The Marine Corps is moving forward with the testing and development of a new augmented reality training system following a demonstration of the technology Oct. 15 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
The Augmented Immersive Team Trainer, initially developed by the Office of Naval Research as a science and technology initiative, is the Corps answer to the need to provide realistic training to Marine forward observers and tactical air controllers. The AITT system includes a laptop, software and battery pack, and helmet-mounted display. It uses augmented reality to superimpose virtual objects—from aircraft to buildings—onto a real environment, according to an ONR news release.
“If you watch football, that yellow line you see is being digitally overlaid,” said Dr. Peter Squire, the program officer with ONR who led the AITT effort. “[AITT] is building on that type of capability. But we’ve made it so that someone can wear it and take it out into the [training] environment.”
The AITT system will officially be handed off to Marine Corps Systems Command’s Training Systems, or TRASYS, for further testing and development beginning in December. Between December and February, ONR will provide three AITT prototypes, software and operation materials to TRASYS. As a program office of MCSC—the acquisition arm of the Marine Corps for ground and information technology systems—TRASYS will work with industry to “mature” AITT so it can eventually be fielded to Marines.
“Our task is to get the best value for the Marine Corps,” said Col. Walter Yates, program manager for TRASYS. “That may mean [a system that is] smaller, lighter, has a longer battery life and is hardened to how Marines would use it in the field. And then we’ll provide the life-cycle support for it.”
Current training systems do not allow Marines to see simulated battlefield effects, such as munitions explosions, during force-on-force training exercises. Units also face training challenges due to the unavailability of training areas, aircraft and “role players.”
The AITT system addresses these gaps with virtual reality. It combines realistic virtual elements like fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, and targets like tanks and people, with a real-world scene that Marines view through head-worn tactical binoculars.
Ultimately, AITT will be used to enhance training on other systems in the TRASYS portfolio, such as the Squad Immersive Training Environment, Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System and the Supporting Arms Virtual Trainer.
“AITT is a win for the Marine Corps,” said Koren Odermann, project officer for Squad Immersive Training Environment at TRASYS. “So many science and technology projects never make it into the hands of Marines, but with AITT, we’re able to see an S&T product that is transitioning to a fielded capability to train Marines.”