US Navy Using Magic Leap Headsets To Keep Soldiers Combat-Ready At Sea

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The Magic Leap One AR headset enters the US Military training program.

A new AR training tool developed by Magic Leap Horizons will use Magic Leap One AR headset to deliver various AR military training scenarios to the US Navy. Soldiers wearing the headset will experience a room size training environment designed to keep sailors and marines combat-ready while at sea.

The system is called TRACER, which stands for “tactically reconfigurable artificial combat enhanced reality,” uses multiple technologies as part of the simulation, such as the Magic Leap headset tethered to a backpack processor, a simulated weapon from Haptech (formally StrikerVR) that can deliver realistic recoil through haptic feedback, hand tracking, and new software that can immerse soldiers into a multi-user AR experience.

Magic Leap Horizons originally developed TRACER as part of the US Army’s Augmented Reality Dismounted Soldier Training (ARDST) project. However, the Office of Naval Research saw the potential of TRACER and worked with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, along with Magic Leap and Haptech Inc to reconfigure the project to work with sailors and marines.

In a promotional US Navy Research video, Dr. Patrick Mead, Human Systems Development and Research Branch, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dalhgren Division said, “If you look at the training systems throughout the navy, we’re still using a lot of legacy traditional training methodologies. We have limited time to get the sailors the training that they need,” adding, “AR and VR technology and some of the emerging peripheral devices and capabilities that come along with those are gonna allow for training scenarios that we’ve never been able to train to before.”

US Navy Using Magic Leap Headsets To Keep Soldiers Combat-Ready At Sea 1
Image Credit: US Navy Research

Since the early development of AR and VR, military branches from all around the globe have explored the potential of both technologies in multiple areas. For example, the Pentagon is looking at how VR to help prepare soldiers for nuclear war. While the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy is banking on using AR to keep their ships safe out on the water, and the Australian Air Force looking at how AR could possibly play a role in their defense applications. 

Not too long ago the US Army announced a whopping $479M contract with Microsoft to supply 100,000 modified HoloLens headsets for combat use. Though hit with a lot of pushback from Microsoft employees who didn’t want to see their technology used for combat purposes, the contract moved forward, providing soldiers with an “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” (IVAS) which displays real-time critical data directly over their field-of-view.

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Image Credit: US Navy Research

“Ultimately, TRACER provides sailors with dynamic, engaging, and less predictable training scenarios that would be too costly or time-consuming to create in the real world,” said Mead in an interview with Military Simulations & Training Magazine.  

One interesting part about TRACER is that the entire system is built almost entirely from commercial, off-the-shelf products that anyone can purchase on the internet.

During a recent test at the Center for Security Forces (CENSECFOR) in North Carolina, TRACER was used to train troops in the US Navy in multiple areas, such as security force fundamentals, code of conduct, anti-terrorism, and expeditionary warfare training.

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Image Credit: US Navy Research

Cmdr. Kim Littel, CENSECFOR director of training innovation, talked about integrating AR virtual training environment into their existing curriculum, saying that it allows them to reconfigure their training approach with ease; giving them the ability to easily change scenarios, or even change the opposition forces and the threat that they pose.

Chief Kurt Robinson describes how AR training can put you into a completely different world and customize it with multiple training scenarios. You are also able to shout out instructions such as “get on the ground”, and the AR character will actually do that, “which is pretty awesome,” said Robinson. The training experience is also captured through a computer that allows soldiers to step out of the training and review their performance from multiple angles to see how they could have approached the scenario better in an effort to avoid unnecessary conflict and casualties.

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Image Credit: US Navy Research

What the TRACER system can do is put soldiers into extremely dangerous scenarios that feel very real but don’t have real-world consequences, which has always been one of the biggest benefits of VR and AR training.

Just a couple of months ago, the United States Air Force began integrating VR lectures into their curriculum in an effort to offer Airmen-in-training with a more immersive and interactive way to study various airfield hazards.

Featured Image Credit: US Navy Research





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