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Augmented, Virtual Reality: Changing Airmen’s learning experience

Representing Air Education and Training Command, two different projects and the project owners will compete against other inventive solutions across the Air Force, each vying to win this year’s Spark Tank Contest, Air Force senior leaders’ call to action to provide innovative, game-changing solutions. Through the use of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, the learning tools available to Airmen will be exponentially greater. (Courtesy Image)

Representing Air Education and Training Command, two different projects and the project owners will compete against other inventive solutions across the Air Force, each vying to win this year’s Spark Tank Contest, Air Force senior leaders’ call to action to provide innovative, game-changing solutions. Through the use of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, the learning tools available to Airmen will be exponentially greater. (Courtesy Image)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas-- The brightest minds across the Air Force have answered senior leaders’ call to action to provide innovative, game-changing solutions for a contest  known as the Air Force Spark Tank.

Representing Air Education and Training Command, two different projects and the project owners will compete against other inventive solutions across the Air Force, each vying to win this year’s contest.

The First Command’s mission is to recruit, train and educate the Air Force’s newest Airmen, and it seems fitting that the two proposed projects revolve around the enhancement of an Airman’s learning experience.

These two similar, yet different proposals suggest that by digging deeper into how Airmen of tomorrow are trained and educated, the learning tools available to our Airmen will be exponentially greater through the use of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.

“At AETC we continue to explore technology and how that technology can produce better and faster learning,” Travis Laughlin, program developer with the 367th Training Support Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, said.  “So, it’s no surprise that our top innovation submissions would revolve around the addition of technology in the learning process for Airmen.”

Both submissions involve the use of the latest technological platforms to train and educate in an accelerated, cost efficient, learning-focused manner.

“Our proposed submission is to develop and implement augmented reality for initial use in the training environment,” said Laughlin. “By developing software intended to work with smart glasses for example, augmented reality has the ability to teach through visual and hands-on learning methods by providing an interactive overlay that identifies key assets and displays technical data information to the user.”

“If utilized to its potential, augmented reality can be applied in the operational Air Force to incorporate technical orders, providing personnel with a breakdown of components, including part numbers and performance steps,” he/she continued. “Applying augmented reality to tasks that are both complex and infrequent would provide a much-needed bridge between technical orders and hands on experience.”

By comparing what industry partners have embraced over the years, the use of immersive multimedia training via VR and AR would heighten the students’ learning experience and potential.

“Technology itself has grown to incorporate more ubiquitous computing devices for communicating and learning,” said Dr. Charles Mayberry, AETC’s C-130 training manager at JBSA-Randolph. “By incorporating our phones, tablets and even the use of gaming goggles, we now have the capability to immerse our students into scenarios that will better adhere knowledge into long term memory in a shorter period of time.”

“As we move to embrace the Continuum of Learning, the devices our students carry with them provide us with an excellent medium to continue their education and training,” Mayberry continued. “The use of VR and AR will add to our efforts to train maintenance procedures, medical tasks and flight scenarios.”

AETC officials have begun testing this concept by immersing students into their surroundings with an AR tool designed for loadmaster technical training students at the C-130 schoolhouses at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

Loadmaster students practice loading and unloading a simulated aircraft, using real world scenarios.

“The goal is to integrate an efficient and effective AR training tool to provide loadmasters with the skills they need before they train on an aircraft,” said Mayberry. “The scenarios will test how the AR device may improve training capabilities to teach normal and emergency flight procedures to students. The results may show a way to save the government millions of dollars in fuel cost savings and redefine the way our students train using AR.”