Navy speeds AR-aided helmet from concept to demo

The Navy’s Battlespace Exploitation of Mixed Reality Lab moved a sailor's idea for an augmented-reality-based unified gunnery system to a prototype with little time and funding.

A Navy training officer has developed an augmented-reality helmet system that service officials say could help revolutionize warship gunnery operations.

Lt. Robert McClenning’s GunnAR is a unified gunnery system that fuses information from a ship's gunnery liaison officer and weapons systems into an easy-to-interpret visual format for the sailor manning a naval gun system.

Currently, decades-old radios and phones are used for information sharing and authorizations to fire, making it hard for gunners to  hear instructions over the din of machine guns and through the required ear protection.

McClenning’s concept uses an AR overlay placed onto helmets, providing  greater situational awareness for the gunner wearing the helmet and a quicker response time to ward off potential threats.

GunnAR took won first place and $100,000 in prototyping funds at the Office of Naval Research March 2016 Innovation Jam, in which active duty sailors pitched their solutions to fleet challenges. The Battlespace Exploitation of Mixed Reality Lab demonstrated GunnAR Dec. 13 to scientists and industry representatives. The BEMR Lab allows scientists and engineers to prototype virtual reality and augmented reality technologies for low-cost solutions for fleet training and operational challenges, according to Navy officials. BEMR Lab Director Heidi Buck cites GunnAR as an example of taking a sailor's concept from idea to prototype in a short amount of time with a small amount of funding.

"By using low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), virtual reality technology to aid in prototyping the concept, and low-cost COTS augmented reality technology to demonstrate the concept, we've been able to build this capability very quickly, all the while keeping the sailors endorsing the idea in the loop," Buck said."This demonstration is just the beginning," Buck said. During the Navy's fleet exercise off the Pacific Coast in June, a more mature GunnAR will be tested.

This article was first posted to Defense Systems, a sister site to GCN.

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