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Navy Lab focuses on 360-videos to provide low-cost, virtual training for warfighters

By David Rousseau and Patric Petrie, SSC Pacific

The Navy conducts a wide variety of training operations, some of which are dangerous, very expensive, or infrequently done. The Battlespace Exploitation and Mixed Reality (BEMR) Lab, based at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) in San Diego, is using 360-degree videos to provide initial familiarization and virtual experience for these tasks that can significantly reduce the cost and risk. 
 Marine with 360 degree camera

For example:

Mid-air refueling is a challenging task that fighter pilots must master.
During mid-air refueling the turbulence around the front of the aircraft makes the refueling “basket” move around. It requires skill and practice to be successful at this task, and the risks of damaging the basket, or having the basket hit the aircraft, can have serious consequences. Letting new pilots virtually experience mid-air refueling by seeing 360-degree video displayed in a 360-degree viewer such as the Samsung GearVR will prepare them for the refueling task without risk and without the high cost of actual mid-air refueling operations. 

SSC Pacific’s Role

SSC Pacific’s BEMR Lab is chartered with exploring, evaluating, and applying virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology for rapid-prototyping, operations, maintenance, and training to the Navy and Marine Corps. The BEMR Lab has therefore acquired and evaluated several types of 360-video systems and was chosen by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Rapid Reaction Technology office (RRTO) to execute this technology introduction task.

The Lab conducted its first 360-degree video effort during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016 exercise. The annual multinational maritime exercise takes place in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The effort used Fleet Combat Camera Pacific personnel to record several 360-videos of their humanitarian assistance and disaster relief tasks. 
These included jet skis surveying the mouth of the Pearl Harbor channel; the offload of the Army's Logistic Support Vessel (LSV-2 “Clinger”) by the Second Navy Expeditionary Logistics Regiment, which moves intra-theater supplies; the setup of a 50-bed portable hospital by the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team; and the transport of patients to Ford Island and casualty triage.

The Way Ahead

Several DoD organizations have already seen the value of this technology and have contacted the BEMR Lab for hardware and software recommendations so that they can acquire their own 360-degree video systems. The use of this technology will spread throughout the fleet and DoD now that it has been introduced, and its effectiveness and low-cost has been recognized.
One of the BEMR Lab’s goals was to evaluate 360-degree video technology and introduce it to the DoD. The result is that many organizations in the Navy, Special Operations, and the DoD are now acquiring and using this technology to reduce the costs and risks of many types of training and improve after-action review. This technology is especially important for training that is dangerous or that doesn’t happen very often because of cost or scheduling. 
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