Paper: Spatial Computing Supports Army Modernization

Paper: Spatial Computing Supports Army Modernization

IVAS Soldier
Photo by: U.S. Army

To achieve its modernization priorities, the Army will need to bring together the digital and physical aspects of conflict through spatial computing, according to the author of a new paper published by the Association of the U.S. Army.

“The Army should … include spatial computing research as its tenth priority research area and allocate additional resources to bridge the seemingly overlooked gap within the Army Modernization Strategy,” Maj. Daniel Eerhart writes. “In multi-domain environments, where the lines between the digital and physical aspects of conflict become increasingly blurred, the Army must make a concerted effort to invest in technological research that brings together those environments.”

In “Army Modernization and Spatial Computing,” Eerhart, a psychological operations officer serving as a cyber policy, law and strategy research scientist at the Army Cyber Institute, contends that the Army cannot achieve its modernization goals absent spatial computing research.

Spatial computing is “human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates referents to real objects and spaces,” according to a definition cited by the Harvard Business Review.

Everyday technologies, including smartphones, self-driving cars and virtual meeting technology, rely on spatial computing, but civilian adaptation and innovation outpace the Army’s willingness and ability to integrate, Eerhart writes.

The ability to merge digital and physical spaces is central to the Army’s six modernization priorities, which include long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles and Future Vertical Lift platforms, among others.

The Army’s autonomous multidomain launcher, a vehicle that uses an unmanned launcher capable of autonomous navigation, could benefit from more nuanced object detection through spatial computing, Eerhart writes.

These vehicles “will face all the same spatial computing problems of major civilian car companies, with the disadvantage that the vehicle needs the spatial computing power to navigate cross-country movements in areas that may not have been pre-mapped by the onboard computers,” he writes. “While civilian vehicles may be able to get by with 2D object detection, a heavy military vehicle carrying missiles needs to have 3D object detection and be capable of rapidly mapping the environment to detect moving objects.”

As the Army builds for the future, embracing spatial computing “will ensure success as [the service] strives toward a modernized Army capable of multi-domain operations,” Eerhart writes.

“The physical and digital realms will continue to blur as the Army transitions toward its modernization goals, and the ability to address the complex spatial user interface problems inherent in developing synthetic training environments and augmented reality combat support tools will be decisive in the Army’s ability to adapt and compete in the global power competition,” he writes.

Read the paper here.