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AR, Other Technology Tapped for Expansion by US Ignite

US Ignite, which is a smart city advisory group for local governments, has picked four projects to receive funding as part of the Replicating Success initiative by that group and the National Science Foundation.

Lockheed Martin Headset
A Lockheed Martin prototype helmet on display at the company’s booth at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, March 10. This device offers an augmented reality heads-up display for the wearer and has potential applications in military and search-and-rescue operations.
Government Technology/Eyragon Eidam
US Ignite, a smart city advisory group for local government, has picked four projects for grants as part of an effort to scale successful community initiatives to more residents.

Dubbed Replicating Success, the initiative is a joint effort between US Ignite and the National Science Foundation, one that builds upon the duo's collaboration with the Smart Gigabit Communities initiative. This is its inaugural year, and the first group of recipients for related funding are Austin, Texas; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Eugene, Ore.; and Lafayette, La. More than $160,000 was awarded among the four teams. 

According to an announcement from US Ignite, these four projects were selected based on “demonstrable social impact, use of advanced technology, and the pre-commercial status of a proposed application or service.” The technology involved with each of the projects is varied, ranging from augmented reality training for first responders to expanded use of 4K microscopes in public schools.

Scott Smith is president of Augmented Training Systems (ATS) in Austin, a startup that is a beneficiary of one of the four grants. Smith's company has been using augmented reality training in Austin to simulate mass casualty incidents for first responders to train, and the grant will enable it to now expand to other large jurisdictions in the state. The idea is that using AR gives emergency responders a far more realistic idea of what to expect in dire situations.

“The unfortunate reality is that face-to-face, didactic, power point, online learning is not enough. And so we need to move beyond that. And we have the technology to do so,” Smith said.

Smith has spent the last seven years researching and evaluating the impact of virtual environments on different psychological aspects of human behavior. About a year and a half ago, his company built its training program for Austin, evaluating it against the traditional training program, and found that the AR training outperformed the existing training and reduced errors by about 40 percent. It also increased “time on task” by about 30 percent, Smith said.

“From that we realized how influential the VR-augmented reality environment could be in this space,” he added. 

With the help of the grant money, it will now work to reach even more responders who can benefit from the application of the new technology. In short, the virtual training system created by ATS has the potential to work with numerous other cities in Texas and beyond. That's the idea behind the program and its grants as a whole, officials said.

“The proposals had to be both technically innovative and show demonstrable social impact,” said Mari Silbey, director of communications for US Ignite.

Other projects to receive funding as part of the Replicating Success initiative include a collaboration between Chattanooga and schools in that region to expand a program to use high-powered video and microscopy for research to five additional schools. 

Separately in Lafayette, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the city will collaborate on the Louisiana Smart Community Cloud Platform to deploy hardware and software developed for research purposes across the region for things like flood modeling and emergency operations.

A “Digital Town Square” developed by the Technology Association of Oregon in Eugene will expand to neighboring Springfield to address regional connectivity issues and bring more affordable gigabit Internet service to Springfield, opening up economic development and other possibilities. The Digital Town Square provides infrastructure to ensure a stable high-speed network at a low cost.

Ultimately, the Replicating Success initiative allows US Ignite to “support the replication of the best of the best of these applications, showing how they can deliver benefit at scale, and transition to sustainable deployments that boost innovation, economic development, and quality of life,” said Glenn Ricart, Smart Gigabit Communities Lead Researcher, in a statement.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.