ONR builds an immersive future with mixed reality

ONR builds an immersive future with mixed reality

The military has for some time been developing and using both virtual and augmented reality applications for battlefield training, helping soldiers better communicate with bomb-sniffing dogs and treating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, one laboratory is seeking to merge the capabilities of augmented and virtual reality.

Augmented reality superimposes images on the user’s true physical surroundings, while virtual reality fully immerses the user in a simulated environment.  When these technologies converge, users can easily jump between states of virtuality in what is called mixed reality, or MxR.

Through the Battlespace Exploitation of Mixed Reality Lab, the Office of Naval Research intends to advance affordable virtual training, data assessment, firing of weapons and basic operations concepts. Located at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. BEMR is designed to showcase and demonstrate cutting-edge, low-cost commercial mixed reality, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. It also provides a facility where warfighters, researchers, government, industry and academia can collaborate.

Virtual technologies could create significant cost savings for the Navy:

  • Warfighters could don MxR gear for virtual training rather than incurring the expense flying to a specific location.
  • Subject matter expert could be “standing” next to sailors or marines as they troubleshoot a difficult problem -- even if the expert is on the other side of the world.
  • MxR technologies can give equipment operators views never before seen, with striking fidelity, to execute missions to exacting standards.

The BEMR Lab team is building these applications with low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf technologies, like Oculus Rift VR goggles and Leap motion controllers.

“BEMR is one of these advanced science and technology efforts that harvest the work we’ve done previously to bring it forward to the warfighter to show him what the future could be,” said Lawrence Schuette, director of research at ONR.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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