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Photos and article by Jim Williams, AFAMS Public Affairs
The Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AFAMS) invited their Team Orlando partners to join them as they hosted 14 industry and academia organizations in Orlando, FL earlier this month. The participants presented their latest and greatest augmented reality (AR) technology, both software and hardware, immediately able to support the Multi-capable Airmen concept. The event was a unique opportunity highlighting both state-of-the-art capabilities and avenues for future partnerships and collaboration.
“We’re determining what’s in the realm of the possible… not years from now, but today, regarding using Augmented Reality tools on the battlefield to enable mission generation” said AFAMS Commander Col. Tim Beers. “AFAMS provides that first shaping layer of operational training and readiness-based suitability and feasibility needed to adapt such technology.”
A few years ago, “operational use of augmented reality” might have seemed straight out of science fiction. But at AFAMS, the real-world goal is use commercial off-the-shelf technology to create immersive experiences that improve performance and decrease training time.
One method AFAMS uses to find this technology is to sponsor events like this which offers various sized companies and local universities an equal chance to demonstrate their platforms and tools to military organizations and Team Orlando. Team Orlando is a partnership between the area’s local modeling and simulation military organizations, industry, and academic institutions working together to leverage resources to contribute to the overall security of the United States.
This two-day event focused on searching for capabilities that can be fielded immediately to enable Airman to operate within the Agile Combat Employment concept; a method of Air Force operations relying less on large, traditional overseas bases and more on rapidly deploying from several locations, exploiting opportunities while keeping resources out of harm’s way. Using AR technology, AFAMS is bolstering the concept of rapid technology employment to meet our warfighters’ needs.
“Introducing technology to address the “multi-capable Airman” concept fits within the Air Force’s everyday objective of meeting readiness capabilities while at the same time, aligning our efforts with the larger Air Force strategy of digital transformation.” said Russell Hutt, Chief Information Technology Officer/Enterprise Architect and Innovation Advisor at AFAMS.
Hutt describes Air Force maintainers in remote locations wearing augmented reality goggles enabling them to see all the relevant information, in various formats, to complete their tasks without having to divide their attention between a checklist and the aircraft they are working on. It could also free up both hands, making work more efficient.
Beers explained that AFAMS is determined to discover the best up-to-date digital training tools and modern capabilities that our Airmen will be able to access from anywhere, any time.
“Not only would AR, overlaying computer-generated data on real equipment, allow our Airmen to reduce the time required to perform tasks, but also holds the promise of allowing them, to a high level of proficiency, accomplish tasks they have never performed before.” said Beers. “Airmen must be trained with an eye toward future mission requirements … this requires teaming up with industry that has already innovatively solved the problems and developed the tools needed to provide us with an edge on the battlefield.”
During the demonstrations, AFAMS and the other guests, experienced immersive scenarios, some through head-mounted displays and others using hand-held devices. Hutt added that using the types of technology demonstrated here is expected to improve the productivity of our Air Force operations globally, while decreasing the related risks that come with being in combat areas.
“There are many opportunities to improve the Air Force using these immersive experiences,” said Hutt. “Using augmented reality tools, our Airmen are one step closer to meeting the Air Force’s ‘Digital Airmen’ transformation vision.”
The other members of Team Orlando also benefitted from the opportunity to meet tech companies from across the U.S. and Canada to learn the latest industry has to offer. AFAMS, along with the rest of Team Orlando, regularly utilizes the Central Florida Tech Grove Innovation center for events like this. Tech Grove is a local unique hub specifically created to foster collaboration and the acceleration of novel, non-traditional, Modeling, Simulation, Training & Human Performance solutions to our national defense partners.
“‘Tech Grove’ was established to build on the long-time successful collaboration of our Team Orlando members to use as a creative, innovation hub,” explained “said Carol Ann Logue, Director of the Central Florida Tech Grove. “And during events like today, we also help support local non-traditional companies like these that already might have the technology and capabilities to solve our military problems. By reaching out, we might discover new ways to potentially work with them take advantage of that bleeding-edge innovation used in the commercial industry.”
The results were impressive. At the end of the event, AFAMS and Team Orlando walked away with a much better understanding of current industry capabilities and exactly what products could be brought to bear to support worldwide military operations.
“The use of what we saw here today is going to enhance warfighter capabilities. Allow us to do more with less, to be flexible and versatile to meet any and every aspect of military operations,” explained Hutt. “The ‘barriers of entry’ to simulation capability are disappearing, we are now at a crossroad where every Airman will have access to various training opportunities to meet their training needs.”
From here, select companies will be further elevated and user-tested with the ultimate goal of highlighting a handful to senior Air Force leaders and the defense innovation unit.
Thanks to AFAMS, advanced, adaptive Airmen training is no longer just science fiction. It’s here now.
“Demonstrations like this ultimately help the Air Force meet training and readiness goals … in point, our younger Airmen expect innovation be part of their daily lives; the capabilities presented this week by academia and industry were spot on,” concluded Beers. “I believe AR will have a profound, positive impact on deployed military operations.”
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