Researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory-Orlando have been exploring augmented reality training for the MK-19 grenade launcher.

“We use augmented reality. We’re just firing out into the parking lot,” said Dean Reed, a software developer and team lead. “It takes us under 30 minutes to set up the system.”

According to a press release, instead of going to a range, getting range time and range cadre, as well as expensive rounds, the researchers at ARL Orlando have the MK-19 — augmented with computer hardware and a head-mounted display or HMD — pointed out into the employee parking lot out of a garage door at the rear of their facility.

“The HMD is equipped with video cameras that stand in for a Soldier’s eyes. The goggles put LCD modules in front of the Soldier’s eyes, so they see what is coming in through the cameras. And with the augmented reality turned on, the computer system inserts synthetic elements, like enemy soldiers, into the vision.

Using a tablet computer, which the system runs on, operators can create a custom scenario for the Soldier to train on.”

Putting on the headset that’s attached to the MK-19, Soldiers can look out into the parking lot behind the facility and see the employee cars parked there. They see exactly what they’d see without the head-mounted display. When they turn their head, the image turns with them.

But then, a pickup truck rolls onto the scene. The truck is synthetic — generated by the tablet computer. The synthetic truck image is merged with what’s coming in from the cameras mounted on the HMD, before it’s put in front of the Soldier’s eyes. The truck appears to have actually driven into the lot. If the Soldier takes the HMD off, the truck is gone.

“These things will actually drive around appropriately on the trails that you give them,” Reed said of the synthetic elements the software can add as part of a training scenario.

The scenario also includes a truck driver and another individual standing outside the truck and milling about.

Wearing the HMD, A Soldier can look down at the MK-19 and see the weapon and the triggers. Looking up into the parking lot, he can also see an indicator projected into his vision, showing him where the grenade will likely land. The indicator moves when he moves the MK-19.

The MK-19 trainer is not quite ready for the field just yet. For now, Reed said, the HMD on the system needs to be improved. Indoors it’s good, he said. But outdoors, where it’s extremely bright and hot outside, it might not work.

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