Preliminary Evaluations of Wearable XR Viewing and Interaction Hardware for Prolonged Use in Military Settings

Garrett, G1., Reid, C1., Jenkins, M2., Talbot, T3., and Doherty, S4.

Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (September 2018). 

Augmented or mixed reality devices overlay computer-generated sensory information that alters one’s current view of the real world. Gaming, military, and instructional applications are fairly prevalent, however, industrial applications are still in their infancy despite this dramatic increase in commercial products. Being a novel application to industry, designers of these systems have focused on function; but have only given a cursory look towards user population safety, ergonomic risk hazards, and long-term exposure concerns. How should designers design for human safety use concerns while maintaining system function? Besides form and function what, if any, safety considerations should public consumers and industries contemplate before buying commercial ready off-the-shelf systems? Ultimately, how do we use ergonomics assessments to better design, assess, and demonstrate business case use of mixed reality devices to benefit labor-intensive occupational tasks? The session will start with initial lectures and introductions from the panel, followed by an encouraged panel discussion with the audience led by the moderators.

Charles River Analytics
University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies
Emery-Riddle Aeronautical University

During this panel, Dr. Jenkins seeded discussions by delivering the following presentation.

Discussion during Effects of Prolonged Use of Mixed Reality Systems in Occupational Settings Discussion Panel Session

Dr. Michael Jenkins (Presenter), Charles River Analytics

Dr. Thomas Talbot, University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies

In recent years, wearable Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality (XR) technologies have supported users in a variety of domains to enhance situation awareness (SA), enable on-the-job training, foster effective communications, and support decision making in complex and uncertain situations. To date, consumer and commercial applications have been the primary drivers of wearable XR technology. DoD-relevant XR wearables are beginning to emerge, with applications primarily seen in Warfighter training and simulation, such as enhanced optics that provide sensor-based filters (e.g., night vision) versus spatially localized view augmentations. Wearable XR approaches have not been widely adopted by the US military, despite the potential to significantly enhance many of US Warfighter operations. However, history has shown that introducing novel technologies into complex domains without comprehensive consideration of the domain, its users, the environment, and the constraints and affordances that result from each in isolation and through interactions is rarely successful. As a result, investments into XR-based technologies must be informed to ensure pursuits maximize the potential to succeed and yield a significant return-on-investment (ROI).

While XR technologies hold significant potential to augment and enhance multiple aspects of US military operations, many factors must be considered, especially in the prolonged use-cases of most military applications. Among them are XR display platforms, visualization techniques, supporting algorithms (e.g., for accurate presentation of virtual information overlaid on the physical world), and operational considerations such as reliability and size, weight, power, cost (SWaP-C). For example, a solution with a poor field of view (FOV) may compromise Warfighter safety, result in disorientation and compromised mission readiness, or even contribute to short-term or long-term health risks. Therefore, a disciplined research approach is required to identify applicable XR hardware and software to support candidate Warfighter operations.

To address this need, Charles River Analytics is conducting a trade study of XR technologies with a focus on evaluating candidate commercial off-the shelf (COTS) devices for military applications. To date, we have evaluated a mix of COTS devices, including 40+ XR wearable viewing peripheral (primarily head-mounted displays) and 30+ XR interaction peripherals. Based on preliminary results, we conducted a strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis focused initially on the application of wearable augmented reality technology in the US military. With this tool, we intend to guide R&D investments and efforts based on the evolving and typically fragmented hardware landscape. We will continue to evaluate soon-to-be released devices available to us through strategic partnerships within the XR industry.

For More Information

To learn more or request a copy of a paper (if available), contact Michael Jenkins.

(Please include your name, address, organization, and the paper reference. Requests without this information will not be honored.)