Plan X's 3D touch table and Oculus Rift will help military planners assess the cyber battlefield.
Three years after the Defense Department named cyberspace a new domain of warfare, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently discussed Plan X, its program to create revolutionary technologies to help the Defense Department plan for, conduct, and assess cyberwarfare like kinetic warfare.
Announced in May 2012, DARPA’s Plan X seeks “to make cyber operations tools and their capabilities more available to the common military, which right now doesn't have [such] cyber capabilities,” Plan X program manager Frank Pound told American Forces Press Service. Additionally, the program aims to quantify cyber effects “so the military understands how [such effects] work and what the collateral damage could be,” Pound said.
Cyber effects are those resulting in damage from manipulating, disrupting, denying, degrading or destroying information, infrastructure or the data.
Another goal of Plan X is to provide cyber situational awareness globally across DOD from the strategic and tactical levels all the way down to the troops in the field.
“Right now, they don't have a good ability to sense the cyber environment, and … in the last five years, there's been a tidal wave of mobile devices and cyber things hitting the market,” Pound said. “Our adversaries use them to plan attacks, so Plan X at the tactical level would be able to provide that cyber situational awareness to commanders in the field.”
To enhance situational awareness, Plan X is testing two new technologies. One is an advanced three-dimensional mission-planning technology called a holographic touch table display.
DARPA’s touch table display uses advanced 3D technology to create a real-time, color, 360-degree, interactive 3D holographic display. The technology allows each 3D holographic object to project in each direction the same amount of light projected by an original object for 360-degree viewing.
The other Plan X technology recently displayed at DARPA demo day is a virtual-reality head-mounted display called the Oculus Rift, which puts warfighters in cyberspace and helps them track adversaries, friendly forces and mission resources. http://gcn.com/articles/2014/05/27/darpa-demo-day.aspx
The visualization environment of Plan X removes complexity from the interface and distills only information the operator would need to react to and counter an adversary's actions, Pound said. “Think of part of Plan X as like Google Earth or Google Maps. We want to make it that easy for the military to use -- to filter information and look at different routes and alternatives for routes and see where there's a lot of traffic, just like with Google maps,” he added.
Even though Plan X was announced in 2012, the program has suffered from sequestration-related budget cuts. Still, Pound said, the program should transition to DOD and Cyber Command in October 2017.
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