Not Parallel Universes, but Multiple Realities
By this time, all of us in the military training & simulation sphere already know the potential for extended reality (XR), in one form or another, to positively impact training programs in terms of affordability, technological availability, and deployability. What you may not be aware of, however, is how ASTi already offers products that we find are uniquely suited to these varying degrees of digital immersion: Voisus® and Solo™
Before we delve into a brief XR case study, it's important to recognize some of the core capabilities and benefits that Voisus and Solo bring to augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) training initiatives.
These are commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, non-development items (NDIs) that are field-proven and come in at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 9. You can run these software products on ASTi hardware or virtualized on government-owned hypervisors. Both products enjoy continuous feature enhancements available to customers through our software maintenance program, and can be fully secured through our information assurance (IA) program. And, they can both be integrated with any game engine with no-code plugins and tailored SDKs and APIs.
That's all well and good, we suppose, but let's look more closely at how Voisus and Solo can be used for AR, MR, and VR setups within Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training.
In MR and VR, proximity-based acoustic communication between trainees, role players and AI agents is handled by ASTi’s vocal range software. When it comes to AR, however, trainees will likely be speaking with other humans, and ASTi’s speech-recognition and text-to-speech software can augment the acoustic scene to give interactive voice to avatars or NPCs.
In all cases, ASTi’s software intercoms can provide voice comms for exercise coordination, instructor guidance, administration, maintenance and more. But in AR, any voice-over-IP or live intercom channels can be bridged to or from the LVC training domain, if desired.
For JTAC training: The instructor can run through a pre-training checklist with the JTAC trainee. E.g., review the mission objective for an unmanned aircraft doing ISR communicating with a JTAC who relays the information to the ground force commander.
In VR, we simulate the radio interface in software; ASTi has GUIs for PRC-117F/G, PRC-148, -152, -163, -167 and -355. In MR, the same software applies, but simulated hardware panels are also an option. In AR, the trainee will use the real MIL radios with Voisus bridging them to the LVC domain via RoIP.
For JTAC training: The trainee can communicate over the simulated or live radio to an A-10 or F-35 for close air support (CAS).
Realistic Sound Field
In all cases, ASTi’s Voisus software will monitor the simulation network to automate a 360-degree soundscape of the virtual battlespace. Whether that comes through a headset with a head tracker or an array of speakers would depend on the training space. With AR, real world sounds mix with synthetic sounds from simulated entities (aircraft, vehicles, etc.), fires, detonations, and more to add those elements without the associated real-world costs.
For JTAC training: The trainee can hear the A-10 or F-35 fly overhead and deliver ordnance.
In all cases, ASTi software interfaces with DTED, OWT or other terrain data to apply location and terrain-induced degradation effects to radio comms between entities in the simulation.
For JTAC training: The trainee learns about comms countermeasures by being on the receiving end of jamming, degrading, and natural terrain masking on both line-of-sight and beyond-LOS radio comms and data links.
With VR, MR, and AR, ASTi’s combination of speech recognition, text-to-speech, and situational artificial intelligence allows trainees to interact with virtual role players, avatars, NPCs and other entities like aircraft and “crewed” land vehicles.
For JTAC training: The trainee provides CAS information about one (of many) targets to a synthetic entity with a virtual crew. The crew/aircraft responds to student instructions and delivers ordnance appropriately.
Unique AR Capabilities
ASTi solutions in the AR space can run on wearable, compact computer modules that are size, weight and power (SWaP) optimized. We offer peer-to-peer or client-server based software solutions that are optimized for operation over 5G and tactical Mobile, Ad hoc NETworks (MANET).
The Reality of ASTi in XR
ASTi’s expertise in communications, radio simulation, data links, sound, air traffic control (ATC) and LVC can benefit almost any XR training use case, including:
- Fixed- and rotary-wing pilot training
- Army soldier, vehicle and aviation training
- Anti-aircraft and anti-tank training
- JTAC, CAS, CFF and joint fires
- Maintenance training
- Command, control and battlefield planning
- RPA/UAV/UAS training
- Tactical edge and live-soldier raining
- Naval training (control rooms, weapons systems, etc.)
Check out some specific XR solutions we highlight on our website.
If you have an AR/MR/VR training application, give us a call to discuss the details.
Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing… Maybe??
While we regret muddling the timeless words of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, when it comes to training radio operations—or using radios at all as part of more specialized training—the Real Thing isn't always the Best Choice.
