Engineers at BAE Systems are working with a Birmingham University research team on the development of augmented-reality technology that they claim could revolutionise the battlefield
Augmented reality displays – which overlay virtual data on a real-world view – have huge potential for military applications, and are already beginning to be used by both ground and air troops.
However, whilst existing systems typically rely on extremely expensive and bulky hardware BAE hope that it’s collaboration with Birmingham could ultimately lead to lower-cost systems no bigger than a contact lens.
The research has so far focused on two concepts: a briefcase sized portable command centre and a ‘wearable cockpit’.
The Portable Command Centre concept uses commercial technology to create a semi-virtual environment that can be transported in a briefcase and set up anywhere from within a tent to an office to tackle emergency scenarios such as an outbreak of fire or an act of terrorism.
Users put on an “oculus rift” style virtual reality headset and interactive gloves and a mixed reality control station appears around them. They can then use to the system monitor situations anywhere in the world, zooming in and manipulating environments, directing troops and pulling in virtual video screens that allow them to monitor news channels and feeds from UAVs.
User can also bring in artificially intelligent avatars that monitor the entire environment, provide real-time voice updates and even offer advice when asked.
Meanwhile, the Virtual Cockpit allows pilots to customise their interface with the aircraft based on their own preferences, mission objectives and the task immediately at hand. The technology is designed to be easily upgraded and customised to meet the demands of a rapidly changing future environment, saving valuable time and significantly reducing costs.
Commenting on the collaboration Birmingham University simulation specialist Prof Bob Stone said: “Our work with BAE Systems shows just how close we are to delivering the next generation of advanced mixed reality interfaces for future applications not only in defence, but also in such important domains as engineering and healthcare.”