We have seen Microsoft’s HoloLens find application in the Australian, Ukranian and Israeli military forces, and now the most powerful military in the world is also finding a use for Microsoft’s most advanced technology.
In recent US military exercises the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines (2/6) –“The Spartans”– held a weeklong exercise called Spartan Emerging Technology and Innovation Week at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The event featured various training technologies–from quadcopters to augmented reality–developed with support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to accelerate the development of decision-making skills.
During Spartan Week, Marines used several ONR-sponsored technologies. These included the Interactive Tactical Decision Game (I-TDG) with an associated augmented-reality headset, the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT) and a quadcopter-based system for surveying and modeling terrain quickly.
I-TDG is a web technology-based application that allows Marines to plan missions and conduct “what if” tactical-decision games or simulation-based exercises. It supports maps and multimedia tools and links to ONR’s HoloLens augmented-reality headset (seen in use in the image above.)
AITT comprises a laptop, software and battery pack, and helmet-mounted display–and can support forward-observer training in live field environments. It employs augmented reality technology, which inserts virtual objects into a real environment, to create realistic tactical scenarios–including friendly and opposing ground vehicles, aircraft and battlefield effects such as explosions from mortar shells and artillery.
To rapidly develop terrain models to support these technologies, Marines were trained to operate a prototype, quadcopter-based terrain-mapping system. Two Camp Lejeune training sites were flown over and mapped out, and the resulting imagery was used to build terrain models for the training systems.
“Small-unit leaders are tasked with making big mission decisions in an extremely short time window,” said Natalie Steinhauser, a senior research psychologist at Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, Florida, who took part in Spartan Week. “These decisions not only impact the success or failure of a mission, they affect life and death. With technologies like I-TDG, Marines can perform simulated missions in a safe classroom environment, carry out multiple missions and even use I-TDG as an after-action review tool.”
Marines involved found the exercise helpful, saying:
“For me, the best part of I-TDG was recreating simulated battles we conducted during past field exercises and using the system as a debrief on what we did wrong and how we could be better,” said Lt. Andrew Veal. “Like athletes watching game film, you really experienced that ‘a-ha’ moment.”
Microsoft’s HoloLens is also being used off the battlefield, with military researchers using it to virtually explore simulations and gain new understanding of how blast injuries affect soldiers. The technology was recently demonstrated to RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins along with other advanced technologies which may make for more effective fighters.
See that event in the video below.