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Software Tool for the Analysis of Optimal Training System Fidelity



TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Biomedical, Human Systems, Information Systems

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Live Virtual Constructive

OBJECTIVE: Develop a software tool to assess and validate the efficacy of simulation-based training technologies in an effort to enhance learning performance using “sensory analysis”.

DESCRIPTION: This problem is critical for simulator and simulation design and development. Currently there are no systematic empirically based methods that provide meaningful direction to training developers to determine how much realism (e.g., fidelity requirements) is needed to train for mission effective performance. Fidelity related design decisions are motivated by the belief that the more accurately the simulation stimulates the human sensory system, the higher the probability that the system will provide effective training (Skinner et al., 2010).

The Navy needs a scientifically sound method for determining how much realism is needed to train a specific task. As budgets tighten, it is critical that these systems are optimized for training effectiveness. Other methods (e.g., user reactions) are more prevalent, especially using subject matter expert (SME) analysis. Another promising method of task analysis is sensory analysis that relies on a detailed analysis judging the capability of a system to produce required sensory cues. However, subjectivity of sensory analysis requires empirical validation. To maximize its effectiveness, it is necessary to understand: 1) how much fidelity is necessary for effective training, 2) the relationship between predictive and empirical training evaluation methods, and 3) if expertise level affects fidelity impact on training. However, additional methods and tools are needed to support these goals, resulting in optimal training for Warfighters, while yielding gains in time and cost reduction.

This effort should generate software that provides direction for training developers and human–computer interaction and ergonomics. The software tool and the associated guidelines, which would be a natural by-product of the software, should help developers to determine the level of fidelity optimal for effective training and interface design. The end result of this effort could generate clear and concise guidance that would enable subject matter experts to develop simulation-based training that is mission effective. To this end, this SBIR effort seeks an innovative software tool that can assess and validate the efficacy of simulation-based training technologies. This software tool, and any associated hardware required to run the software, will be used to evaluate current Navy simulator training and future simulation training design and development.

PHASE I: Determine feasibility for the development of an innovative software tool that can assess and validate the efficacy of simulation-based training technologies. During Phase I, the small business will 1) empirically define the concept of simulation fidelity which also incorporates cognitive and functional fidelity in operational terms, 2) based on this concept, the small business will then develop and define a plan for the full development of the software tool in Phase II, and 3) these prior two activities should then inform the development of objective and reliable methods to assess and validate the results of the sensory analysis. The end goal of this effort is to develop, during Phase II, the software tool and its associated guidelines, principles and algorithm(s) along with documenting the methods used to develop them. The small business shall provide a Phase II development plan with performance goals, key technology milestones, and a plan for testing and validation of the proposed fidelity guidelines/ algorithm(s). During the Phase I Option, if exercised, the small business must begin the processing and submission of any necessary human subjects use protocols.

PHASE II: Based upon the Phase I effort, the small business will develop the prototype software tool to assess and validate sensory analysis and training efficacy. During Phase II, the small business will also conduct a systematic, empirically based approach to validate the sensory analysis system as conceived in Phase I. A set of guidelines for training developers must be provided from these efforts explaining principles to be used in determining how much realism (e.g., fidelity requirements) is needed. This will require a demonstration to illustrate where training developers would apply the guidelines and principles to a wide range of task types to insure that the guidelines/principles can be generalized. This research and development effort must be conducted in the context of simulations/simulators that provide training of interest to Navy and/or Marine Corps (e.g., maintenance tasks). The results of the system demonstration will be used to refine the sensory analysis software tool prototype into an initial design that will meet DOD requirements. The small business will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology for Navy and/or Marine Corp use.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The small business will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the sensory analysis software tool for its intend use. The small business will be expected to develop a plan to transition and commercialize the software and its associated guidelines and principles. Private Sector Commercial Potential: In addition to the military market, the technology could have broad applicability in technical training and education, consumer learner products, and developers of augmented and virtual reality systems.


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KEYWORDS: Fidelity, Simulation, Simulators, Sensory cues, Training Systems

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