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Virtual and Augmented Reality a Game Changer for Soldier Learning

By ECBC Public Affairs | March 23rd, 2018 | Print

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ECBC software designer Don Lail describes Army advances in virtual and augmented reality at the Northeast Maryland Technology Council STEM Summit at Towson University in Northeast Maryland on March 15.

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How can the U.S. Army train Soldiers to investigate a clandestine laboratory without risking possible exposure? By immersing them in a simulation using Virtual Reality (VR), according to Don Lail, a U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) multimedia specialist.

Lail was speaking on the topic of mixed reality at the 15th STEM Summit, Disrupting the Classroom, an event organized by the Northeastern Maryland Technology Council and held at Towson University in Northeastern Maryland. The event attracted attendees from industry and academia who came to hear experts from various fields describe how innovative technology holds the potential to profoundly change the future of education.

Lail, along with the rest of the team at ECBC’s Interactive Software and Visual Media Branch, have used VR to create training tools that aid Soldiers in learning new, technically complex tasks such as how to safely and effectively perform sensitive site assessment in a potentially dangerous environment.

“Users can move through the virtual lab freely, and we give them the ability to use a camera to record their findings. Afterward, a trainer can sit with them to go through the photos and tell them whether they got useful information,” said Lail.

He also described ECBC’s strides in making augmented reality (AR) a powerful teaching tool. “We have found AR to be largely unexplored and little understood,” said Lail, “So the majority of our work with AR has served the purpose of introducing potential applications of this advanced technology to serve Army needs.”

“One example is a tool we’ve created that superimposes 3D visualizations, such as instructions, on a real piece of hardware,’ he said. “We are also currently developing a prototype that uses an advanced ECBC chemical biological agent sensor array called the Integrated Early Warning to visualize distant, large-scale chemical threats in 3D directly to a Soldier in the field.”

Other speakers at the summit covered game-based education and putting learning outcome analytics in the hands of student so they can manage their own education.

Since 2011, the Northeastern Maryland Technology Council has been bringing educators, private industry, and government scientists together to discuss STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) topics of mutual interest in order to improve STEM education in the region. Created in 1990, the Council connects member companies, organizations, and individuals to peers, influencers, and decision makers through organized networking, workshops and other collaborative initiatives.


ECBC is a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command laboratory and is the U.S. Army’s principal research and development center for chemical and biological defense technology, engineering and field operations. ECBC has achieved major technological advances for the warfighter and for our national defense, with a long and distinguished history of providing the Armed Forces with quality systems and outstanding customer service. References to commercial products or entities in this article does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Army of the products or services offered.

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