Augmented Reality Integrated, Atmospheric Transport & Dispersion Simulation


The Augmented REality Sandtable (ARES) developed by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Advanced Simulation and Training Division (ATSD) in Orlando, Florida, is a prototype interactive visualization environment used by ARL for research in battlespace visualization. ARES is in use at several locations such as West Point, Camp Blanding and a few ROTC units as a training aid. The software (and in some cases, additional tables) is being shared with several organizations for collaboration in research.  The ARES architecture is intended to be an open, extensible platform to be expanded by the addition of new capabilities (as "apps" through the ARES APIs). A critical future use case involves plume dispersion of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) constituents. This project aims to couple an NCAR Atmospheric Transport & Dispersion (AT&D) simulation capability to the ARES system.

Figure 1: User Interaction with the Augmented Reality Sandtable (upper left).  ARES-SimBox integrated visualization and simulation system (right). Simulated plume evolution rendered via animation onto a sandtable (lower left).
Figure 1: User Interaction with the Augmented Reality Sandtable (upper left).  ARES-SimBox integrated visualization and simulation system (right). Simulated plume evolution rendered via animation onto a sandtable (lower left).

RAL staff are developing a software framework and custom hardware platform for advanced atmospheric flow and constituent plume transport and dispersion simulations from which ARES API requests for can be requested by a sandtable user. The user prescribes and submits a simulation request via RabbitMQ message exchange to the “SimBox” server. The server subsequently performs automated setup, and launch of a specific WRF simulation based on user inputs. The simulation server is multithreaded python daemon responsible for setting up and launching a specific MPI-capable WRF simulation. Upon successful simulation launch, the of the simulation server utilizes python watchdog threads to track output of WRF simulation results to file. As a WRF simulation progresses and new results are continuously written the simulation server encodes this data and publishes them again via RabbitMQ for rendering plume/meteorology animations back onto the sandtable.

This integration of NCAR AT&D simulation capability alongside an augmented reality visualization medium is targeting a disruptive technological advance in current training and strategic planning paradigms.  

FY2017 Accomplishments

  • Specialized hardware specification, procurement, and deployment. Twin “SimBox”, machines containing 20 cores of CPU and an advanced GPGPU capable of performing simulations utilizing WRF and the new FastEddy, GPU-accelerated LES were obtained and distributed (one with NCAR, and one with ARL collaborators) to facilitate integrated system development.

  • SimBox-server API design and implementation. The simulation server API, model-view-controller (MVC) design and implementation combing RabbitMQ, watchdog threads, google protocol buffers, and python initiation of WRF simulations were completed and disseminated to ARES collaborators as an alpha-release of the SimBox-server.

  • WRF customizations for automated setup, launch, and results reporting of AT&D simulation was completed.

  • System integration testing was performed and minor technical issues ironed out in preparation for full system beta-release (FY2018).

  • Simulation integration with sandtable rendered plume animations were demonstrated in Oct. 2017 establishing a baseline of integrated AR-simulation capability.

FY2018 Plans

  • Robustness testing and hardening of the simulation setup/launch parameters and allowable configurations to meet the specific needs of a field study planned for Jan/Feb 2018.

  • Addition of extended model data communications to facilitate advanced augmented reality rendering including three-dimensional plume animation, and incorporation of accelerated turbulence-resolving simulations (GPU-accelerated large-eddy simulation on SimBox).