Aug 06

Military Studies Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Taqtile’s AR Platform

Taqtile’s Augmented Reality Platform, Manifest, Outperforms Traditional Training and Instructional Content in 4 Military Studies. 

INTRODUCTION

Throughout history, military institutions have been on the forefront of technological innovation, providing both funding, and real-world testing of scientific advancements in many disciplines including mechanical, chemical, and more recently digital. Any tool or technology that shows promise as a way of gaining an advantage over an adversary or increasing security is rapidly adopted and iterated upon. Technologies can also be used to help manage the complex organizations and systems which typically comprise the military, especially in countries such as the United States who maintain large standing armies. It is no surprise that branches of the US Military and our allies look to innovations such as augmented reality (AR) to help drive the next wave of innovation and advantage.

Taqtile has supported four independent studies performed by military organizations to pilot and study the effects of its AR platform, Manifest, on maintenance training and instructional content. The goals of the studies were to understand if learning can be made more efficient and personnel can improve their accuracy and decrease their errors in routine maintenance tasks. Results from all studies were overwhelmingly positive and provided evidence of the following:

  • Manifest content aided instructors to increase the efficiency of training and learning.
  • Personnel trained on Manifest generated significantly fewer errors when completing technical tasks (36% – 100% decrease in errors).
  • The creation and consumption of Manifest content was viewed by instructors and trainees as a positive experience and one that could be quickly adopted.
  • Manifest is a “force multiplier”. Trainees were able to learn without a supervising trainer and tasks requiring two technicians with traditional methods only required one with Manifest content.

Challenges

Maintaining fleets for armed forces can be a costly and resource intensive task. In the United States and elsewhere, the maintenance costs continue to increase as vehicles become more complex and fleets become more diverse as planes and boats are kept in service longer and beyond their intended service life.  At the same time, maintenance organizations are resource constrained, resulting in understaffed and overworked maintenance crews. It can take years to adequately train new recruits while experienced personnel and trainers are stretched thin on good days. And these challenges can be exacerbated by supporting remote locations. For example, maintaining a submarine in Guam may require a team of experts to be flown in when the need arises.

So, improving organizational proficiency of maintenance teams is paramount. If training, instructional content, and maintenance assistance can be improved with AR, there is a strong case for deploying the technology. It is with this thesis that these four Manifest studies were conducted.

Studies and Results

US Air Force Institute of Technology Studies Manifest’s Impact on Aircraft Maintenance  

Due to high operational tempo, the US Air Force is under pressure to maintain high performance while reviewing potential advantages provided by the rapidly evolving technological industry, in the hopes that new ways to operate in an aircraft maintenance environment can be adopted. To that end, the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) designed a study to measure the impact of the Manifest AR platform on technician performance focused on completing a set of routine Technical Orders (T.O). A T.O is typically paper-based or digital content that contains all the information required to perform a maintenance task.   

In this study, the T.O information was converted to Manifest AR content where visual sequential steps could be overlaid onto the technician’s field of view of a heads-up display unit.  Technicians were asked to complete tasks using the traditional content and then complete different equivalent tasks with Manifest content viewed with a heads-up display. 25 experiments were performed by personnel with differing experience levels and the results were compared.  The results provided strong evidence that the Manifest AR platform can significantly improve the accuracy and efficiency of technicians. 

  • Technicians using Manifest generated 53% less errors/discrepancies. 
  • Technicians using traditional methods installed parts incorrectly 57% more times than technicians using Manifest.  
  • There were no considerable time differences between tasks completed using traditional or AR content (or AR added no significant increases and task completion times). 

New Zealand Army Measures Manifest’s Impact on Vehicle Maintenance 

Understaffed and under pressure to increase apprentice training efficiency, the New Zealand Army Trade Training School conducted a study to measure the impact of Manifest’s AR platform on training automotive technicians on routine vehicle maintenance tasks. Leaders at the school wanted to determine if Manifest could positively influence the productivity of the trainees and increase the quality of maintenance done on their light, medium, and heavy armored operational vehicles.  

Technicians were given a series of maintenance tasks to complete.  Some tasks were completed with traditional, paper-based instructional content and instructor supervision.  Similar but different tasks were completed with Manifest content which included augmented text with leader lines placed within the 3D spatial area and the field of vision of the technician.  A heads-up display was used to project the Manifest content, providing technicians a hands-free experience thus allowing them to maintain visual perceptions of their surroundings.  The eight technicians involved in the study were all six months into their four-year apprentice training program. 

Results suggest that there is opportunity for Manifest to decrease errors and reduce re-working tasks which will ultimately save both time and money. 

