Marines participated in the fifth and final demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-developed Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT) system, an augmented reality technology. The event—held at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia—represented one of the last steps before the AITT system potentially transitions from ONR to the Marine Corps for further testing and development.
The AITT comprises a laptop, software and battery pack, and a helmet-mounted display—and can support a wide range of live, virtual and cutting-edge training scenarios. It uses augmented reality, which means virtual objects are superimposed onto a real environment—like the yellow first-down lines added to television broadcasts of football games for the benefit of viewers at home. This differs from virtual reality, which is a wholly computer-generated environment in which users immerse themselves. During the Oct. 15 demonstration, Marines using the AITT display saw realistic battlefield effects such as aircraft, ground vehicles, opposing forces and explosions from mortar shells and similar munitions.
“The AITT system will be an enormous assist to our Marines, giving them the ability to train more often, and in more places, than ever before,” said Dr. John Pazik, head of ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combatting Terrorism Department, which is leading the effort. “New technologies like this increase warfighter preparation for different scenarios, and reduce training costs at the same time.”
The AITT represents a major breakthrough in Marine Corps combat training. Traditionally, the field portion of “call-for-fire” exercises includes aircraft and munitions—which are costly and time-consuming to set up, staff and equip, but an important part of the training experience. The wait time for a test range can be lengthy, rain can cancel the testing and it can be difficult to get assets in place, since equipment can break down.
The AITT completely bypasses these obstacles by using virtual ground vehicles, aircraft and munitions. It also enables Marines to train anywhere, on demand, and eliminates the maintenance issues or weather-related restrictions that can hamper or cancel training.
“The AITT system enables Marines to use virtual assets to complement live training or to get additional practice repetitions without having to use live assets, said Dr. Peter Squire, a program officer with ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. “And instead of using your imagination, now you can see virtual effects from the blasts, like smoke.”
For the past five years, the AITT system has been part of the ONR Capable Manpower Future Naval Capability—a science and technology program aimed at developing and transitioning cutting-edge technology products to Navy and Marine Corps acquisition managers within a three- to five-year timeframe. Pending the results of the Oct. 15 demo, the AITT will transition to the Marine Corps Program Manager for Training Systems for more tests and enhancements.