Specialists at Defence University make use of Xbox technology to create new military visualisation system

Photo: Czech Television

Specialists at the Defence University in Brno have developed a new system for the Czech military to improve planning as well as the real-time monitoring and control of missions in the field in 3D. Most intriguing is that the system makes use of technology from Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console but applies it to real-world situations including the battlefield.

Photo: Czech Television
Earlier I spoke to the head of the project Major Petr Františ, and asked him to describe the system’s strategic and tactical uses.

“The system is intended as a visualisation layer in 3D for the command & control system that is used for battle planning and for controlling and commanding battles. The command and control system allows the military to track forces and gather information which is presented in 2D on standard monitors and screens. But our system is a layer above and allows you to visualise what is going on in 3D. The commander can see unique positions and the terrain in the surrounding area.”

And will that allow commanders to make quicker and better decisions?

Petr Františ, photo: Czech Television
“Yes, for sure, that can surely help the commander make a better decision based on the terrain features. So for example, the application could be used by command in Afghanistan, where they can plan operations in the brigade planning room.”

And it helps missions be more accurate and at the end of the day can help save lives...

“Yes, for sure. The biggest news is that we used the Kinect sensor from the Microsoft Xbox console, which is brand new thing, and we connected the sensor to our system. So the commander is not forced to rely on a computer keyboard or mouse to move in the 3D terrain visualisation but can use his own body, or hands to easily navigate in the 3D environment.”

The visualisation also uses special goggles, correct?

“Yes, it’s like something you’d see in IMAX or a 3D movie: the commander sees the terrain in a stereoscopic view.”

To come back to the Xbox connection: is it surprising that something that is fairly low in cost can have such advanced applications?

Illustrative photo: Czech Army
“Yes and it’s very exciting and Microsoft appreciated it and helped us and provided the Kinect sensor and software development kit for us, because it’s a real use for a former gaming device that has real-world advantage and use in military systems. As far as we know the British Army is also considering using Kinect but as far as I know we are the first to actually develop such an application and have it up and running. ”