The Navy conducts a wide variety of training operations, some of which are dangerous, very expensive, or infrequently done. The Battlespace Exploitation and Mixed Reality (BEMR) Lab, based at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) in San Diego, is using 360-degree videos to provide initial familiarization and virtual experience for these tasks that can significantly reduce the cost and risk.
Mid-air refueling is a challenging task that fighter pilots must master.
During mid-air refueling the turbulence around the front of the aircraft makes the refueling “basket” move around. It requires skill and practice to be successful at this task, and the risks of damaging the basket, or having the basket hit the aircraft, can have serious consequences. Letting new pilots virtually experience mid-air refueling by seeing 360-degree video displayed in a 360-degree viewer, such as the Samsung GearVR, will prepare them for the refueling task without risk and without the high cost of actual mid-air refueling operations.
Docking a swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) in a dry deck shelter attached to the deck of a submarine is a highly complex team-effort that is costly, potentially dangerous, and infrequently done. Letting Navy Sea Air Land (SEAL) teams “virtually” experience SDV docking by seeing 360-degree video displayed in a 360-degree viewer will prepare them for the docking task without risk and without the high cost of actual SDV docking operations.
SSC Pacific’s Role
SSC Pacific’s BEMR Lab is chartered with exploring, evaluating, and applying virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology for rapid-prototyping, operations, maintenance, and training to the Navy and Marine Corps. The BEMR Lab has therefore acquired and evaluated several types of 360-video systems and was chosen by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Rapid Reaction Technology office (RRTO) to execute this technology introduction task.
The Lab conducted its first 360-degree video effort during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016 exercise. The annual multinational maritime exercise takes place in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The effort used Fleet Combat Camera Pacific personnel to record several 360-videos of their humanitarian assistance and disaster relief tasks.
These included jet skis surveying the mouth of the Pearl Harbor channel; the offload of the Army's Logistic Support Vessel (LSV-2 “Clinger”) by the Second Navy Expeditionary Logistics Regiment, which moves intra-theater supplies; the setup of a 50-bed portable hospital by the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team; and the transport of patients to Ford Island and casualty triage.
The BEMR Lab’s BUGEYES project (named after the compound eyes of some bugs that allow them to see in see in 360 degrees) project has provided the video systems to several Department of Defense (DoD) activities, including 360-degree video to Navy units and to Navy students at the Naval Postgraduate School.
The team has also provided 360-degree video systems to the Marine Corps Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One’s combat camera unit at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in Yuma, Arizona; the Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) training center; the Center for Security Forces training unit in Virginia Beach, Virginia; and will soon be providing a 360-degree video system to the Army 18th Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg, Georgia.
One BEMR Lab-funded effort is to provide Navy and Marine Corps activities with the ability to create their own 360-degree videos.
These videos are much like the videos that you might make with a typical video camera, except that the imagery covers a 360-degree spherical field of view. The videos can then be viewed using a Samsung GearVR, or other virtual reality display, which enables you to look in any direction during the video. This gives the viewer the experience of actually being in the recorded environment.
The Way Ahead
SSC Pacific’s Human Factors branch and the BEMR team have found several studies that quantifiably demonstrate that experiential learning (such as 360-degree videos and VR) is a significantly more effective delivery system than any other form of classroom training. Ideally the introduction of VR and AR technology for training not only has the potential to reduce costs and risks, but the training should be retained longer by the student.
Several DoD organizations have already seen the value of this technology and have contacted the BEMR Lab for hardware and software recommendations so that they can acquire their own 360-degree video systems. The use of this technology will spread throughout the fleet and DoD now that it has been introduced, and its effectiveness and low-cost has been recognized.