Augmented reality is the potential future of US Military training
The Synthetic Training Environment (STE) is an augmented reality training endeavor designed to improve soldier readiness in a variety of environments. “Due to the rapidly expanding industrial base in virtual and augmented reality, the Army is moving out to seize an opportunity to augment readiness,” Col. Harold Buhl, Army Research Lab Orlando and Information and Communications Technology program manager, told taskandpurpose.com. “With STE, the intent is to leverage commercial advances with military technologies to provide commanders with unit-specific training options to achieve readiness more rapidly and sustain readiness longer.” The simulations are intended to create many scenarios to train both active duty and reserves troops, utilizing One World Terrain (OWT). The OWT research project will create 3-D terrain for the simulations based on geospatial data to mimic real-world environments. “As the Army evolves, STE will be flexible enough to train, rehearse missions and experiment with new organization and doctrine,” Buhl said. The Army Research Laboratory, University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, Combined Arms Center-Training and Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation are working together to bring the project to fruition. STE is in the Pre-Material Development Decision phase as the development teams refine the project. Overall, Military and DoD investment into augmented and virtual reality training has continued to grow throughout the decade with projects such as the Marine Corps developing its Martine Tactical Decision Kit. In a 2016 forecast the market research firm Frost & Sullivan predicted that by 2020 nearly all training exercises will include some sort of mixed reality component. Virtual training programs are overall cheaper for the trainers and safer for the trainees, with current research from the Office of Naval Research that VR training helps shorten the readiness gap.