HaptX to Partner With Military Contractor ECS to Develop Mixed Reality Military Training Systems
The Florida-based U.S. military contractor Engineering & Computer Simulations (ECS) has been awarded a grant to develop a VR Army Medic Trainer with Advanced Haptics. The Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SIBR) project will entail building “haptics-based mixed reality training systems within the U.S. Army’s Synthetic Training Environment”.
ECS will work with the Defense Health Agency to develop the project. There will also be a partnership with the haptic glove company HaptX and Mayo Clinic based at the College of Medicine and Science in Florida.
ECS is a military and training technology that was founded in 1997 and specializes in building digital training solutions and other technologies for the U.S. military.
The project aims to pioneer a VR training system for U.S. Army medics. The SIBR program is a $3 billion fund aimed at supporting private companies building technologies which could help meet federal needs and which have a commercialization potential.
The grant will fund the development of a VR training program for U.S. Army medics. The project will be under the umbrella of the military’s ‘Synthetic Training Environment System’ program that deploys all kinds of digital training.
ECS didn’t divulge the grant amount but according to SBIR documents, the Phase II grants are typically in the range of $500,000 to $1.5 million. ECS bypassed the Phase I grant which is usually much smaller and focuses on the initial concept. The Phase II grants put an emphasis on building a functional prototype.
According to ECS, the Virtual Reality medic training program it is building has been designed to plug into the Army’s existing Tactical Casualty Combat Care procedures. The virtual reality training program will also feature “multi-player integration, instructor dashboard and analytics, STE integration, and a training effectiveness evaluation,” according to a company statement.
ECS will also be partnering with the Mayo Clinic that will provide guidance on the medical aspects of the training system while the partnership with HaptX will leverage the haptic company’s advanced haptic gloves to enhance the realism in the virtual reality training programs.
HaptX is currently a leader in VR haptics technology and builds some of the most advanced VR haptic gloves. HaptX has also pivoted its products towards VR training use-cases along with other non-consumer use-cases. The haptic company raised $12 million in late 2019 which finances its ongoing VR haptic gloves development.
Although the HaptX gloves are still bulkier, the functionality is quite refined and impressive. They provide both detailed haptics and force-feedback. The HaptX gloves are capable of locking users’ hands into a position capable of simulating the force-feedback from a physical object and generating convincing touch sensations across the palm and fingers by leveraging on an array micro-pneumatic haptics.
Should this project materialize, ECS is hoping to use the haptic gloves to improve the efficacy of its virtual reality training program by enhancing the realism of VR simulations and enabling trainees to feel the sensation of holding a virtual tool during interactions with patients.
At the moment, the project remains in the pilot phase. Should it prove effective, it will be rolled out across board in the Army medical training.