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Virtual Reality for Test Cell Presence



OBJECTIVE: Develop a virtual reality test cell presence system that provides real time three dimensional, multi-spectral, and test data access to test hardware and support systems while testing is in progress. 

DESCRIPTION: The Air Force operates complex facilities, testing one-of-a-kind test articles to be operated at or beyond their limits. Physical and visual access to the test articles and supporting hardware in test facilities is severely restricted during test runs due to personnel safety concerns and the complex and crowded test hardware installations. Current state of the art test cell visualization systems consist of a limited set of video cameras generally operating in the visible light spectrum. These cameras are typically located throughout the test cells for viewing specific areas. These fixed two-dimensional views often do not provide clear visibility of all critical or at risk hardware. The potential for minor issues growing into major issues is high. The Virtual Test Cell Presence System (VTCPS) is proposed to replace current test cell visualization systems with three dimensional camera systems tied to a Virtual Reality (VR) computer-based processing and visualization system. The proposed VTCPS hardware must be robust enough to survive in low pressure, high temperature environments that can occur in test cells (individual test cells typically have their own individual barometric and thermal constraints) and provide a real-time VR viewing experience. The VTCPS would capture in real time the video feed from a test cell visualization system and convert that imagery into a virtual world of the test cell. Virtual reality goggles would then be used by test operations engineers, craft personnel, and analysis engineers to monitor the test cell hardware by “walking around” inside the test cell in a true virtual manner. Requirements for technology development and testing during the development of the VTCPS may be extensive. A robust test cell visualization system of sufficient power and coverage to adequately allow the creation of a VR test cell environment is needed. More than just a general layout, the system needs to provide an image that can be converted into a VR environment where test personnel can inspect “blind areas” on the test article that might be buried under instrumentation cables and other hardware. An interface between the test cell visualization system and the VR hardware will be required that can process large volumes of raw video feeds into the required format for real-time VR viewing. This subsystem needs to include the future ability to bring in real-time data feeds from both standard test facility data systems and more specialized data systems such as the Computer Assisted Dynamic Data Modeling and Analysis System (CADDMAS). A software Human-Machine Interface (HMI) to the VTPCS needs to be developed that will satisfy the specific needs of the VTCPS. For example, a mechanism will be required to place a virtual traveler at a specified location in the given test cell and then remove the traveler without undue disorientation. All components of the VTCPS must be compatible with existing test cell national defense security requirements and customer proprietary requirements. During Phase I, the proposer should collaborate with Air Force staff to detail VTCPS system requirements for application to a target test facility, provide a feasibility assessment, and a conceptual system design and approach for implementation. The assessment and conceptual design should include hardware integration requirements, VTCPS Systems integration approach, as possible, provide empirical data on the performance of design concepts in a typical test facility. 

PHASE I: Develop a conceptual VTCPS design and demonstrate the feasibility of implementing a VTCPS in a typical test facility. 

PHASE II: Develop a prototype VTCPS system and demonstrate the VTCPS in a representative test cell hardware environment, including complex tubing installations with a simulated or actual test article in a non-test environment. Merge the VTCPS with existing test cell data and analysis systems to provide real-time data display in the VR environment including facility and test article parameters, such as pressures, temperatures and flow rates. 

PHASE III: Military Applications: Deliver a fully commercialized system for ground test facilities and for other DOD test organizations Commercial Applications: Deliver a fully commercialized system to industry and other Government test agencies such as NASA, auto industry test complexes, and aerospace industry test complexes. 


1: Hackathorn, Richard and Todd Margolis, "Immersive Analytics: Building Virtual Data Worlds for Collaborative Decision Support," paper submitted to the Immersive Analytics Workshop at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Virtual Reality

2:  Vora, Jeenal, et al., "Using Virtual Reality Technology for Aircraft Visual Inspection Training: Presence and Comparison Studies," Applied Ergomics, Vol. 33, Issue 6, November 2002, pp 559-670.

3:  Sanchez-Vives, Maria V. and Slater, Mel, "From Presence to Consciousness Through Virtual Reality," Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Vol. 6, April 2005, pp 332-339.

KEYWORDS: Virtual Reality, Test Cell, Software, Presence, Ground Test 


Josh Osborne 

(931) 454-7132 

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