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How Darpa's Augmented Reality Software Works

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View of an area through DARPA's ULTRA-Vis augmented reality system.

The ULTRA-VIs augmented reality system developed under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) overlays tactical information on the physical world.

Credit: DARPA

In an interview, four experts at Applied Research Associates discuss the augmented reality system they created for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Six years ago, DARPA created its Urban Leader Tactical Response, Awareness, and Visualization (ULTRA-Vis) program with the goal of helping soldiers overlay digital tactical information on the physical world. As the lead contractor for the program, Applied Research Associates developed the ARC4 software for the ULTRA-Vis system, which is a lightweight, low-power holographic see-through display with a vision-enabled position and orientation-tracking system.

The ULTRA-Vis system helps soldiers visualize the location of other forces, vehicles, hazards, and aircraft in the local environment even when they are not visible to the soldier. The tool also communicates tactically significant information such as imagery, navigation routes, and alerts.

ARC4 represents a significant advance in augmented reality, a field in which previous technologies have leaned disappointingly toward information display, says senior scientist Jennifer Carter. "You see icons overlaid on your real world view that are georegistered. And they are in your look direction in your primary field of view," Carter says.

"We think we're getting to that point where what we think of as augmented reality is going to become something that people see in the real world," says senior scientist Dave Roberts.

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