As part of an initiative to spur scientific breakthroughs, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, plans to recruit up to 70 researchers to be based at the University of Southern California, or USC, Institute for Creative Technologies, or ICT, in Playa Vista, California.
ARL West will be the laboratory’s largest outpost and the first one west of the Mississippi. It will leverage USC and regional expertise to broaden its abilities for the discovery, innovation and transition of science and technology. ARL, part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command based in Maryland, is the Army’s central laboratory for internal and external fundamental research.
“USC’s federally-funded computer science research and development has led to technological advances that improve lives for active service members and veterans,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “Today’s announcement serves as recognition that ICT has established itself at the national forefront of this important work, and that we have the opportunity to achieve even greater societal benefit through the establishment of this new model of government-university collaboration.”
ARL West was announced this morning at ARL’s open house at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Part of ARL’s recently-launched open campus program, it will expand upon ICT virtual reality and immersive technology research through co-location and collaboration.
“The initial focus of ARL West will be in the area of Human Information Interaction, which involves research into how humans generate and interact with data to make decisions more effectively and efficiently,” said Dr. Thomas Russell, director of ARL. “As we develop this new campus, we will also be establishing new relationships on the West Coast with other researchers in academia and industry to augment work ongoing there and work at our other sites. This collaboration, in an open work environment, will further develop the work we do for our service members and the nation.”
ICT was founded in 1999 with a U.S. Army contract to partner with film and game studios to advance the art and science of simulations and computer-supported training. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of service members and veterans have used ICT training systems and health therapies, which include:
* Bravemind, a virtual reality therapy for treating Soldiers and veterans with post-traumatic stress.
* MILES, a virtual veteran that provides training for social workers, who treat service members.
* DisasterSim, a tool to prepare people for planning and conducting natural disaster response and relief.
“Our partnership with USC leads to solutions for Soldiers,” Russell said. “We believe that establishing West Coast research teams at USC and ICT will lead to new research directions, new perspectives, new industry partners, and ultimately new discoveries that will help the Army solve current and future challenges.”
The impacts of ICT’s Army-funded research extend far beyond the military, including:
* The latest, low-cost, high-fidelity, virtual reality headsets, including Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and Google Cardboard.
* Award-winning computer graphics in movies including Avatar.
* Hologram-like projections of Holocaust survivors, who answer questions about their experiences as part of New Dimensions in Testimony, an educational collaboration with the USC Shoah Foundation.
* Virtual humans that identify signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The area around ICT has been deemed Silicon Beach for the concentration of creativity and technology companies now based near Playa Vista, Venice and Santa Monica. ARL West will capitalize on Los Angeles’ culture of innovation by bringing scientists and engineers together in this important research hub.
ARL West research will not be classified. Researchers, expected to begin arriving in early 2016, will include locally-recruited scientists, students, and representatives from other Army organizations.
“This new collaboration will further advance research in emerging areas like robotics, haptics and data visualization and provides a model for building open and diverse teams to tackle complex problems,” said Randolph Hall, USC’s vice president of research. “It also provides another way for USC to support those who serve our country.”
In addition to the groundbreaking work at ICT, USC has maintained a decades-long commitment to veterans and the military.
The Playa Vista area has a long history of defense-inspired research, much of it developed at the former Hughes Aircraft facilities, at USC’s Information Sciences Institute in Marina del Rey and at ICT.
“Bringing experts from different fields together for a common research goal has been a hallmark of research at ICT and has led to many important technology transitions,” said Randall W. Hill Jr., executive director of ICT. “We are honored that the Army Research Laboratory selected us to expand this type of collaboration and to help them achieve their goals.”