ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Army is demonstrating how mixed-reality technology could revolutionize generator maintenance and training.
The Army’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center is integrating commercial-off-the-shelf virtual-reality goggles with maintenance guidance and machine learning prioritized troubleshooting steps.
Daniel Goeggel, an electronics engineer with the Center’s Engineering and Systems Integration Directorate, and his colleagues are showing how mixed-reality technology can transform the way Soldiers maintain the Advanced Medium Mobile Power Sources, or AMMPS, a generator fielded extensively across the Army and Marine Corps. The C5ISR Center is an element of the Combat Capabilities Development Command.
As a Soldier puts on the headset, a mixed-reality experience comes alive to deliver a breakthrough in how the Army thinks about generator training and maintenance, according to Goeggel. C5ISR Center engineers are blending commercial goggle technology to provide visual aid with machine-learning algorithms developed in the past year to improve diagnostic accuracy and reduce troubleshooting times.
Staff Sgt. Jennifer Woolums, a tactical power generation specialist with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, participated in the May technology demonstration at APG for a first-hand look at the Center’s work.
“Putting on that headset brings me to the right troubleshooting procedures, right away,” Woolums said. “It gives Soldiers so many resources in one headset that we never had before.
“It’s going to be easier for a Soldier to troubleshoot, find the initial problem, get the part ordered, and get the piece of equipment up and running in a timely manner. It’ll save hours of time. Being able to maximize a Soldier’s time is the most important thing,” said Woolums.
The mixed-reality tech brings the user into virtual step-by-step guides to navigate the system. Virtual graphics, text, videos and tools are overlaid on the physical system to serve as high-tech visual aids. The technology allows the maintenance technician to have a hands-free way of viewing technical instructions with greater detail than previously presented.
Based on the user’s responses to questions on the generator’s operating state, the software predicts with a high degree of certainty the most likely problem and guides users to the appropriate troubleshooting steps. These predictions are generated from a large amount of AMMPS maintenance data collected and analyzed by the engineering team during the past year, Goeggel said. The machine learning algorithms adjust recommendations based upon new data that can provide instant modifications to troubleshooting guidance which historically required release of slow and costly paper technical manual updates.
“Our branch focuses on revolutionizing the maintenance process,” Goeggel said. “This research in mixed reality supplements Soldiers’ training and experience in maintaining this complex equipment. The goal is to improve readiness by saving Soldiers’ time and overall system performance and reliability.”
The project brings a myriad of additional benefits. First, the team uses commercially produced goggles that allows the Army to take advantage continually improving technology and cost savings. Also, the user can take advantage of a “phone a friend” feature to connect with another person such as a field service representative, who can view the same mixed-reality experience to provide assistance.
Finally, the project creates a “digital twin” for virtual training without the need to be located with the equipment. When there are a limited number of physical AMMPS systems available for training, more Soldiers can use the virtual replication. The C5ISR Center is exploring ways in which this technology can be fielded to the Warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is the Army’s applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.