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Beyond Immersive Training? From Virtual Reality to Augmented Reality

Part 2

As noted in the first part of this article, training system examples like the Army’s Joint Fires and Effects Training System (JFETS), the Navy’s Battle Stations 21 (BST 21), and the Marine Corps’ Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) highlight broad service acceptance of the value of immersive training. However, driven by a number of issues, ranging from trainee throughput to budgetary realities, science and technology professionals have begun to look beyond today’s immersive concepts in an effort to identify an optimum blend of technologies for use in future military training.

Some of the conceptual thinking behind those efforts was highlighted during a ”Training Technologies: Vision of the Future” panel discussion at the recent Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) 2013.

“What we’d like to be able to do is be able to have perhaps lower fidelity part-task trainers, or potentially mobile training capabilities that would allow us to optimize the time spent in these dedicated simulators.”

Describing some of the historical activities conducted at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in the 1990s, Terry Allard, Ph.D, current head of ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department offered, “We were trying to understand how we could use these immersive virtual reality systems. You’ve got these head mounted displays and you have complete control over what it is that you’re presenting to someone. And how could we possibly use that?”

Turning to today’s Marine Corps’ IIT, Allard added, “The concept of an immersive training environment that’s scenario-based really laid the foundation for the Infantry Immersion Trainer – some people know it as the converted tomato can factory – out at Camp Pendleton, which is a mixed reality approach that provides familiarization to Marines as they are getting ready to deploy, with really four environments: sound, smells, lights, you see people of different cultures. It’s a very important experience to have, until you wear off the novelty and you actually find yourself out there fighting wars in these kinds of environments.”

JFETS 3

U.S. Army soldiers train in the Joint Fires and Effects Training System (JFETS). ICT photo

“The challenge, of course, with these dedicated simulators is that they are very expensive,” he said. “And their throughput is somewhat limited.”

The application of augmented reality will combine virtual information with a real world view. For AITT, realistic virtual elements, such as fixed and rotary wing aircraft, targets such as insurgents, tanks and buildings, and weapon effects, to include artillery and mortar fire, are combined with a real world scene and displayed in both a head worn display module and in simulated tactical equipment like binoculars.

In terms of future technologies, Allard offered, “What we’d like to be able to do is be able to have perhaps lower fidelity part-task trainers, or potentially mobile training capabilities that would allow us to optimize the time spent in these dedicated simulators.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...