There are a number of reasons a training program would want to avoid using real tactical radios during training. The most obvious is cost (some modern manpack radios can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece), but RF emissions pollution, security, convenience, and ease-of-deployment are also reasons to ditch real radios for your training application. Even if you can get your hands on them!
But that doesn’t mean your training effectiveness has to suffer through unrealistic or generic control interfaces. ASTi offers a number of different options to replicate or simulate your favorite tactical radio.
ASTi makes hardware representations that look and feel like military radios and tactical consoles. The knobs, switches, lights, keypads, etc. are all modeled after the real thing, and provide a tactile element missing from other computer-based radio simulations. Embedded electronics communicate with ASTi software radio models to process control inputs and adjust the virtual radio’s behavior in the simulation. You can’t get much closer to “real” than these.
These graphical reproductions of a radio’s front face are usually hosted on a touchscreen PC and use one of ASTi’s comms clients to participate in the simulated environment. They eliminate negative training and provide familiar visual cues that encourage proper radio operation procedures for that model of radio. While these on-screen faceplates do not offer the same hands-on experience, they provide a bit more realism to the training environment at a lower cost than their hardware counterparts.
Build Your Own
ASTi’s simulated radio environment features a published Application Programming Interface (API) so other systems can monitor, configure and manipulate virtual radios. Create your own graphical radio and hook up its controls to the API. ASTi also offers no-code game and game engine plugins (e.g., VBS4, Unreal Engine, Unity) to achieve the same functionality, but with less customer development effort.
We’ve developed hardware or software interfaces for the radios and tactical consoles listed below.
- AN/PRC-117F Falcon II Multiband Multimission Manpack Radio (MBMMR)
- AN/PRC-117G Falcon III Multiband Networking Manpack Radio (MNMR)
- AN/PRC-119 SINCGARS SIP and ASIP
- AN/PRC-148 Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (MBITR)
- AN/PRC-152 Multiband Handheld Radio
- Icom M330 Marine Radio
- Integrated Voice Communications Systems (IVCS)
- Land Forces Support Radio (LFSR) Select Unit (SU) and Control Unit (CU)
- Medium Control Audio Panel (MCAP) and Radio Control Unit (RCU)
- Programmable Inter-Communications Terminal (PICT)
- Remote Multi-channel Terminal (RMT)
- Shipboard Integrated Communications System (SHINCOM) 2100 & 3100
- Sound-Powered Phone
- Stryker Full Function Crew Station (FFCS)
- TOCNET Crew Access Unit (CAU)
- UK/PRC355 Bowman
- Under Water Telephone (UWT) Main Control Unit (MCU) & Remote Control Unit (RCU)
- Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) CSC/JPTT
- Universal Radio Control 200 (URC-200)
- VHF Marine Mobile Radio (MMR) Main Control Unit (MCU) and Select Control Unit (SCU)
- Virtual Console Multi-Channel Terminal Assembly (VCMT)
… and more!
If you don’t see yours on the list, give us a call. We’re pretty good at this.
ASTi’s SERA is Modernizing Military Aviation Training
What is SERA?
ASTi's Simulated Environment for Realistic ATC (SERA) is a revolutionary product that creates virtual aircraft, pilots, and controllers within your simulation that you can see, hear, and interact with. It transforms your training environment from a lonely, sterile, and eerily-quiet place to one filled with the sights and sounds of real-world military aviation.
Trainees interact with SERA's built-in artificial intelligence to master radio communications procedures and readbacks among a rich, simulated radio environment filled with the voices of virtual pilots and controllers. It increases students' mental workloads while enhancing their immersion for better situational awareness training.
Is SERA Self-Aware/Dangerous/The Singularity?
We don’t think so! Leaving aside the Terminator jokes, SERA's AI underpinnings and automation are safe to use, and friendly to humans. SERA does not replace human instructors or role-players outright. It offloads some role-playing duties to reduce instructor workload, freeing them to concentrate on student training and evaluation. Where live controllers are desired, SERA can augment the simulation by adding background chatter to the radio environment making it sound more realistic.
But when the whistle blows, and your live ATC role players and instructors clock out for the day, the training's over, right? It doesn't have to be. SERA has the ability to integrate with a virtual flight instructor to facilitate independent training. The "instructor" helps the student, while SERA handles all the ATC. This is the closest that the SERA system comes to subjugating human-kind… honestly.
Wait, Did You Say Evaluation?
Yep. SERA's customizable training runs offer repeatable scenarios featuring pilot mistakes, malfunctions, inclement weather and emergencies that can be used as objectively scored metrics of pilot performance. While it already features its own in-app scoring system, SERA also offers a software API for integration with learning management systems (LMS). It can also be integrated with your training center's IOS platforms.