  • Tasks completed with Manifest had 36% less errors than the extant training methods which included instructor assistance.  It was also determined that if the paper-based approach did not include instructor assistance, Manifest would have performed even better comparatively. 
  • There was no measurable difference between the time it took to complete the tasks using the two different methods.
  • 100% of the apprentices thought Manifest AR content was much easier to use and learn from than the traditional methods. 

US Air Force Conducts Jet Engine Maintenance A/B Testing Using Manifest

Routine maintenance is often required on jet engines despite qualified maintainers not being readily available. The most-skilled maintainers are in high-demand but often not available nor are they always located when and where the need arises, especially in more remote locations such as Japan. Even skilled technicians can lack confidence in performing complex, infrequently required tasks. For example, skilled technicians may be certified to perform maintenance on a certain aircraft or run a maintenance procedure but may be asked to perform such a task only once every few years.  To help mitigate these challenges, Lieutenant Colonel Copeland, Commander of the 730 AMS at Yokota AB, sponsored a proof of concept study to measure the impact of the Manifest AR platform on training new recruits and aiding experienced technicians. 

Technicians with 5 months to 12 years’ experience and ranging in skill levels from Level One (Crew Chiefs)to Level Seven (Propulsion Craftsman)were asked to perform 56 maintenance tasks. Half of the tasks were completed using traditional maintenance instructions which were displayed in PDF documents on laptops and half of the tasks were completed using Manifest AR content which included video, audio, and text overlaid in context displayed on heads-up displays. Technicians using Manifest outperformed those using traditional methods, significantly. 

  • Technicians using traditional methods could not finish 29% of tasks. 
  • Technicians using traditional methods had a 60% error rate with the tasks successfully completed. 
  • Excluding the experienced Level 7 Propulsion Craftsman, 92% of the tasks completed by technicians using traditional methods had errors. 
  • Technicians using the Manifest platform completed 100% of the 28 tasks with 0 errors. 

US Navy Prototypes Manifest Implementation for Submarine Maintenance in Remote Locations 

The Commander of the Submarine Force of the US Pacific Fleet on the US Navy commissioned a prototype project to investigate the possibility to use Manifest to improve the resiliency of maintenance and training at remote locations.  In some locations, such as Guam, the US Navy is often resource-constrained, particularly regarding experienced maintenance personnel.  Booz Allen Hamilton, with the support of Taqtile, conducted this analysis and generated the findings. 

This project was less like the quantitative comparative studies discussed above. The objectives here were to deliver a report documenting how Manifest could be deployed and integrated within the maintenance workflows and demonstrate the use and integration of Manifest and heads-up display devices in austere or underway submerged environments.  A prototype was developed using Manifest within a cloud infrastructureAs part of this process, Manifest’s cloud installation achieved Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation’s (DFAR’s) “Approval to Proceed”, demonstrating the robustness and suitability of the solution in secure operational environments.  Additionally, because Manifest can operate in an “offline” mode when connectivity is not available, it was also well suited for use in austere conditions. 

Some findings of the project included: 

  • Senior leaders and sailors were enthusiastic about Manifest which proved capable of operating in austere network conditions and was flexible enough to adapt to most work configurations. 
  • All sailors participating in the project believed that Manifest is well suited for 30% of maintenance tasks where procedures are complex, long, error-prone, infrequent, or require remote assistance. 
  • Senior leaders saw value in using Manifest for “routine” tasks to ensure that they are performed consistently, suggesting a much larger percentage of tasks could benefit from the Manifest solution. 
  • Senior leaders recognized the benefit of Manifest’s ability to log evidence of task completion and accuracy by allowing technicians to capture video and photos after key steps in procedures. Manifest could offer a critical audit and evaluation tool for leaders. 
  • Overall, senior leaders believe there is a strong ROI for these high-complexity tasks in the form of reduced error rates and rework, as well as the reduction in the need for “fly-away” teams and “depot level reach back” in remote locations. 

Summary

Very similar to manufacturing and other business environments, militaries around the world are under increased pressure to improve performance with fewer resources.  This is evident when exploring the challenges of maintenance teams in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.  As history suggests, the military will deploy new technologies such as AR to address their current challenges.  

And as the results from these studies suggest – including the 36-100% decrease in errors – Taqtile’s Manifest AR platform can be a significant disruptor in increasing operational proficiency within maintenance teams.  Manifest is changing the very nature of maintenance, training, and instructional content to improve accuracy and decrease errors.  From inexperienced apprentices to remote journeymen to experienced craftsman, Manifest is helping make Everyone an Expert.