U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Military Deputy Col. Debra Daniels tries out the virtual reality head-mounted display. (U.S. Army photo)

Army designers use 3-D, virtual reality software to train warfighters

ECBC Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Sept. 23, 2015) — Army researchers at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center are using 3-D software solutions to supplement more traditional training and simulate real-life scenarios. More experience-driven learning may help students increase the retention of knowledge, official said.

One example of a new training being developed is for the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency. The training is an interactive program for soldiers learning to use a complex piece of detection equipment called the Husky Mounted Detection System, or HMDS. The kit attaches to the Husky vehicle and has four ground penetrating radar panels. The panels detect metallic and nonmetallic explosive hazards, pressure plates and anti-tank mines.

Joseph L. Williams, a computer scientist and lead software developer for the center’ Conceptual Modeling and Animation Branch, said the customer recognized the need for additional capabilities to supplement the already existing classroom training and technical manuals.

The software serves as a refresher for how to use the equipment out in the field.

“The program provides users with the steps they need to go through to operate the HMDS. It allows users to get practice with each of the different functions, become familiar with the various threat types, and then engage with the interactive training,” Williams said.

The next iteration of the software currently in development will allow the vehicle to be controlled in a 3-D environment by the user.

In this example, the team used an industry standard 3-D real time engine to design and develop the product. The designers worked off of static graphics to create a realistic virtual environment and bring the end-user vision to life. The customer and their requirements inform the decision on what type of simulation software should be leveraged.

“Being able to combine artists and programmers gives us a lot more potential than some organizations that just have computer scientists or engineers,” Williams said. “This helps develop a better product.”

One of the benefits of this technology is that it can be used anywhere, making it easier to conduct effective training, in a shorter time frame and in multiple settings. The training software can be sent overseas if needed, it can be taken out to the field, or it can be used in a classroom setting.

The team is also exploring the use of virtual reality capabilities, which is the latest craze in the film, education and gaming industries, and is already being used for some military training. Instead of using a computer screen or tablet as your display, users wear a head mounted display that translates into a virtual reality. This provides a higher level of user immersion than a standard screen and has been primarily designed to integrate into real time 3-D environments.

One way this technology is being designed is with a 360-degree video capability that, when fully developed, makes the user feel as though they are actually in a different environment. This could be used for product support or mission rehearsal to increase the level of chem-bio readiness.

“We have provided a number of different virtual reality demos,” said Jeff Warwick, ECBC Conceptual Modeling and Animation branch chief. “We like to keep abreast of the newest technology so when a customer wants something, we are familiar with it. When people think of the military, they think cutting edge. We always strive to stay current — make sure technology is fresh, new, and exciting.”

Editor’s note: The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.


Originally published at www.army.mil on September 23, 2015.