Sounds Neat, but Where Does SERA Fit in Military Aviation Training?
SERA can augment any phase of training that requires simulated ATC and other traffic, including: initial entry, pre-flight, primary, instrument, combat skills, and flight officer.
SERA can be used in any fixed- and rotary-wing trainers. They can be virtual reality, mixed reality, or even desktop simulators; SERA fits with any fidelity training program. It works in part-task trainers (PTTs), flight training devices (FTDs), unit training devices (UTDs), operational flight trainers (OFTs), full flight simulators (FFSs) and is adaptable to any simulated airframe or flavor of alphabet soup.
Can You Prove It?
Sure. Here's a list of some military training programs that already use SERA:
- USN, CNATRA, Training Wing SIX
- USN, CH47
- UK RAF, CH-47
- RAAF, PC-21
- Chilean AF, CJ-1
- USAF, RC-135
- DOD, Defense Language Institute
- USCG, MH-65
- US Army, Aviation Training Next
Where Can I Learn More?
Visit seraatc.com or email us.
Que sera, sera!
"Just Not a Team Player, I Guess?"
A Parable About Schedules, Cycle Times, and Shaping New Behaviors
Originally published Fall 1997
O nce upon a time, there lived a man named Clarence who had a pet frog named Felix. Clarence lived a modestly comfortable existence on what he earned working as a junior manager at the WalMart, but he always dreamed of being promoted to the ranks of senior management, and maybe even one day publishing a book on management techniques. "Felix!" he exclaimed one day, "We're going to be rich! I'm going to teach you how to fly!"
Felix, of course, was terrified at the prospect. "I can't fly, you fool... I'm a frog, not a canary!"
Clarence, disappointed at the initial reaction, told Felix, "That negative attitude of yours could be a real problem. I'm going to send you to class for some team training."
So Felix went to a three-day class and learned about integrated product development teams, continuously monitored improvement programs, total quality management, and effective communication... but nothing about flying. On the first day of flying lessons, Clarence could barely control his excitement (and Felix could barely control his bladder). Clarence explained that their apartment had 15 floors, and each day Felix would jump out of a window, starting with the first floor, eventually getting to the top floor. After each jump, Felix would analyze how well he flew, isolate on the most effective flying techniques, and implement the improved process for the next flight. By the time they reached the top floor, Felix would surely be able to fly. Viewgraph presentations would be given to senior management outlining the accomplishments.
On the first day, on the first floor, Felix pleaded for his life, but it fell on deaf ears. "He just doesn't understand how important this is..." thought Clarence, "but I won't let nay-sayers get in my way." So with that, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out (who landed with a thud).
The next day (poised for his second flying lesson) Felix again begged not to be thrown out of the window. Clarence opened his pocket-guide to Managing More Effectively and showed Felix the part about how one must always expect resistance when implementing new programs. And with that, he threw Felix out the window. (THUD)
On the third day (at the third floor) Felix tried a different ploy: stalling, he asked for a delay in the "project" until better weather would make flying conditions more favorable.
But Clarence was ready for him. He produced a timeline and pointed to the third milestone and asked, "You don't want to slip the schedule do you?" From his training, Felix knew that not jumping today would mean that he would have to jump TWICE tomorrow... so he just said, "OK. Let's go." And out the window he went. (THUD)
Now this is not to say that Felix wasn't trying his best. On the fifth day he flapped his feet madly in a vain attempt to fly. On the sixth day, he tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think "Superman" thoughts.
At this point, Clarence, clearly destined for the ranks of senior management, issued Felix a team hat and coffee mug. But try as he might, he couldn't fly.
By the seventh day, Felix (accepting his fate) no longer begged for mercy... he simply looked at Clarence and said, "You know you're killing me, don't you?"
Clarence pointed out that Felix's performance so far had been less than exemplary, failing to meet any of the milestone goals he had set for him.
With that, Felix sighed and said, "Shut up and open the window," and he leaped out, taking careful aim on the large jagged rock by the corner of the building. And Felix went to that great Lily Pad in the Sky.
Clarence was extremely upset, as his project had been successfully meeting every intermediate milestone, only to be thwarted by his recalcitrant frog. Felix had not only failed to fly, he didn't even learn how to steer his flight as he fell... nor did he improve his productivity when Clarence had told him to "Fall smarter, not harder."
Clarence pondered long and hard before deciding what had gone wrong with the project.
After much thought, Clarence smiled and said, "Next time, I'm getting... a smarter frog!"