Naval forces across the globe have been quick to realize the benefits of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology. The ability to provide cost effective, realistic training at scale is very appealing to naval leadership. The use of virtual reality extends beyond training with a wide variety of other applications. Psychological assessment, PTSD treatment and ship construction are just of the ways that VR and AR technology is being used by navy’s across the globe.
Office of Naval Research FIST2FAC Project
The US Navy has been an earlier adopter of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. Through the Office of Naval Research they have been exploring the use virtual reality to train naval personnel. One of the key projects implementing virtual reality technology can be found is the Fleet Integrated Synthetic Training/Testing Facility aka FIST2FAC.
FIST2FAC has been designed to simulate equipment that naval personnel would be using combined with live action exercises. One of the key advantages of using virtual reality technology are the cost savings. Performing live training exercises can be extremely expensive for the Navy. A comprehensive light training simulation might involve putting hundreds of ships out on the sea and aircraft into the year. Using virtual reality technology none of these costs are required.
FIST2FAC enables sailors to plan and react to a variety of different scenarios. The virtual reality experiences allow sailors to experiment with different helicopters, lethal and nonlethal weapons and to train in different mission environments. For example, the VR scenarios could include naval personnel having to defend themselves against a group of fast moving boats attacking a single destroyer.
The Office of Naval Research estimates that the cost of a live training exercise can be upwards from several million dollars. The cost alone of putting an aircraft carrier out to sea is approximately $250,000. In contrast, the development cost of a virtual reality experience is in the tens of thousands of dollars. While the FIST2FAC naval training programs are far less expensive computer real-life exercise, they still managed present highly realistic operational environment.
Battle Space Exploitation of Mixed Reality (BEMR)
FIST2FAC is not the only simulation tool that the office of Naval research has developed. Another initiative is called Battle Space Exploitation of Mixed Reality (BEMR). This virtual reality experience combined both augmented reality of virtual reality. Using mixed reality technology it integrates virtual reality elements into a real-life environment. This creates a much higher degree of replication of a real-life couple of environment.
Augmented Immersion Team Trainer (AITT)
The US Marine Corps’s have been testing Augmented Reality (AR) technology as part of their live fire training exercises. The project is called Augmented Immersion Team Trainer or AITT. The technology includes a helmet mounted display, laptop and software pack.
The Augmented Immersion Team Training (AITT) interjects virtual elements into a real-life environment. One of the key advantages of the system is that the technology can be used in any real-life environment. Unlike traditional training exercises which required detailed setup of an established training environment, the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT) can be used in any physical environment. This can potentially allow Marines to train environment which will be much closer to those in which they will have to do operate.
The US Marine Corps’s has a reputation for being one of the most thrifty branches of the United States Military Forces. This augmented technology follows in that tradition. Using virtual reality technology Marines can be trained without the expense of live munitions. One of the other advantages of the system is that it can be used even in poor weather conditions. Not only this, but Marines can train using virtual air support which in order to better prepare them for real-life battle scenarios.
The results from using augmented reality technology has been positive. Studies by the Marine Central command have found that using virtual reality technology results in improved live fire training performance.
Project: Blueshark is a joint project between the USC Institute for creative technologies and the swamp works division of the Office of Naval Research. The project isn’t necessarily about the integration of augmented reality into live battle operations, but rather it is a way of testing augmented reality technology for future scenarios. For example, Marines can test piloting a UAV using virtual reality headset like Rift or a touchscreen display. The key objective of the project is to think of how the Navy will operate 15 to 20 years in the future. By practising using this technology now US Navy is helping to ensure that retains its technological edge into the future.
The stated intention for Project: Blueshark is to think about what will happen in 2025. The project involves a variety of technologies that will change the way that they collaborate and communicate with one another. This environment includes two physical spaces where the technology is tested. On the 14th floor of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) headquarters is the main demonstration lab for the Blueshark environment. There is also a development area at the MxR labs at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The purposes of these two labs is both to test the present and future technological capabilities of augmented reality. It is also to assess how humans will interact and make decisions with it and augmented reality environment.
Project:Blueshark has named this type of mixed reality environment VAPOR. This stands for virtual, augmented and physical operation realities. VAPOR looks at how military personnel operate when a live training environment is combined with virtual reality. One of the key considerations is how humans are able to react and make reasoned decisions when faced with large amount of information streams. Understanding if naval personnel are able to interpret and use large amounts of information is critical, as this technology becomes more integrated into operational environments.
VR Ship Construction: UK Royal Navy Type 26 Global Combat Ships
The UK Royal Navy is integrating virtual reality technology into the development of its latest class of destroyers. The type XXVI global combat ships are a group of destroyers that will be used for both anti-submarine warfare and for executing a range of other missions including humanitarian relief.
One of the most interesting aspect of this new class of destroyers is the implementation of virtual reality technology for testing construction and operation of the ships before they become a physical reality. The type XXVI global combat ships are being built by the UK defence contractor BAE systems. This virtual reality technology will be used by between 400 to 500 designs and systems engineers at BAE systems. For approximately 150 engineers these virtual reality tools will be used on a day-to-day basis
This virtual reality technology will be used to test out various scenarios. By implementing a virtual mockup of the vessels they will be able to test various assembly scenarios before they actually implemented in real-life. This will provide significant cost savings for BAE and the UK government. The software used by BAE is an off-the-shelf software products developed by Viralis. The software package has already been tested in 35 UK sites including Glasgow, Portsmouth and at Bristol. Using a display engineers can see a direct representation of any part of the ship. Using a hand-held controller they can fly or walk through the ship in real time. The virtual reality environment is created by porting into 3-D modelling data which is been generated by the CAD system used for the ship design.
In order to create complete model of the destroyers only 3GB is required. This in turn reduces the multiprocessing power required for each of the virtual reality installations. Representatives from the company’s state had only an hour of training is required in it become familiar with the virtual reality environment. One of the other major advantages of working with the virtual reality environment is that engineers can collaborate even if they are in different physical locations. This allows engineers across UK collaborate on testing the Type XXVI project.
Using virtual reality technology is helped accelerate testing of the destroyer class. For example, in the past safety engineers would only be able to test the ship after it was completely built. In a virtual reality environment they are able to provide feedback on the design before construction has even begun.
VR Treatments For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Virtual reality technology has been used for more than military training and ship construction. One of the most promising areas of virtual reality technology is the treatment of combat related post-traumatic stress disorder also known as PTSD. It is estimated that one out of every six Iraq veterans shows some signs of symptoms of either anxiety, depression or PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the result of military personnel experiencing dramatic events which are beyond that which they would normally experience. This could include military combat, being personally assaulted or exposed to terrorist attacks.
Clinical trials of virtual reality technology for combat related post-traumatic stress disorder are currently be conducted at the San Diego Naval Medical Centre and Camp Pendleton. As a result of these studies to successful patients have been treated using the technology and our future plans for clinical year using this virtual reality approach.
Virtual reality approaches to post-traumatic stress disorder treatment work by immersing patients in simulations of a traumatic environment. Through controlled exposure PTSD therapy can take place. One of the major advantages of virtual reality is that it doesn’t require reliance on the interior world of the imagination of the patient.
Virtual reality technology was first used by Georgia Tech researchers in 1997 for the treatment of Vietnam veterans who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In this case the veteran had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder 20 years previous to experiencing the virtual reality environment.
Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD)
Zero visibility may no longer the problem it once was for US Navy divers. The US Navy has prototyped design for a computer display which attaches to the interior of the dive helmet. Called the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD) this device provides visibility to divers even in zero visibility conditions.
The experience of using the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD) is similar to that enjoyed by Tony Stark inside of his iron man helmet. The device provides the diver with all of the information that they need inside of the helmet. This information includes augmented reality video and text messages and real-time situational sonar.
The team that developed the digital augmented vision device are based in the Naval Surface Warfare Centre in Panama City Florida. The team worked in conjunction with commercial divers who operate in a variety of low visibility situations including military operations and salvaged diving. Divers have tested the device inside of a controlled laboratory setting with the results have been extremely positive.
It is expected that the DAVD device will be available for testing in water by the end of 2016. The near-term use for the device will be military, but the team expects that the applications for DAVD will expand into a wide variety of other commercial diving applications.