being seen or heard. All of these goals should be accomplished in a sensory environment shaped by the soldier’s gear (e.g., protective equipment).

The sensory performance portfolio consists of three types of research: (1) basic and applied research to understand sensory-perceptual capabilities, (2) human factors research to understand the impact of specific equipment on performance, and (3) developmental work to examine new approaches to sensory enhancement. Although the primary focus is on the optimization and enhancement of our perceptual capabilities, efforts are under way to develop methods of manipulating perceptual information, reducing or altering the perceptual information available to others, and thus allowing the soldier to operate with stealth capability. More recently, a refinement of this vision has appeared under the rubric of “owning the environment.” Here, the emphasis is on use of stealth and deception as force multipliers. Through better equipment and better understanding of the perceptual capabilities of friend and foe alike, it may be possible to reduce threats to our soldiers while increasing their effectiveness. Although in an early stage of study and not yet giving rise to a specific research program, the concept of using stealth and deception to own the environment is an interesting direction for work in sensory performance. The sensory performance group’s state-of-the-art Environment for Auditory Research (EAR) facility enables very sophisticated basic and applied auditory research.

The clearest examples of accomplishments in this area are human factors projects, such as work on the effects of military headgear on auditory performance. The wide range of helmet designs results in differing effects on the ability to detect and localize sounds. The EAR facility is well-suited to conducting research in this area, with the eventual goal of developing a predictive model that can influence future designs. This is a good example of a scientific project that could transition back to an evaluation tool like IMPRINT.

Another application of basic sensory science to an Army setting is the work on the ability to recognize different types of small arms by the sounds they make when fired. Although it is less clear whether this application will result in a generalizable piece of new scientific knowledge or an obvious transition to a practical application, soldiers will benefit greatly from improved ability to identify what is being fired in the vicinity.

Further examples of potentially useful human factors and assessment work within this area involve the comparison of different interfaces for a missile defense system and the study of oculomotor indicators of workload in the complex setting of a helicopter cockpit.

Opportunities and Challenges

Impressive progress has been made in the sensory performance area, but many significant challenges remain, including the following:

• The vision for sensory performance research is still a work in progress. For example, it is not clear whether “owning the battlefield” will replace earlier formulations or simply be added to the mix. HRED understands that its strategic vision in this regard is still evolving.

• Once in place, there needs to be a major effort to align the strategic vision with the work. There will be legacy projects that will end, and new research areas that will need to be developed.

• HRED’s best work falls under the category of human factors evaluation. Although the evaluations of various off-the-shelf systems can provide an important service to the Army, as a general rule, they do not connect to progress in basic science. Given HRED’s laboratory capabilities, one would like to see a research loop in which an evaluation task raises basic science questions. Those basic science questions should be studied in a rigorous manner, and the results should be



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement