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Marine Corps set to field new augmented reality trainer

October 3, 2015 (Photo Credit: John F. Williams/Navy)

The Marine Corps is on track to bring the next generation in augmented reality training technology to the field.

The Augmented Immersive Team Trainer system — which superimposes life-like virtual objects onto a real environment — will undergo assessment this month at the Infantry Officer Course aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

Pending successful results, the Office of Naval Research system will be turned over to the Corps in fiscal year 2016, Dr. Kendy Vierling, a senior analyst with the Training and Education Capabilities Division, told Marine Corps Times.

“It is currently planned that each [Marine expeditionary force] and [Training and Education Command] will receive an AITT prototype system,” she said. “Wider deployment is contingent upon further system development, integration and available funding.”

The AITT system, which Marines at IOC tested out for the first time in early August as part of live-fire training exercises, consists of a laptop, software, battery pack and a helmet-mounted display.

Through the cellphone-size display, realistic virtual ground vehicles, aircraft and munitions are injected into the real world in the same way first down lines are added during football games on television.

It gives an infantryman a simulation of battlefield effects "in the outdoor environment … without having to use live munitions or having live aircraft,” said ONR program manager Dr. Peter Squire.

The visual effects and sounds immerse Marines in real-world training environments, Squires said. The system allows them to train for fire missions with virtual artillery, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft in the field, bypassing the time and cost of training with live munitions and assets.

“It allows you capability to train basically anywhere, and you don’t have to be fixed to a specific schoolhouse or building,” Squires said.

Terrain modeling software simply needs to be loaded into the system, he said, but additional features such as vegetation or buildings must be manually inserted into the initial map.

The system also does not allow for dynamic tracking, which means that mounted vehicular training is not yet an option.

Squires said most people think of augmented reality in terms of Atari-like graphics, but he knows the AITT system is successful when he sees Marines whip their heads around to look for the virtual inserts in the real world.

“I’m just amazed every time I see some of the effects, particularly for aircraft platforms and some of the munitions that go down, how realistic they are,” he said. “It’s pretty mind-boggling.”

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