Royal Canadian Navy to integrate augmented reality based systems

April 4, 2019


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Recent adoption of augmented reality (AR) by the Royal Canadian Navy reveals that the technology is being used militarily with a view towards a variety of objectives.

The Royal Canadian Navy has partnered with Kognitiv Spark with a view towards using AR technology with the objective of improving maintenance and repairs on naval vessels.

The announcement was made at the end of last month.  Kognitiv Spark provides industrial task support software.  The New Brunswick based company utilizes a number of emergent technologies in its software solutions.  These include 3D content, artificial intelligence, live internet of things (IoT) data, as well as augmented reality.

Read More: How Mixed Reality is Transforming Collaborative Cancer Research

The company has a history of working with military clients.  Prior to this partnership, it had an existing business relationship with the Royal Canadian Navy – as well as the army and air force.  As part of the deal, the navy will test AR software developed by Kognitiv Spark.  It will utilize a Mixed Reality Remote Assistant Support (MIRRAS) system in order to assist technicians in improving maintenance and repairs aboard active vessels.

Military Use Case For AR Tech

It’s fair to say that the potential use cases for AR tech are expansive.  That’s despite the fact that the technology is a long way from maturity. Even when we consider military/intelligence use cases, the technology is emerging with a very diverse set of use cases within that one sector alone.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is utilizing AR through its OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program.  The software creates an executable command terminal with decision presentation capabilities alongside an immersive situational awareness capability.  In essence, what this converts into is a technology that can be used to advance the future of warfare, particularly in an urban combat scenario.

In fact, there’s so much scope for the use of AR in this manner that the term ‘tactical augmented reality’ (TAR) has entered the lexicon.  TAR encapsulates the army’s efforts to network combatants in the field.  It helps them establish where they are, where their comrades are and more importantly still, where their adversary is.

Another system to be developed in the same vein includes the Heads Up Navigation, Tracking and Reporting (HUNTR) system.  Whilst it has been developed on the back of data collected over three decades, its likely to take some years yet until it will be used in an active war zone.

HUD 3.0 has been developed as a head-mounted display which assists soldiers in aiming better and navigating better.  Additionally, it acts as a training tool.  It may be used to test and hone the reaction of combatants – in terms of their response to virtually projected enemies.

AR and the Intelligence Community

As with the military, no new technology emerges without some consideration and assessment of how it may help from the point of view of intelligence agencies.

Immersive Wisdom is a company that offers a virtual, mixed and AR software platform for real time intelligence and multi-user geospatial collaboration.  Last year, In-Q-Tel – the venture capital branch of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made a significant investment in the company.

Read More: CIA venture arm In-Q-Tel invests in VR, AR intelligence, collaboration platform

Amongst the applications for the AR based technology are distributed mission planning, intelligence analysis, real-time battle-space situational awareness.  The tech can be used at centers for virtual tactical operations and virtual cyber security operations.

Pokémon Go most likely has represented the greatest opportunity to get AR technology in front of a wider public audience.  The mobile game – which relies upon a combination of AR and GPS – was wildly popular upon release in 2016.  In that year, Pokémon became the most profitable and most used mobile app.  By year end, it had been downloaded 500 million times.

The CIA is implicated in its establishment insofar as they had previously invested in a company that pre-dated the release of the augmented reality based mobile game.  John Hanke is the founder and CEO of Niantic Inc – the software development company that designed Pokémon.  Hanke had previously received investment from the CIA’s investment arm – In-Q-Tel for Keyhole Inc — a geospatial mapping company whose technology was used in the Iraq War and later became integrated into Google Maps.

Read More: CIA-backed, NSA-approved Pokemon GO users give away all privacy rights

Privacy concerns have been expressed in relation to the app and the CIA’s involvement.  The understanding is that the AR based mobile game has been used as a surveillance mechanism.  On its website, In-Q-Tel states that its mission is “to identify and deliver cutting edge technologies to the U.S. intelligence community to enable IC agencies to carry out their national security missions.”

Whilst any such privacy issue in this instance isn’t immediately facilitated by AR, it is implicated given that AR was central to the nature of the popular mobile game.

Augmented reality remains very much an emerging technology – the full implications of which remain largely unknown.  It’s use in the military and intelligence sphere is already widespread, whether that be at a testing and experimental stage or implemented use case.


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