Seattle-based Haptx and Orlando-based Engineering & Computer Simulations collaborated on new technology designed to help medics assist soldiers wounded in action. The high-tech work is part of the U.S. Army’s recent effort to modernize existing deals, including its Tactical Combat Casualty Care contract.
ENGINEERING & COMPUTER SIMULATIONS VIA TWITTER
There is a moment in a virtual reality scenario dreamed up by an Orlando company at which users must grasp on to the body of a wounded soldier and roll him on his side.
As they do, sensors embedded in a pair of oversized gloves are triggered, giving wearers just enough resistance to make them feel as if there were a real body on the table in front of them.
Known as “haptic feedback,” the technology has become one of the latest advances being explored for the training of U.S. and international military personnel.
The gloves and virtual reality goggles kept a steady stream of visitors flowing to Engineering & Computer Simulations booth at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando this week.
The conference quickly emerged as the perfect site for the company to show off the VR environment, which was embedded into gloves built by Seattle-based Haptx, said ECS CEO Waymon Armstrong.
“It’s incredibly important to have something you can put your hands on and demo,” he said. “People can talk about it all they want but when they try it, they believe in it and they get it.”
The defense conference, known as one of the largest in the world, expected this year to draw about 18,000 people to the Orange County Convention Center.
It attracts politicians, tech companies and most major military branches, all there to mingle with businesses building the latest in technology.
John Williams, communications director for the National Training and Simulation Association, which organizes I/ITSEC, said the industry’s challenge is overcoming the often slow-moving world of government contracts.
“We are not doing a good enough job of seizing those innovations and using them,” he said. “A lot of the events and speakers here are focusing on how to do that.”
The show has become just as much about making connections as it is about showcasing the latest in military defense technology.
Orlando-based Dignitas Technologies CEO Elizabeth Burch brought with her a portable VR trainer that would allow the military to train soldiers wherever they are rather than require them to visit specific locations.
She talked about the importance of connecting at I/ITSEC with major companies, as large banners announcing the presence of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman hung from the ceiling.
“This is the opportunity to showcase the technology that we have been working on this year,” Burch said. “It’s where we can see what areas our technology can feed into the next generation of what the warfighter needs.’’
The show floor included several companies working on haptic-based products, a technology that has been improving every year, Williams said.
“It’s another way of fooling you into thinking you really are in that [virtual] environment,” he said.
The ECS booth showed off a VR simulation the company built to be compatible with gloves built by Haptx. Leaders from the two companies first met at last year’s I/ITSEC show.
The demo played out several scenarios of a virtual medic trying to save a wounded soldier.
In one, users must apply their gloves, grab a pair of medical shears from a bag, strap a patient down and insert a needle into his chest.
As they do, the high-tech gloves send out pulses, making the user feel like they really are at the soldier’s bedside.
At one point in the simulation, the user ties off the virtual warrior’s leg being prepared for amputation and then must place his fingers below the strap, making sure there is no pulse present.
The high-tech work is part of the U.S. Army’s recent effort to modernize existing deals, including its Tactical Combat Casualty Care contract.
In September, ECS landed a $1.2 million contract to develop technology and deliver a product within two years.