The Royal Australian Air Force recently revealed its experiments with the HoloLens; the U.S. military is the strongest force this planet has ever witnessed, of course, it’s going to keep up with the times.
In a recent U.S. military exercise held at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines (2/6), also known as “The Spartans” experimented with the latest of 21st century – from quadcopters to 3D printing, and of course, augmented reality.
The exercise was called Spartan Emergent Technology and Innovation Week – or Spartan Week. The Office of Naval Research, also known as ONR, developed most of the technology demoed for the exercise.
The Decision Making
The exercise’s primary focus was to enhance the decision-making skills of commanders and soldiers on the ground.
The scenarios faced by battlefield commanders are varied, but each pushes them to make quick and yet informed decisions – the information bit, is where HoloLens can help.
For the exercise, however, the HoloLens was used for something a bit more specific.
The ONR had many new technologies for The Spartans – one of which, used HoloLens. The Interactive Tactical Decision Game, contrary to its name, is not a game, but rather a simulation; known as I-TDG in short, it is a web-based application that allows the Marines to plan missions and conduct any “what-if” scenarios they can think of.
The application supports maps and “multimedia tools” and links with Microsoft’s HoloLens – allowing the Marines to explore said simulations virtually.
The Augmented Trainer
Microsoft’s HoloLens isn’t the only augmented reality headset that the U.S. military is exploring – they developed one of their own as well.
The Augmented Immersive Team Trainer – or AITT – comprises of a battery backpack, a laptop, and a helmet-mounted display. The software, is, of course, custom.
The technology can support forward observer training in live field environments; the software accompanying this headset is capable of utilizing everything augmented reality has to offer.
It’s possible, for example, to insert virtual objects into a real environment, allowing for realistic – yet virtual – tactical scenarios. This could include virtual ground vehicles, aircrafts, explosions, artillery, etc.
To make these augmented reality technologies possible, the real world has to be first made virtual. For this, Marines were also trained to operate a prototype terrain mapping technology that uses quadcopters to scan and map an area.
The training simulations for Spartan Week used two Camp Lejeune training sites; the quadcopters flew over these sites and gathered the data to build terrain models.
The HoloLens has a few uses off the battlefield as well; researchers, for example, are using it to gain a new understanding of how blast injuries affect soldiers.
Augmented Reality’s potential is clear as day to everyone – including the military. The technology is slowly getting good enough for use in real scenarios; using the technology for training is one of the first steps to get there.
For the Marines at Camp Lejeune at Spartan Week, the experience was certainly fascinating. Lt. Andrew Veal, who tried out the I-TDG says “for me, the best part of I-TDG was recreating simulated battles we conducted during past field exercises and using the system as a debrief on what we did wrong and how we could be better; like athletes watching game film, you really experienced that ‘a-ha’ moment.”
Interesting times are ahead; there is, however, no doubt, that science fiction from the past fifty years no longer remains as just fiction.