The Army Is Building a 3D Database of Real Cities for Virtual Reality Training

A 3D model of Boston that Army modernization officials have added to One World Terrain (OWT) -- a prototype of what will eventually become the database of imagery from around the world that will feed the Army’s synthetic training environment. (Military.com/Matthew Cox)
A 3D model of Boston that Army modernization officials have added to One World Terrain (OWT) -- a prototype of what will eventually become the database of imagery from around the world that will feed the Army’s synthetic training environment. (Military.com/Matthew Cox)

Army modernization officials are building a new database filled with satellite imagery and 3D models of cities and key terrain from around the world that may one day feed a new age of virtual training for soldiers.

The effort, known as One World Terrain (OWT), is part of the Army's sweeping modernization effort and is being designed to create synthetic training environments that are far more realistic than purpose-built training facilities.

"One World Terrain is essentially the database for the synthetic training environment," Lt. Col. Dylan Morelle told Miltiary.com at a July 16 Army Futures Command media event.

Army officials are working with private industry to ensure OTW includes mapping, satellite imagery and drone captures from commercial, academic and government resources so leaders and soldiers can access it when needed, said Morelle, demonstration officer for Army Futures Command's Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team.

"We want to have a repository of that information and the ability to then provide that to the warfighter," Morelle said.

With a mouse-click, Morelle pulled up a 3D model of Boston as an example to show how commanders or small unit leaders can plan routes within the city and mark known enemy positions. The technology can also show "where the enemy can see or not see," he said.

OWT is being designed to work with the Army's Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer (RVCT), which will include aviation platforms and ground platforms as well as dismounted infantry collective maneuver training and other simulations that deal with gunnery and mission-rehearsal capability, Morelle said.

"It has gone through one user assessment and is informing requirements," Morelle said, adding that the Army awarded prototyping contract to geo-spatial intelligence data and software company Vricon in June.

The agreement is worth up to $94.7 million, according to Vricon's website.

"That will go to the fourth quarter of 2021 to provide the Army with initial operating capability," Morelle said.

The Army hopes to reach full operating capability in 2023, Morelle said.

OWT will also be designed to work with the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, a Microsoft system -- which is now exists in a goggle-worn prototype -- that uses augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for individual soldiers. The system is being designed for wear in combat as well since it can project the operator's weapon sight reticle into a pair of tactical glasses.

The final version of IVAS is slated to be ready in the fourth quarter of 2021, Army officials have said.

OWT program officials want to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform blueprints of buildings into realistic models of rooms for soldiers using IVAS to train in, Morrel said.

"Maybe that is the only way we can get to that building," he said. "The AI can look at that blueprint and create a 3D model of it."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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