B. Schlager (2021)

Design and Development of an Immersive Collaborative Geographical Environment for Tactical Decision-Making

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Master's Thesis (TU Wien)


Planning tactical and strategical military operations is a well-structured and complex process and involves interdisciplinary expertise. A crucial part of the decision-making process of planning tasks that contains geographical data, is familiarizing professionals with the terrain and surrounding infrastructure. This is commonly operated by analog planning tools such as terrain models, sand tables, and standard 2D paper maps. The shortcoming of traditional equipment for tactical analysis is the lack of intuitive transfer of spatial relationships and geographical structures for visibility tasks and height judgment of ground elements. Immersive Virtual Geographical Environments (VGEs) provide advantageous perspectives for rapid decision-making and reasoning in spatial structures. 2D displays offer a 2D impression of a reduced 3D environment, while immersive displays transfer true depth information. Further, digital planning tools support remote collaboration using a virtual task space for the planning process. A virtual task space has several benefits compared to analog equivalents, such as the option to save planning states, visualize a common mental concept, no physical boundaries, and increased engagement.In this thesis, we set out to investigate how to utilize the benefits of immersive virtual spaces for tactical planning and decision-making in the context of a military staff exercise, to overcome the limitations of current analog and 2D digital planning tools. We design and implement a collaborative Virtual Reality (VR) prototype based on requirements derived from observations of an on-site military staff training and unstructured interviews with consultants from the Austrian Institute for Military Geography (IMG). The key contribution of this thesis is the design, implementation, and evaluation of a VR prototype that supports the decision-making and mission planning for officers in training and commanders during a military staff training. The development of our prototype represents a case study for comparable planning tasks in other domains, such as space missions or disaster prevention management.




Virtual Reality (VR); Geographic Information System (GIS); Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVE); Staff Training