Thursday, September 28, 2017
American military personnel participate in numerous training exercises throughout their careers. From basic instruction to mission-specific schooling, the individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces must navigate an almost endless string of war-fighting sessions. Those in special operations units such as the Army Rangers or Navy SEALs take part in even more intense exercises. For example, the average SEAL trains for roughly two years before field deployment, according to the Navy. Traditionally, the military has relied on conventional instructional methods. However, in recent years, branches have begun embracing more advanced training resources, including those with internet of things technology at the center - namely augmented and virtual reality fixtures.
The federal government spent nearly $9 billion on IoT fixtures in 2015, according to research from Nextgov. The Department of Defense was responsible for more than 88 percent of this, which constituted a 20 percent increase over figures recorded the previous year. A significant portion of the DoD's IoT spend likely went toward the cutting-edge training programs its branches have rolled out as of late, according to Govtech Works.
Navigating virtual battlefields
The Army debuted one of the first formalized, IoT-based training initiatives back in 2012. With the solution, called the Dismounted Soldier Training System, users can step onto battlefields across the globe by donning virtual reality headsets. The DSTS is located at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, home to the Army's Airborne Corps and Special Operations Command. Users can participate in solo exercises or work with team members, making the DSTS an effective complement to more traditional techniques.
The system features five separate modules. The soldier simulated training space measures 10 by 10 feet and is equipped with a motion-sensor-laden pad that supports training related to individual spacial awareness. The exercise control workstation is an administrative tool that gives backend information technology personnel the power to configure and manage virtual sessions. IT system admins can also leverage the semiautomated forces workstation to design online visual environments filled with static objects such as buildings and furniture. The virtual solider multifunction workstation allows trainees to participate in exercises using a mouse and keyboard. The DSTS includes an end review component that allows Soldiers to reflect on their performance and view a recording.
Researchers at the Army Research Laboratory in Orlando are working to develop even more advanced training solutions, Govtech Works reported. The personnel there envision a future in which Soldiers can navigate mixed environments combining augmented reality and physical elements.
"Can we put a live soldier out in the woods and provide them virtual opposing forces with realistic effects ad accurate ballistic solutions?" Col. Harold Buhl, deputy director of the Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate, questioned in an interview with the publication.
The Marine Corps is treading similar ground, according to Task and Purpose. In July the branch publicized the Marine Tactical Decision Kit, an augmented reality-based instructional program designed to reinforce positive decision-making tendencies, at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. The system, which puts users into small-scale battlefield scenarios and forces them to make calculated tactical decisions, addresses a critical downfall of earlier Marine training exercises. In the past, personnel had few opportunities to hone their combat decision-making skills before deployment. With the MTDK, Marines can take part in the repetitive exercises needed to develop these instincts and ultimately enter the field more prepared. On top of this, the solution is easy to transport, meaning the branch can install it in barracks.
The branch plans to distribute MTDK systems to all 24 Marine battalions in October. However, like their colleagues in the Army, the Marines running this advanced training program do not see the solution as a viable replacement for more traditional instructional methods.
"Our goal is not really changing the fundamentals for tactics, but hopefully supplementing and accelerating the learning process," Peter Squire, Ph.D., program manager for Human Performance Training and Education at the Office of Naval Research, told Task and Purpose.
Making support decisions
In addition to deploying AR and VR equipment for infantry scenarios, the military is using the technology to train personnel performing essential combat duties removed from actual on-the-ground warfare, Fortune reported. Back in December 2015, defense contractor Raytheon rolled out a VR training solution for artillery teams. The system employs Oculus Rift headsets and 3-D video game software to create virtual environments that allow teams of three to five users to practice firing procedures for surface-to-air missiles and other projectiles - work that requires immense collaboration. Soldiers at the Army Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma tested the solution, called RT3, in 2015. It has since been officially incorporated into the military's Patriot missile training program.
As the U.S. military continues its quest to modernize training via IoT technology, Perle will be there to offer the essential networking infrastructure needed to deploy AR and VR fixtures. Connect with us today to learn more about our work in the defense industry.