Comparison of a Visual and Head Tactile Display for Soldier Navigation

Report No. ARL-TR-6742
Authors: Kimberly Myles; Joel T. Kalb; Kim F. Fluitt; Kathy Kehring
Date/Pages: December 2013; 36 pages
Abstract: The purpose of the study was to determine the advantages of a head-mounted tactile display (HMTD), compared with a map for Soldier navigation in an urban environment, while concurrently detecting hostile threats. Many technological solutions that provide the Soldier an advantage over the enemy are visually-driven and collectively are in danger of overloading the Soldiers visual capacity, but the tactile modality has been identified as a promising alternative to the visual modality for increasing Soldier performance. Twelve warfighters participated in the study. Each served at least one tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Participants completed four routes in Middle East (ME) and United States urban virtual environments using a map or an HMTD, while also scanning for and detecting threats. Data were collected for various performance measures, overall workload ratings and a questionnaire. Overall workload significantly decreased by 37.8% when participants used the HMTD, as opposed to the map, to navigate the ME environment. The HMTD was advantageous for decreasing participants' perceived overall workload associated with a complex environment. Thus, for complex environments, off-loading the navigation task to a non-visual modality and reserving visual resources for the task of detecting threats can unburden Soldiers by reducing their overall workload.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: December 1, 2013