ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Feb. 8, 2017 — Experts on physical security at Sandia National Laboratory are applying technology and methods of the video game industry to real-world national security problems. Using pre-release stand-alone augmented reality headsets, computer scientists have recently adapted augmented reality to enhance physical security training and analysis.
"Physical security goes beyond guards, gates and guns to include engineered solutions and complex systems that are designed to protect against the theft of nuclear materials and sabotage," said Dominic Martinez, manager of the International Nuclear Security Engineering (INSE) department.
Tam Le (left) and Todd Noel use augmented reality headsets to help train physical security personnel from around the world. Courtesy of Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories.
As part of Sandia's center for Global Security and Cooperation, the goal of this department is to improve the security of vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear weapons and nuclear material worldwide. The department's members are experts in physical security system design, installation and analysis and they assist with technical exchanges and applying nuclear security best practices. They provide their expertise to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)'s International Nuclear Security programs.
Sandia has developed an extensive physical security training curriculum ranging from introductory classroom courses on the fundamentals of designing physical protection systems to more advanced training with hands-on field exercises conducting vulnerability assessments. Computer scientist Tam Le said these training scenarios often incorporate augmented reality through 3D models of hypothetical nuclear facilities.
"We model the mock facilities so the students can see the spatial relationships, see where things are in relation to each other. This helps them to understand a facility's vulnerabilities, which can be difficult to see on paper or in writing," Le said.
In addition to Le's more classical simulations and visualizations for the ITC and other training courses, his recent work with augmented reality has the potential to revolutionize how the nuclear security engineering training team conducts workshops.
By combining augmented reality technology with Sandia's Integrated Security Facility, Le said students can peer through walls to show all the processes needed to handle and protect nuclear material without using hazardous material. The facility uses security systems originally designed to protect Category I nuclear material and now serves as a venue for hands-on physical security training. With its fully functional physical security and material accounting systems, the facility is invaluable for demonstrating physical security, material control as well as safety concepts and principles.
The augmented reality hardware includes a camera placement tool that lets users add virtual sensors and cameras and then see what their fields of view would be in real time in the actual space.
The team uses the same software as small game-development companies to develop many of their training and analysis tools without having to create everything from scratch. "We simply took the industry standard tools used for game development and applied them to our national security challenges," said Le.
Augmented reality gives users the ability to do things they normally wouldn’t be able to do. For Le and his team, the applications and capabilities are only limited by their creativity.