A piece I wrote for a forum at AUSA in 2014:
We are in, or have passed a major inflection point. “Virtual” (broadly construed), is here to stay. Of the many mantras used within DoD over the years, “train as you fight, fight as you train” remains popular and relevant. As such, there has been somewhat of a holy grail of merging training and ops. This has proved difficult for a number of reasons including issues with fidelity, cost, and complicated gear. With the advent of commodity technologies like cell phones, tablets, Google Glass, inexpensive head-mounted displays, and the ubiquity of games, some of those issues are fading, only to be replaced by even larger issues around appropriate/effective use. We know that the commercial sector will continue to push the boundaries of gadgets and capabilities. There will always be a new shiny object that does something cool. And the private sector will also figure out how to use these tools for entertainment and for selling things (often driven first by the adult industry – but that is a whole ‘nother story). What always lags behind is how the new technologies can be effectively used for training and learning – and to some degree, for tactical operations.
The future is pretty much here. Operations will be a mix of physical, virtual, and augmented (PVA), with augmented being somewhat of the “glue” between physical and virtual. Success on the battlefield (again, broadly construed) will go to those that can operate seamlessly in this emulsion of real and unreal. The next generation of Warfighter is in kindergarten right now, and has never known a world without cell phones, touch interface, and ubiquitous sensors (social media). The bad guys do and will have access to the same commodity tech tools that we do. So it is imperative that we not only push the technology, but more importantly, figure out how to use it in creative ways to train and operate. A mixed reality PVA approach will be essential for training, experiential learning, and transfer of knowledge.
Another factor – future forces will be a mix of human and machine, and leadership will take on new dimensions. No matter what the mix, and no matter how much good sensor information and intel you have, at some point A HUMAN HAS TO MAKE A DECISION. Part of our job is to figure out how to make all that information and all those capabilities understandable and actionable. This is no small task. Somewhere in the sea of information is a story. We have to find it, present it, augment it, and make it useful so someone can decide and act. The human dimension of the technologies and those interactions will be critical to explore, understand, and create.
At ICT we believe that we are heading in a future that will be an emulsion of PVA, and this will enable us to “break” time and space. Remote deep collaboration and operation, in synchronous and asynchronous modes, will be commonplace. In addition, the lines between “live” and “real” and “virtual” will increasingly blur. In order to make sense out of this, we need to be on the bleeding edge of basic and applied research relevant to these big picture issues (with an emphasis on human factors), as well as building prototypes to see what works and explore the art of the possible. Having the best technology will not provide us overmatch. Having the most creative and effective ways for our Warfighters to use the technology, both in training and operations, will give us the advantage, and allow our Warfighters to be agile and innovative on the battlefield, be they physical, virtual, or both.