US Marines Testing New Virtual Reality Training Tool

Just prior to I/ITSEC 2014, the US Marines did a field test of a new training solution that uses virtual reality to place virtual objects such as simulated people, aircraft, vehicles, etc. into a real world environment. While this part is not so tricky, what has been difficult is maintaining the position of those objects when you turn your head, or having them track correctly in your field of view, if in motion.

That is the goal of the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT) developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and tested outdoors at Lejeune Field at Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.

“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.

One of the applications this solution is addressing is Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training. JTACs co-ordinate attacks by combat aircraft. At last’s year’s I/ITSEC, we saw several demonstrations of JTAC training featuring a mixture of live assets (aircraft in the air dropping virtual bombs), simulated assets (tanks and other targets) and human assets directing the attack. AITT provides an enhanced way of viewing and engaging in this training.

Currently, AITT is concentrating on integrating with the Marine Corps’ Instrumented Tactical Engagement Simulation System (I-TESS II) which provides laser-based ground combat training.

Now in its fourth year of development, the system has moved from working in a fixed position to being mobile over the last year. In the program’s next and final phase, the goal is to improve AITT incrementally and to move from a video see-through display (users view the world through a head-mounted video camera) to an optical see-through display (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.