CHERRY HILL, N.J.--Training troops in simulations that project virtual scenarios onto surrounding screens has become the norm in recent years. In the future, it could be possible for soldiers to carry their video games in their helmets.
The Army wants to shift to head-worn systems that will immerse soldiers in real-world environments wherever they may need to hone their skills, whether in their home bases or deployed overseas.
Recent advances in cameras, computer processing power and display technologies will enable the development of wearable augmented reality systems, technologists say. The devices may even enhance battlefield operations by providing troops with virtual information superimposed over the live view of their surroundings, experts predict.
Researchers at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Advanced Technology Laboratories are exploring how people might best utilize such systems.
"We're really focused on the interaction side of it," said John Sausman, principal investigator for the project at ATL's Informatics Lab.
The team is researching how much information can be displayed, how to present the data on the display and how users will interface with the wearable technologies.
As part of that effort, engineers have completed a prototype system that could be applied to the Army's human terrain teams. These small groups, composed of military and civilian social scientists, are embedded with combat units. They venture out into the neighboring villages and towns to meet with the local population. They collect information that could help commanders improve security and address grievances in the area.
"We thought it would be an interesting application for augmented reality because you're trying to interact with people and you don't want to be looking at your handheld," said Sausman.
Much of the information collected by human terrain teams is jotted down in notebooks or captured in audio recordings during meetings. But the information is not readily accessible to others. If the data--names, aliases, biometrics, social networks, etc.--were digitized and stored in databases accessible to facial recognition software, then it could be presented to team members unobtrusively during meetings.
For example, if a person wearing the system encountered two people talking on a street corner, facial recognition software might be able to identify the first person, but it might not recognize the second person. The system would alert the user, who could pull up...