Technology Today

2010 Issue 2

 

Expect the unexpected. Thanks to Raytheon's IED Reality Training (IRT) technology, U.S. warfighters assigned with countering IEDs will be prepared to do just that. IRT is a result of Raytheon's research to combine motion capture technology, simulation-based realism and battlefield domain expertise that puts warfighters into a fully immersive environment before they deploy into a war zone.

By merging the technologies found in motion picture animation with immersive simulations, the Raytheon IRT Team can create virtual experiences that replicate the sights, sounds and stresses of the battlefield. And they can do it just about anywhere. IRT can be installed in any large interior space, such as dining facilities, warehouses, aircraft hangers, and even expandable truck-hauled trailers.

"It is a great rehearsal for pre-deployment and home-station training," said John Baggott, a former soldier and trainer who is now with Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC. Baggott set the program in motion in April 2008. "It gets warfighters familiar with the specific environment they're going in to, and it provides them with the visual cues they'll need to react to in that environment. Most importantly, as the IED threat changes, this technology can be quickly modified to replicate a new threat, a new environment, or a new enemy."

Able to function around the clock, this technology is cost-effective and provides a much greater training capacity than what is currently available to warfighters, Baggott said.

Virtual Realistic Battlefield

Conceptually, the IRT is a safe, effective training solution for countering IEDs, one of the military's deadliest problems. Structurally, it consists of a large frame with a bank of mounted cameras. These cameras provide the visualization that goes into the head-mounted displays worn by the warfighters. For added realism, the training exercises also allow the warfighters to use their very own communications equipment and weapons, once they're connected with lasers.

With the head set on and the gaming animation activated, the trainees feel like they're in a war zone, with all of its unpredictable stimuli — even though they may physically be standing in a warehouse in Florida. Depending on the configuration, individuals or entire platoons can be simultaneously trained in this realistic virtual battlefield. As such, it is an ideal environment to teach the skills required to interact as part of a team.

This highly portable and fully immersive platform uses commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology that can be integrated and fielded in less than seven months.

Evolving Threat, Evolving Technology

For example, the IRT might incorporate either a command-detonated IED or pressure-detonated IED into the simulation, depending on the trend in the region. If it is command-detonated, the training focuses on the electronic pulses between the command detonation and the IED. If it is pressure-activated, then it focuses on the pressure of the movement on the ground. By simply changing the cue of the training, it forces the warfighters to change how they would perform in a given environment based on the threat.

The technology can also be ratcheted up based on the training level of the warfighter. If it's the first time a trainee is going through the IRT, for instance, the environment might be open and friendly with non-combatants. As their training progresses, hostile combatants and other artificial intelligence (AI) characters can be integrated into the gaming environment. In all cases, the characters will react positively or negatively — in real time — based on the trainee's actions.

Action Training
Award-Winning Animation and Simulation Partners

Raytheon's IRT solution combines patented technologies from a pair of award-winning partners: Motion Reality, Inc. (MRI) and BreakAway, Ltd.

MRI has been a pioneer in the area of 3D real-time engineering analysis and computer graphics animation of human motion since 1984. During this time, MRI has been recognized with numerous international accolades for its ability to accurately capture a subject's 3D motion and display any biomechanical data associated with that motion.

Raytheon's IRT solution uses the MRI-developed Virtual Tactical Training Simulation System (VIRTSIM™), which provides real-time soldier simulation animation, and gives the individual combatant mobility and full-body interaction with the simulation. With VIRTSIM, the warfighter visualizes himself within his surroundings through a wireless stereo head-mounted display. VIRTSIM scenarios are reconfigurable and create strikingly accurate battlespace environments, making them far more effective than canned video displays projected on a wall or CD-ROM-based training on a PC.

VIRTSIM trainees move, shoot, and interact inside a 3D virtual battlespace, during which they are stressed both physically and cognitively. Stress is achieved by employing audio and visually accurate stimuli commonly associated with a war zone. For example, AI characters (non-combatants and combatants) are mixed into scenarios and react appropriately to all trainee real-time actions and activities based on movements stocked in a motion library. The motions of all characters are created using Academy Award®-winning motion capture technology to deliver unmatched realism. In fact, AI characters are capable of speaking in any language, and are capable of facial expressions.

BreakAway is a leading developer of entertainment games and game-based technology for modeling, simulation, training and visualization. By applying the tools and technology of the gaming industry to the creation of military training, BreakAway makes it possible to achieve the promise of deployable, immersive, interactive training.

The BreakAway technology integrated into Raytheon's IRT is mōsbē™, a custom simulation development platform built from PC game technology. The mōsbē platform can represent large virtual worlds in 2D and 3D. mōsbē employs statistical, effects-based models of civilian and military vehicles, weapon systems and sensors to simulate actions and the resulting effects of symmetric and asymmetric combat.

Derived from strategy game technology for mission planning, mōsbē is optimized to replicate IED combat scenarios of up to 2,500 entities, and allows the training audience to focus on decision making, leadership, and the command and control of tactical operations.

Within IRT, VIRTSIM and mōsbē are connected in a federation to allow a coordinated training experience. Federating the systems provides each end user with a tailored training experience: Individuals and squads receive the immersive hands-on IED training they need, and company staffs have a command-centric interaction with the tactical operations.

On the Forefront

Simulation and virtual training have proven to be a safe and effective way to train military personnel — warfighters and staff — in a wide range of activities.

"IRT is cost effective, easily transportable, quickly configured, and, most importantly, can be tailored to the needs of its training audience," Baggott said. "If a unit has been alerted for movement to Kabul this technology can be adapted to replicate the environment and the combat conditions our warfighters must succeed in."

For these reasons, the military simulation and virtual training market has seen dramatic growth in the last decade and is expected to grow steadily in the years ahead. And Raytheon, with its IRT technology, stands on the forefront of this emerging market.

Contributor: John Baggott

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