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  • Haptics in military applications

    Lauri Immonen

    University of Tampere Department of Computer Sciences Computer Science / Int. Technology Seminar paper: Haptics in military applications December 2008

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    University of Tampere Department of Computer Sciences Computer Science / Interactive Technology Lauri Immonen: Haptics in Military Applications Seminar paper, 14 pages, 4 index and reference pages December 2008

    Haptic applications are used versatilely in the military field. Haptics can be used to enhance the users immersive feeling when performing training in virtual reality environments. Better performance in real life situations can be expected with the help of realistic training environments. Haptics can also be used to communicate or navigate in different surroundings. Haptic navigation and communication methods can provide an alternative to traditional methods. In this paper I have a look at different military fields and applications. I present example applications, which are being used in those fields. The applications are discussed and conclusions are made. Haptics, despite of being a relatively new topic in military field, has a small but certain ground already and will be more important in the future.

    Key words and terms: Military; communication; haptic cue; tactile signal; tactile display; vibrotactile; tactors; virtual reality; surgery simulation

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    Contents 1. Introduction ............................................................................................................... 1 2. Fields of applications................................................................................................. 1

    2.1. Medical ............................................................................................................ 1 2.2. Communications and navigation...................................................................... 2 2.3. Combat ............................................................................................................. 3

    3. Application examples ................................................................................................ 3 3.1. Medical field: A Haptic-Enabled Simulator for Cricothyroidotomy............... 4 3.2. Communication field: Comparison of Army Hand and Arm Signals to a Covert Tactile Communication System in a Dynamic Environment ........................ 5 3.3. Communication, navigation and combat fields: Tactile Displays and Detectability of Vibrotactile Patterns as Combat Assault Maneuvers are Being Performed .................................................................................................................. 7 3.4. Navigation and combat fields: The design and deployment of a spatialized vibrotactile feedback system ..................................................................................... 9 3.5. Combat field: A tactile cue for firearms and other trigger-activated devices 12

    4. Discussion ............................................................................................................... 13 5. Conclusions ............................................................................................................. 14 References .....................................................................................................................15

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    1. Introduction Military operations and actions include often many different areas; in one large scale military operation involved could be strategic, logistical, medical, communication, combat and maintenance areas. Traditionally training in military has been training in theory and then practicing the learned theories in real life environments or in environments, which imitate real environments, such as obstacle courses. As technical and electronic products and applications are developing, there is a need also in military field to research and introduce new technologies, which could help in training and operating in different military areas. The using of new technologies can bring along advantages that can lead to improved performance and reduced risks. Virtual reality based training can have a positive effect in real life performances for military personnel. The virtual environments do not have to be entirely realistic to provide useful training, which affects the performance in real situations. However bad and unrealistic haptic feedback can cause total failure of the haptic experience, so a certain level of quality must be maintained even if total realism is not required. Haptic feedback in these training scenarios may play an important role in virtual reality training. [Jiang et al., 2005] The use of haptics has potential to enhance the feeling of immersion in training whether the training is performed in virtual reality simulators or real life training situations in e.g. an obstacle course. The use of haptic feedback can improve performance and sense of presence. [Fowlkes et al.] In this report I will have a look at haptics in military applications. To be more precise, I have divided the field of focus into categories: I shall have a look at medical, communicational and navigational and combat applications.

    2. Fields of applications

    2.1. Medical

    In medical situations realistic practising and training is often difficult. Current practise methods are using animals, cadavers and dummies that are made of plastic. There are problems with these methods, such as that animals do not have the correct anatomy, cadavers do not respond physiologically correctly and dummies lack the full range of anatomical variations. There can also be ethical questions with using of animals and

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    cadavers. [Liu et al., 2005] Those could be such as if humans are entitled to use animals as test subjects or if corpses should be buried instead of being operated on. Haptic actions are often used in open surgery, because visual action is not possible. The surgeon depends on haptic feedback when identifying e.g. bloode vessels under other tissues [Hu et al.].

    With the help of computer simulations with haptics it is possible to provide alternative training options to replace those earlier mentioned possibilities. It is possible to provide precise representations of human physiology. Different patient types can be simulated. One important function for training purposes is that computer-based simulators can save the data and thus measure the performance of the training person. [Liu et al., 2005] When the performance can be monitored, it is possible to give more accurate feedback about a persons learning.

    To my opinion, the combination of visual and haptic feedback can be very valuable when training e.g. field surgery operations. The operating conditions in a battlefield can be poor; there is lots of dirt and blood on the operating area so the sense of touch is emphasized compared to the sense of sight. If it is possible to learn, how an operation feels, it should be practised as much as possible. However, it is essential that the haptic feedback is realistic; learned unrealistic or wrong sensations from the haptic device can lead even to death in real surgery situations.

    2.2. Communications and navigation

    Communication between individuals usually happens by speech, but it can happen also by other means. One very common means of communication in the army is communicating by using hand signals. There are reasons for using hand signals; at battlefield the hearing of soldiers may be damaged temporarily or even permanently because of loud noises or there may be situations where speaking or shouting is not an option. An example of that kind of situation could be entering a house or area as silently as possible. However, hand signals may not be useful in all situations; there may be obstacles blocking the view, dust or smoke in the air that prevents sight or it could be too dark to see. Even if there would not be any obstacles to using hand signals, finding an alternative way to communicate could allow soldiers visual channel to remain free and allow them to maintain longer distances between each other.

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    The challenge for soldiers on field is to maintain and monitor visual and auditory information channels, and at the same time having enough awareness of the environment and the situation the soldier is in. The soldiers can focus more at different obstacles and environment awareness when receiving tactile signals than when receiving visual hand signals. [Krausman and White, 2006; Pettitt et al., 2006] Security issues must be taken into account; the soldiers must get reliable information via the haptic applications. The technology that delivers the information must be robust and work in extreme conditions. Even if the technology works fine, it is as important to make sure, that the messages sent are clear to be understood in difficult conditions. Reliability of the information source is essential; in case of a combat situation, if the enemy could feed wrong information to the soldiers tactile displays, the results could be disastrous. If the tactile signals are not reliable enough for some reasons, it could be well worth having a look if tactile signals could be used as attention cues; the tactile information would just deliver a message about more specific information somewhere else.

    2.3. Combat

    Safety is also in military world an important issue, so improving safety should also be considered when thinking about the possibilities of haptics in training environments. In combat situations so called friendly fire is always a risk, and in training situations the learners can be inexperienced with handling of weapons. Training with real weapons always poses a risk of a serious accident; alternative training methods are welcome if simila