,” said ONR program manager Dr. Peter Squire. “The sky’s the limit in terms of the types of training scenarios you could create—whatever you can dream up, you can now run out in a real environment.”
In the past year, the system, now in its fourth year of development, has gone from working in a fixed position to being mobile. In the program’s next and final phase, the goal is to improve AITT incrementally and to move from a video see-through display—in which users view the world through a head-mounted video camera—to an optical see-through display, which would show images directly on the glass of a visor or eyewear. The video display works well when the user is stationary or moving slowly, but an optical see-through approach will enable greater mobility. ONR plans to take advantage of Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer efforts in wide-field-of-view optical see-through head-worn displays to take augmented reality to the next level. The best available head-worn display will be selected in the near future.
“Whereas Google Glass or other systems are just head-worn displays that place a static image in the wearer’s field of view, our augmented reality system allows users to put a virtual object in a specific location in a person’s natural field of view,” Squire said.
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