Marines Field New ‘Smart’ Video System for Urban Combat Exercises

By Edward Lundquist
The Marine Corps is now deploying “intelligent” video systems that will be used at urban combat training facilities. The new technology, called tactical video capture system, fuses video images from multiple cameras into a single three-dimensional view.  

The TVCS allows trainees to look around corners or behind buildings, fly from rooftop to street level, and even review pre-recorded video from different perspectives. Operating it is like playing a video game, except the scene is of real events in real time. The operator grabs the joystick and flies down hallways and around buildings, immersing himself in the scene.

The system is derived from technology that the Office of Naval Research developed under a “Video Flashlight” program. It stitches multiple video and sensor data feeds into a single-screen and record all aspects of a training evolution action and replay scenarios as a virtual display to evaluate the effectiveness of training and tactics. Users say that TVCS can process streams of disparate video and audio into an easy-to-understand, actionable format to be immediately available for review. Users can evaluate threats and surveillance information directly or from a mobile device, and can move around to view what is going on throughout a training facility.
The Marine Corps program manager for training systems (PMTRASYS) is rolling out TVCS at training areas.

“ONR’s close cooperation with PMTRASYS, Marine Corps Training and Education Command, and industry developers has resulted in advanced technologies that empowers and enhances the training of Marines and Sailors,” said Deputy Chief of Naval Research for Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Science & Technology (EMWCT) George Solhan.

Successfully commercialized by L-3 GS&ES, the originating technologies were developed by Sarnoff Corporation under ONR sponsorship in the early 2000s. Solhan started the program as “Video Flashlight” in 2002. “It’s gratifying to see that this small research program we started is making such a huge impact on future USMC live training,” Solhan said.  

The first TVCS became operational in May 2010 at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

In the area of video-based training technology, ONR also funded the development of the automated performance evaluation and lessons learned (APELL) program. Sarnoff Corp. used video technology to automatically flag infantry exercises to assist instructors. Instructors can specify what they want their trainees to do, and the system will automatically alert when those predefined conditions are met or violated. If the instructor wants each squad member to remain a certain distance apart from each other, APELL will let him know if they successfully carried out his orders.  

The APELL system is a mixed reality, closed-loop training system, where the system controls the actions of wall-projected computer-generated role players based on the real-time actions and performance evaluations of the Marines in the exercises.  PMTRASYS is currently fielding APELL systems at two urban combat training locations.

“Our top priority is to focus on those areas that deliver the biggest payoff for our future and ensure we make every single dollar count for maximum benefit for the war fighters.” said Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, Chief of Naval Research.  

Carr says ‘transition’ is one of ONR’s main metrics. “It’s not enough just to do interesting science. What matters is transitioning the products of that science to the war fighter.”                            

Edward Lundquist is a retired Navy captain and a senior science writer with MCR LLC in Arlington, Va. The company provides program management and technical services to the Office of Naval Research.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training

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