ARL Explores Benefits of Immersive Technology for Soldiers

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ADELPHI, Md., Jan. 18, 2019 — Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Army’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), have investigated methods for assessing the usefulness of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) systems for soldiers.

The emergence of next-generation immersive devices like the Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens has increased interest in using mixed reality to simulate training, enhance command and control, and improve the effectiveness of fighters on the battlefield. However, the researchers said, there is little scientific evidence that using immersive technology provides measurable benefits such as increased task engagement or improved decision accuracy. There are also limited metrics that can be used to assess these benefits across display devices and tasks.

ARL explores benefits of immersive technology for soldiers

As part of their research efforts regarding the benefits of immersive technology for military personnel, Army researchers have developed the Mixed Reality Tactical Analysis Kit, or MRTAK. MRTAK is now being developed as the mixed reality module of project AURORA (Accelerated User Reasoning for Operations, Research, and Analysis), as AURORA-MR. Courtesy of ARL.

The ARL-developed Mixed Reality Tactical Analysis Kit, or MRTAK, is an experimental platform used to assess the value of AR and VR during collaborative mission planning and execution. MRTAK is now being developed as the mixed reality module of project AURORA (Accelerated User Reasoning for Operations, Research, and Analysis), as AURORA-MR.

AURORA-MR serves as a testbed to perform tightly controlled basic and applied research of multiuser decision-making with distributed immersive systems. Currently, AURORA-MR is being used for collaborative immersive analytics research at ARL headquarters at the Adelphi Laboratory Center and Aberdeen Proving Ground, at ARL West, at the ICT’s Mixed Reality Lab, and at the University of Minnesota.

Putting mission-relevant battlefield data, such as satellite imagery or body-worn sensor information, into an immersive environment could allow soldiers to retrieve, collaborate, and make decisions more effectively than traditional methods. The research conducted with AURORA-MR could lead to a better understanding of when visualizing and interacting with battlefield information is best done in an immersive system or through traditional systems.

“Through virtualization of some or all elements of the Tactical Operations Center, commanders and intelligence analysts can communicate and collaborate without the constraints of a physical building and with a reduced footprint to enemy intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance,” researcher Mark Dennison said.

The design of AURORA-MR enables easy integration with other databases, sensors, and machine learning so that joint research can occur across ARL and its academic and industry partners.

“Currently, we are evolving the network powering AURORA-MR, called AURORA-NET, to allow for greater control over the information that is sent and received by clients, while ensuring that the virtual environment is rendered at a comfortable frame rate to minimize the crippling effects of motion sickness on immersed users,” Dennison said. “This will enable us to conduct research on how ingestion and analysis of data from noisy systems, such as the Internet of Battlefield Things, can be augmented through distributed collaboration in mixed reality.”

The paper was presented at the 23rd International Command and Control Information and Technology Symposium held in Pensacola, Fla., Nov. 6-9, 2018.  VIEW PDF of the paper, “Assessing the quantitative and qualitative effects of using mixed reality for operational decision making.”

Published: January 2019
virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment or experience that can be interacted with and explored by an individual using electronic devices, such as a headset with a display. VR aims to create a sense of presence, immersing users in a computer-generated world that can be entirely fictional or a replication of the real world. It often involves the use of specialized hardware and software to provide a fully immersive and interactive experience. ...
augmented reality
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that integrates digital information, typically in the form of computer-generated graphics, images, or data, with the real-world environment in real-time. AR enhances the user's perception of the physical world by overlaying or combining digital content onto the user's view of the real world, often through devices like smartphones, tablets, smart glasses, or specialized AR headsets. Key features and principles of augmented reality: Real-time...
The strongest light emitted by the Earth's upper atmosphere. It most often can be viewed in the Arctic as the aurora borealis, and in the Antarctic as the aurora australis.
Research & TechnologyArmy Research LabARLAmericasvirtual realityaugmented realityimmersive technologiesImagingdefenseSensors & DetectorsmilitaryCommunicationsauroramixed realityAberdeen Proving GroundInternet of Battlefield Things

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