Augmented reality technology is being developed by British engineers to improve emergency response and military operations.
Applications include a briefcase-sized portable command centre that can be easily transported and set-up anywhere to tackle emergency scenarios and a wearable cockpit for pilots to enhance awareness.
British engineers form BAE Systems and researchers at the University of Birmingham have devised mixed reality concepts to allow the operator to see themselves and their surroundings along with virtual images, video feeds, objects and avatars.
Nick Colosimo, Futurist at BAE Systems, said virtual and augmented reality are becoming more common place in consumer products and the possibilities it offers the armed forces are hugely exciting.
The technology uses a headset similar to Oculus Rift, which allows commanders to direct military operations such as troops or drones either across a virtual representation of the landscape for real situations or as a training solution.
Researchers said that rapid advancements in technology could soon help replace the headsets with something as small and light as a pair of spectacles or contact lenses.
Professor Bob Stone, simulation and human factors specialist at the University of Birmingham, said: “Since my first virtual reality experience at NASA nearly 30 years ago, the technology has evolved from the primitive head-mounted displays and computers to today’s world where we can interact with complex virtual objects, integrated in real-time with real-world scenarios.”
Portable command centre
The portable command centre could help with instant responses to emergency scenarios such as an outbreak of fire or a terrorism act. It can be set up anywhere, from a tent to an office.
Users put on a virtual reality headset and interactive gloves, before a mixed reality control station appears around them. Users can 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 drones.
They can also bring in artificially intelligent avatars that monitor the entire environment, provide real-time voice updates and even offer advice when asked.
The virtual cockpit is created by a headset that provides reconfigurable virtual displays and controls, allowing 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.