Mixed reality is now a reality in the U.S. Army. SCOPE, the Synthetic Collective Operational Prototyping Environment, is the Army’s newest training protocol for its armored cavalry units. Developed at the Institute for Creative Technologies at USC and in conjunction with the Army Training Ground at Aberdeen and tank trainers at Fort Benning, SCOPE uses mixed reality to train its future tank commanders. In the past, trainees used role-playing as a training medium, but SCOPE will use AI to accomplish the tasks of tank gunner and loader.

The trainees are placed into a simulated, 3D battlefield environment with the objective of improving their skills, either during a training exercise or out on the battlefield. Tank commanders must learn to quickly consolidate and process input from both mission command and incoming enemies, then make whichever decision will best protect the lives of their crew.

TALK-ON, an early version of SCOPE, has already completed three rounds of testing at Fort Benning, and researchers are optimistic about their positive results. TALK-ON uses cognitive training and communications, but SCOPE will use a sophisticated sensor tracking system to train its commanders.

The project has taken almost two years to develop and is a combined effort of researchers and programmers, many of whom have military experience. This unique approach to tank training uses sensors to track the position of a person’s body and uses a headset to track eye movement so that specific areas can be targeted for additional training. Simulated repetitions enable tank commanders to become more comfortable with their tasks and more proficient at their jobs so they can save time and lives. 

Initially, three commanders will engage in simulated training that will test their performance levels in combat. Eventually, four commanders will participate, which will be representative of a full platoon of tanks. Training will be conducted at Fort Benning and commanders will use a 3D control box and a replicated joystick that will interface with their helmets. 

Each mission will consist of a briefing and various simulated exercises. The data amassed by SCOPE will provide a more comprehensive training regimen for future tank commanders by interpreting the way trainees translate incoming information into a decision. This will enable the Army to maximize the efficiency of its training methods by understanding the motivations behind the commanders’ decisions. Eventually, AI will be used to simulate crew responses as well.

The Army plans to start formal testing of SCOPE in the fiscal year 2020.