Daily report: Naval Research Lab

By Ties de Kock

This day in Washington DC started off a bit different then most other days here, or in New York. The difference? We got up very early (6.45 AM).

As usual there was a queue for our shower. Showering, shaving and then putting on your suit taks quite some time. The result? We almost missed breakfast, but with five minutes left I entered and got myself a orange juice, coffee, and a doggee bag of awfully sweet pieces of bread. I’m still not used to the sweet breakfast.k

When I got into the bus my first idea was “second breakfast”. I needed something real to eat, cakes and bagels don’t do it for me in the morning.k

After arriving at the national mall (towards the National Monument) we decided to take a walk before eating breakfast. Our group was pretty big and consisted of my nareis group, Michael, Jap en Gom and some others.k

When we were at the national monument we saw the nice view of the capitol in the morning sun, but at the other side there was the Lincoln memorial, WWII memorial and the reflecting pool. We decided to visit the Lincoln memorial.k

The walk towards the WWII memorial was quite long, and during this walk I realized the scale of the national mall, it gave me a solemn feeling. The WWII memorial was impressive, much more so then the “Monument at the dam” in the Netherlands. All the symmetry in the buildings and surroundings suddenly got my attention. When I clean up my photos, I guess I’ll need to delete the 50 or so that have perfect symmetry (but the subject in the middle, with the same subject being much prettier on postcards).k

After walking to the Lincoln memorial (besides the reflecting pool), we went upstairs. The monument was pretty big, and the same goes for the texts on the wall. However, after Gom and me talked to a lady from the park service (must have been the suits), we discovered a much nicer view behind the memorial towards Arlington commentary. The map she gave us also helped during the rest of our tour, and she was right when she said that it was much better than the other maps. It was certainly better then Mark’s $8 map (in my opinion).k

We walked towards the White House, past the Vietnam war memorial. At the memorial there was a group of Asians (Vietnamese?) taking pictures of themselves. The wall with names was big, but it was a clean memorial. The museum and walls at Omaha beach (France) left a much bigger impression.k

After walking past the whitehouse (which has a north front and a south front, according the the police officer standing in front of it) we went to a food court and had some subway. By now I realized that the subway sandwhich might be the only vegetables I get on a day (…) and I order them without sauces.k

When we gathered at the bus we went towards the Naval Research Laboratory. This is a research facility of the navy, which has about 2000 employees and a $1 billion budget. After the security check (we had all been cleared beforehand), we got a sticker that said visitor. Two members of the lab we visited took us towards their buildings.k

The first lab demonstrated two prototypes. The first was a virtual infantry simulator with in place walking (Gator), using a heads up display with blinds, a inert M16 and a Vicon motion capturing system. The simulator seemed to be very responsive, however, the walk in place system looked strange.k

According to the designers, the simulation of assuming the ready position was slightly flawed, which caused negative training. Other problems with the simulator were the space it needs (a 10x10 feet room) and the cost (it includes a $100000 Vicon system).k

Their second system was called Pointman. In the virtual infantry simulator they use (virtual battlefield 2), the real looking tactics during squad work are hard to train. This stems from the controls. A mouse and keyboard are very well suited to strafing tactics, but in practice, a soldier needs to look in a other direction then he moves.k

They explained the input method Pointman used. It uses a PS3 controller and a 6DOF head tracker based on a standard tracker with infrared leds and a headset, combined with “walking pedals” on the floor. The controller uses it’s two sticks to control heading and view direction. Adjustments of the aim are done by looking towards the target, and peeking around a corner is done by moving your upper body.k

The abstraction for walking was leaky (pushing pedals) but all In all, I can agree with them when they say it was a better input mechanism for VBS2 while being deployable at scale because of it’s $400 pricepoint. Another advantage was the field of view – which was bigger then the current headmounted displays when using a big monitor.k

The second lab showed products which were more into their prototype phase. The first was another virtual infantry simulator, which used a joystick to control movement instead of actual walking. The problems encountered were the changes in the simulator world (it was not based on VBS 2), untraining of marksmanship because of the delay in the handling of the gun, and the amount of wires. A nice comment was that the backpack worn in the simulator needed to be pretty big. A small backpack was commented on by the marines.k

The second project used a wireless ECG headset to adjust the difficulty of a training mission based on some parameters extracted from the ECG data. They developed a tool that used multiple streams and a rule engine to decide what action to take. They controlled VBS2 using macro’s. k

They did not trust the data from the ECG headset very much, however, it being wireless was a big advantage. They also noted that the typical crewcut was nice when working with ECG, the impedance of the hair is much lower that way.k

Afterwards we had a discussion about research funding, where we discovered that projects at the NRL run for three years, one of which is the time it takes to get a grant. Follow up research does not happen all the time. Some of the researchers seemed to be disappointed about this, however, they could keep on trying state of the art ideas because of this. Afterwards, we went back to the mall. I stayed in the bus until the motel, where we split up. One group took care of the drinks, another ordered pizza. We had a beer+pizza meal. It was a fun evening in the “common room” (ie: the one which was promised for group usage, but where Gijs and Fritsie slept).


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