Marines expand training field with augmented reality

Marines expand training field with augmented reality

The Marine Corps is testing an augmented reality system from the Office of Naval Research that would enable marines to turn any location into a working battlefield  training ground, the ONR announced.

In a recent demo, the service showed progress it has made developing the system, called the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer  (AITT), which ONR said could transform the way marines prepare for combat.

The AIIT is a live simulation-based system that works by injecting images, including indirect-fire effects, aircraft, vehicles and  even simulated personnel into a live view of the trainees’ surroundings.

Using algorithms and sensors, the system renders a trainee’s viewpoint; then virtual aircraft, targets and munitions effects are inserted for a real-world view via a head-worn display.

“Instead of going out to an old, stale range that has the same targets that people have been shooting at for the last 40 years, AITT provides a target-rich and dynamic environment for training without having to rely on external resources,” said Marine Corps Capt. Jack Holloway, assigned to ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combatting Terrorism Department.

The next phase is to move from a video display system – in which users see through a head-mounted video camera –  to an optical display showing images directly on the glass of a visor or goggles, according to ONR.

ONR program manager Dr. Peter Squire describes “true augmented reality,” as one in which “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.”

An optical see-through system would enable greater mobility, a feature ONR wants to pursue to take augmented reality to the next level.

“Whereas Google Glass or other systems are just head-worn displays that place a static image in the wearer’s field of view, our augmented reality system allows users to put a virtual object in a specific location in a person’s natural field of view,” Squire said.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Bravo, a member of ONR’s Reserve Component who has been supporting the AITT testing, sees the system becoming a full training environment rather than a tool to use in prescribed exercises.

“I’m envisioning that you could expand its use and have entire troop movements, tanks and other divisions all linked together to do a full exercise where every person involved would be able to get some level of training without the expense of having aircraft time, artillery, fuel, etc.,”  he said.

The program will end in the fall 2015, and move to the Marine Corps System Command and Marine Corps Program Manager for more research.

Once fielded, “this system will allow the Marines to go out to any location and turn it into a training range,” Squire said.

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