UND and its research partners have been awarded a $5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop augmented reality technology for U.S. Army vehicles.
The university, along with AM General and ARA, will be developing technology that will allow soldiers operating or riding in Humvees to see battlefield data visually represented as an AR heads-up display on the windshield, UND said in a press release.
This involves determining the best methods for collecting available battlefield data, maintaining its security and displaying it in a manner that provides full battlefield situational awareness.
“The goal is that when the operator looks through the windscreen, he or she will see an augmented view of the world,” said Jeremiah Neubert, professor of mechanical engineering at UND and principal investigator on the Humvee project. “The operator will be able to see road edges, buildings, obstacles, people and so on. So operators can drive without lights at night, if they have to, or through dust storms or fog.”
Neubert said this work will put UND “right at the cutting edge of Heads-Up Display technology.”
“There will be no one with any more advanced technology than we’ll have, as this project proceeds,” he said.
Mark Askelson, executive director of UND’s Research Institute for Autonomous Systems, noted that autonomy is one of UND’s grand challenges.
“We’re proud to have pioneered the development of autonomous technology in aircraft, and we’re thrilled to now be doing the same in ground vehicles,” Askelson said.
Askelson said he’s excited to bring UND’s work to help the nation’s defense department.
“We can solve these very real problems that are affecting people in the field,” he said. “We can help the operators execute their missions with greater safety and more efficiency. And that gets all of us pumped up.”
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the technology is “critical support” for service members that will provide them with “better awareness to counter threats and succeed in their missions.”
“This project will help develop new systems for providing important data to our soldiers in their vehicles on the battlefield,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a news release. “At the same time, this is an important opportunity to continue building UND’s research expertise and is part of our efforts to secure additional investment in our state’s tech industry, ensuring this sector continues serving as the third wave in North Dakota’s economic growth.”
Earlier this year, UND accepted delivery of a Humvee from AM General, the vehicle’s manufacturer. That Humvee now is housed in the Tech Accelerator Building on the western edge of campus, according to the UND news release.
Once UND researchers develop and install autonomous systems technology on the vehicle, extensive testing is likely to take place at AM General’s Proving Grounds and Testing Center, a 300-acre facility in South Bend, Ind.
Applied Research Associates (ARA), UND’s other research partner on the project, is an Albuquerque, N.M.-based company that offers science and engineering research on problems of national importance.
The project will involve different aspects of campus, including the engineering and aerospace schools, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences and RIAS.
The psychology department will be conducting human-factors research, analyzing such elements as Humvee operators’ eye movements, attention span and cognitive load.
“We want to make sure the Augmented Reality technology is not intrusive,” Neubert said. “We don’t want the technology to make people confused, in other words. It has to be something that’s really easy to pick up on, and that actually makes it easier for the operators to do their jobs.”