The decision advantage, one of six “force design imperatives” in Chief Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday for NAVPLAN 2022, places a high priority on the Navy’s ability to “outperform and defeat any adversary by accelerating our decision cycles through secure, survivable, and resilient networks.” Online “.
Two students at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), US Navy Lt. JaMerra Turner and Lt. Joanna Cruz, explore the application of emerging technologies in augmented reality and how sailors can use them to drive the decision-making cycle. As a master’s thesis at NPS, “Supporting Mission Planning with a Constant Enhanced Environment,” Cruz and Turner’s research provides insights into the feasibility and effectiveness of this new form of data representation and user interaction, and its ability to support faster and improve situational awareness and decision-making in an operational technical environment. Complicated.
Turner was now a graduate of the NPS Cyber Systems and Operations program with a master’s degree in computer science, and was looking for a partner for her thesis. Combing through other students’ research, she found Cruz, a student in a computer science program through the Institute for Modeling and Simulation of Virtual Environments (MOVES), who wanted to focus her research on augmented reality.
“Joanna had this brilliant idea to combine her experience in virtual environments with my competence as a professional CIO,” Turner said. “Using my knowledge of communication networks, and their ability to create augmented reality, we can develop something that will greatly improve the decision-making capabilities of the top decision makers in the field.”
The “Continuous Augmentative Environment” is a concept that student thesis advisor Dr. Amila Sadjik has been working on for some time, and it consists of two main components. “Constant” means that a variety of data is collected and visualized in real time, and data sets are updated and corrected as quickly as possible, ensuring that the most accurate information is available to operators who need it to support their decision making. “Augmented environment” refers to computer-generated visual elements superimposed on visual information that comes from a real-world environment. Cruz described it as “Pokemon Go on board” or “Tactical Pokemon Go.”
With their thesis, the two students wanted to use simulated data for communications systems, cyber network operations, reporting and resource management decisions to demonstrate their product. The use of augmented reality screens allowed operators to see each other and distinguish key nonverbal cues typically used in group discussions. At the same time, they can also see and interact with elements of the simulated operating environment.
When an aircraft carrier group continues to deploy, ship communications lines are of critical importance. Among the many forms of radio frequencies, types of satellites, and the series of other ways ships need to talk to each other, there is bound to be confusion. One of the ships may have a particular system malfunctioning, and the other ships must be aware of this failure and in time.
“Imagine that every ship has a system in which they can automatically enter data in real time, and every ship in the strike group will know instantly [through an augmented reality interface]Cruz said. “With our software, each ship’s communications officer can have a headset with this data constantly updated, and all they have to do to determine which systems are down and which systems are working is to look at the ship they’re trying to access.”
Turner and Cruz designed and developed a prototype for a live 3D visualization of how the augmented reality interface would look, then tested its usability with 27 naval officers. They focused on users’ performance and understanding of a prototype that depicts augmented reality naval electronic battles on multiple ships. An additional goal was to gain a better understanding of how to use this type of system to aid in effective mission planning at the tactical level. They said the results were very positive and encouraging.
“[Users] The interface was found to be easy to understand and operate, and the prototype was described as a valuable alternative to their current practices,” Turner said.
Although the research focused only on communications, Cruise and Turner suggest that the concept could be expanded to include several systems aboard Navy ships. From damage control conditions to weapon systems, key personnel on each ship can simply wear a headset and be instantly updated about the rest of the strike group.
“They can be used by different war zones, and they can go to different readiness conditions,” Cruz said. “We can enter data on air warfare, surface warfare, submarine warfare, ballistic warfare, strike warfare, the list goes on and on.”
Both students were very satisfied with their final thesis, and its ability to support a major initiative at NAVPLAN 2020. The interdisciplinary approach, which takes advantage of each student’s unique area of expertise to develop a marine-related subject of study, is a rare opportunity, except for students at NPS.
“The opportunity for two people in two different communities to join forces on a MOVES-related thesis and actually come up with a completely new idea and start implementing it was a very rewarding and fulfilling experience,” Cruz said. “The world is changing, technology is improving at an incredible rate, and NPS is doing everything it can to stay on top of innovation.”
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