augmented reality for training at Sandia National Laboratories (photo by Randy Montoya)

AR-based nuclear security training

Computer scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have started using augmented reality for physical security training and analysis.

Using the same software as game developers and commercial augmented reality headsets so they wouldn’t have to start from scratch, Tam Le and Todd Noel created an augmented-reality model of a hypothetical nuclear facility for the lab’s training curriculum.

"We simply took the industry standard tools used for game development and applied them to our national security challenges," Le told Sandia LabNews.

The technology shows the spatial relationships of the equipment in a facility so students can 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. It also lets students peer through walls to show all the processes needed to handle and protect nuclear material without actually using hazardous material.

“With augmented reality, we're able to do things that we wouldn't normally be able to do,” Le said. “We can show virtual characters handling material, putting it into the system, show how the material is taken out, the material flow, understand the vulnerabilities and where materials can be lost."

Nuclear facilities security training technology had long relied on two-dimensional floor plans, then in recent years evolved to use 3-D models.   Now AR promises to take the training to new levels.

Other government agencies also are starting to experiment with virtual and augmented reality. The Digital Government group at the General Services Administration has created a community to facilitate adoption of  both AR and VR. It plans to hold a hackathon later this year.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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