Fylde coast defence firm in ‘Minority Report’ style project

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Fylde coast engineers are working to make the sort of virtual reality technology seen in films such as Minority Report an actual reality.

Teams at BAE Systems’ plant at Warton, together with experts at the University of Birmingham, are working on systems which will do away with the need for computer screens and enable operators to have all the information at their finger-tips in 3D.

The Portable Command Centre concept uses commercial technology to create a semi-virtual environment that can be transported in a briefcase and set up anywhere from within a tent to an office to tackle emergency scenarios such as an outbreak of fire or an act of terrorism.'''Users put on a virtual reality headset and interactive gloves – and a mixed reality control station appears around them.''''Users can monitor situations anywhere in the world, zooming in and manipulating environments, directing troops and pulling in virtual video screens that allow them to monitor news channels and feeds from UAVs.'''As well as this, users can bring in artificially intelligent avatars that monitor the entire environment, provide real-time voice updates and even offer advice when asked.

The Portable Command Centre concept uses commercial technology to create a semi-virtual environment that can be transported in a briefcase and set up anywhere from within a tent to an office to tackle emergency scenarios such as an outbreak of fire or an act of terrorism.'''Users put on a virtual reality headset and interactive gloves – and a mixed reality control station appears around them.''''Users can monitor situations anywhere in the world, zooming in and manipulating environments, directing troops and pulling in virtual video screens that allow them to monitor news channels and feeds from UAVs.'''As well as this, users can bring in artificially intelligent avatars that monitor the entire environment, provide real-time voice updates and even offer advice when asked.

Operators use a special headset and gloves so they can see information displayed in the air in front of them and interact with it.

The equipment includes a briefcase sized portable command centre that can be set up to send information to the headsets.

Another innovation 
is a “wearable cockpit” for pilots which will allow them 
to train with flight deck information sent direct to 
their special glasses.

At present the technology is brought to life by the headset which, in the future, experts believe will allow military commanders to direct real-life operations using a virtual landscape generated by the glasses.

Although the equipment may be bulky now, scientists predict that it may be as small as a pair of reading glasses, or even in contact lens form within 20 years.

The equipment puts the user right in the heart of the battlefield with access to “screens” of information floating in the air.

Nick Colosimo, Futurist at BAE Systems, based at Warton, said: “We’re already seeing virtual reality becoming more commonplace in consumer products, and the possibilities it offers the Armed Forces are hugely exciting.

“Our unique approach will enhance the user’s situational awareness to provide battle-winning and life-saving tools and insights wherever they may be.

“Through collaborating with the University of Birmingham, we are able to bring together some of the best minds available in this subject area to develop these concepts.”

Prof Bob Stone, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Being able to physically manipulate virtual objects in the real world has been challenging scientists for 40 years.

“Since my first virtual reality experience at NASA almost 30 years ago, the technology has evolved from the primitive to today’s world where we can interact with complex virtual objects, integrated in real-time with real-world 
scenarios.”