November 23, 2011
Advanced 3-D mission planning technology makes TIME’s 2011 50 best inventions list
Military teams have gathered around mission planning sand tables for centuries, but in the future they may have a more realistic and interactive simulation tool. DARPA’s Urban Photonic Sandtable Display (UPSD) pioneers an advanced 3-D technology that creates a real-time, color, 360-degree, 3-D holographic display that could assist battle planners. TIME Magazine honored the UPSD and DARPA’s Nano Air Vehicle Hummingbird, a robotic air vehicle that looks and flies like a Hummingbird, as two of the best 50 inventions of the year.
"The ability to dynamically display three dimensional data and video to an audience gathered around a sandtable – without the need for special glasses or equipment – represents a significant step forward in our ability to more naturally synthesize and interact with a virtual world in an intuitive way,” said Don Woodbury, director, Strategic Technology Office. “With UPSD, DARPA has opened the door to a new approach to training, mission planning and data visualization.”
A team of up to 20 planners can view the UPSD’s large-format, interactive 3-D display. It’s an example of DARPA’s commitment to advancing technology to support the war fighter. Adding fidelity and real-time 3-D terrain data is expected to enhance mission planning.
“This recognition for military technical innovation is a credit to the quintessential DARPA program manager,” said DARPA Director, Dr. Regina Dugan. “They are technical visionaries, best-in-class scientists and engineers, who are determined to make a difference for our warfighters. They come from diverse backgrounds in academia, industry, laboratories, non-profits; they come to DARPA to serve their country.”
UPSD demonstrates a unique technology which enables each 3-D holographic object to project the correct amount of light that the original object possessed in each direction, for full 360-degree viewing.
The holographic sand table technology is part of DARPA’s broader efforts in 3-D technology research, such as wide-area, 3-D LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) mapping under DARPA’s High Altitude LIDAR Operations Experiment (HALOE). Through HALOE, forces in Afghanistan are receiving unprecedented access to high-resolution 3-D data. UPSD’s display can support the rapid exploitation of this data for detailed mission planning in diverse terrains: rugged, mountainous, or complex urban terrains.
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