Alabama small business sets sights on blended reality training solution for Air Force Warfighters
Airmen constantly run through training in order to build skills and remain proficient. However, addressing their complex training needs is expensive and challenging. An Alabama-based small business recently took a big step towards confronting those issues by participating in a new technology acceleration event.
Huntsville-based MSCI brought its blended reality system to the inaugural Tech Warrior OPS, held in April at the National Center for Medical Readiness, a Wright State Research Institute Laboratory in Fairborn, Ohio. The Tech Warrior Enterprise, sponsored by the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Program, matches small business technology with warfighters and other first responders to use and evaluate.
MSCI, in partnership with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, originally began work on a blended reality system with support from an Air Force STTR contract managed by the Airman Systems Directorate, a part of the 711th Human Performance Wing in Air Force Research Laboratory. The system incorporates virtual, realistic-looking 3D images into a live scene through a set of stereoscopic goggles.
Creating a more comprehensive and effective training environment, while avoiding costs associated with implementing current training methods, would be a significant win for the Air Force as well as to other services and combatant commands.
Tech Warrior OPS allowed MSCI to get its early version of the system into the hands of pararescue specialists, also known as PJs, in addition to an explosive ordinance disposal team and others in training exercises. Feedback from Tech Warrior OPS gave MSCI a better understanding of how its technology could be improved, customized and more widely applied as the company develops a prototype to compete in the next phase of the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program.
“The system is designed to create a spatial map in real time of an area and then place the virtual objects such as MRAPS (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles), or helicopters, patients, virtual patients, causalities, into that environment,” said Mike Sutton, president and CEO of MSCI. “The wearer of those goggles is able to walk around and see each one of those items very close, very detailed, very photo realistic, to give them the sense that they are part of the real environment.”
In addition to Tech Warrior OPS, the newly expanded Tech Warrior Enterprise includes the annual Operation Tech Warrior exercise – sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory in the fall – and Tech Warrior CONNECT events, which provide one-on-one assistance to small businesses throughout the year. All facets of the Tech Warrior Enterprise are intended to transition technology quickly to the field.
Participation is Tech Warrior events is free for companies, which only pay for travel and related expenses. Any small businesses with an Air Force research and development contract, especially those involved in the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program, may request to participate in the Tech Warrior Enterprise by working with its government contact or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org