Technologically speaking, everyone is obsessed with immersives these days. In the world of story telling, we’ve always recognized the incredible value in high levels of captivation. What’s most interesting, but not all together surprising, is how the military is using this new wave in technological advancements. Since the rise in cognitive science has grown in tandem with augmented reality capabilities, immersive training curriculum developers haven’t shied away from the opportunity to build worlds that encourage positive and strong memory associations in ways we’ve never been able to do before.
“The great thing about virtual reality and gaming technology [is that] it’s moving so rapidly that really it has endless possibilities that we can do,” said Ryan Frost, Northrop’s program manager for the VIPE Holodeck. “If you can think it, we can create it, eventually.”
But are they doing enough?
In a recent article in Wired (quoted above), a new product is winning awards for genius integration and designated a “mature technology”. Northrop Grumman’s Holodeck utilizes the open source integration philosophy coupled with situational responsiveness that is paramount in military and search and rescue training curriculums. With the use of easily accessible commercial products, like Kinect’s navigation sensor, and their own augmented reality gaming technology, Northrop Grumman has caught the attention of a large number of immersive training experts in the military. A trainee, immersed in an environment that may be, can react and respond to a wide variety of stimuli and scenarios, heightening the kinds of skills necessary in today’s war battlefront. Training developers can also drop different threats into the augmented environment to help future soldiers learn the skills to deal with a variety of stimuli, like team collaboratives, language and cultural training and remote platform training. The overall intention to these types of immersives is to expose and inoculate future soldiers against the terrors of battle, while heightening memory formation for vital response protocol during training. And this level of utility is exactly what the military is looking for.
But, I can’t help but wonder if there is something missing here. Part of this kind of development is based on the assumption that reality re-creation will assist in the processing of actual future realities. What augmented reality often misses is that gap between the digital world, albeit captivating, and the way in which we process environmental information.
Our perception is largely based on our interaction and processing capabilities for the stimuli around us. As Kendra Cherry, a writer and educator specializing in psychology, explains perception from a psychological standpoint, the gap between augmented realities and our own becomes clear:
“Perception is our sensory experience of the world around us and involves both the recognition of environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli. Through the perceptual process, we gain information about properties and elements of the environment that are critical to our survival. Perception not only creates our experience of the world around us; it allows us to act within our environment.
Perception includes the five senses; touch, sight, taste smell and taste. It also includes what is known as proprioception, a set of senses involving the ability to detect changes in body positions and movements. It also involves the cognitive processes required to process information, such as recognizing the face of a friend or detecting a familiar scent.”
Our perception makes up much more than the auditory and visual layers of stimuli found in these new types of immersive training simulators. What these new simulators are missing are the most primeval, yet resoundingly strong, elements of scent and tactile stimulation.
Which is where SensoryCo thrives. We enhance world environments by developing easily integrated technologies into these immersive training simulators in order to amplify the end result of the training. This not only extends the familiarity these soldiers become with the realities of war, but allows for a lower rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.). Exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of battle surrounded within a safe environment allows the adaption mechanisms that are so strong in our brains to take over and lower the risk of adverse processing.
This isn’t only a matter of a cool new technology, we are redeveloping training and saving lives with our advancements. However, as humanity often gets carried away when something new and neat is introduced, it is vital that we do not lose our sense of what makes us human: the ability to consciously perceive the world around us.