12 June 2001


Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Rome, NY

Interactive DataWall

The increasingly complex battlefield environment drives the requirement for the presentation and interactive control of an endless stream of information arriving from a diverse collection of sensors deployed on a variety of platforms. At best, the situational awareness picture is fragmented without the benefit of extensive data fusion and correlation to present a true picture of the battlespace from all information sources. Collaboration and interaction is also needed for operators within a control center and among remote geographic locations. The need to display and manipulate real-time multimedia data in a battlefield operations control center is critical to the Joint Commander directing air, land, naval and space assets.

The Interactive DataWall being developed by the Advanced Displays and Intelligent Interfaces (ADII) technology team of the Information Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL/IF) in Rome, New York is a strong contender for solving the information management problems facing the 21st century military commander. Commercial off-the-shelf technology has been combined with specialized hardware and software developed in-house to provide a unique capability for multimedia data display and control. The system features speaker-independent voice activation and a wireless pointing device using camera tracked laser pointers. This pointing system utilizes custom hardware and software developed by AFRL/IF. It provides both conventional computer mouse functionality and electronic grease pencil capability to interact with a high-resolution display. Three horizontally tiled video projectors each display 1280 x 1024 pixels for a combined resolution of 3840 x 1024 pixels across a 12' x 3' screen area. Examples of data display elements include detailed terrain, land route maps, real-time audio/video communications, airborne surveillance and intelligence information, archived geographic database information, and modeling and simulation capability for sortie generation exercises.

AFRL/IF has successfully implemented a number of Interactive DataWalls each consisting of three horizontally tiled video projectors. They include SGI-based and Sun-based configurations. They all have the same wireless interaction capabilities.

To support the testbed for the forward deployable element of the Configurable Aerospace Command and Control (CACC) Integrated Technology Thrust Program (ITTP), a Sun workstation based Deployable Interactive DataWall (DID) with a 9' x 2 1/4' screen was developed. It is housed in an extensively modified Air Force S-530 A/G Standard Rigid Walled shelter, with its own Tactical Generator Set and Environmental Control Unit. Due to the unique, short-throw, rear-projection requirements, three LCD projectors with special short-throw lenses are used.

Near term plans for the Interactive DataWall include testbed installations at the ACC Command and Control Battlelab located at Hurlburt Field, FL and the AFRL Human Effectiveness Directorate (HE) at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. Multiple copies of the laser pointer tracking hardware are being built to support both current and future DataWall installations.

Future research plans for the Interactive DataWall technology include the incorporation of a magnetic position tracking system to replace the laser pointer tracking. This will simplify the configuration by eliminating the video cameras and potentially allow multiple simultaneous pointers. Multiple user speech input is being investigated for the possibility of simultaneous speech activation by different DataWall operators. Collaboration of data and operator interactions at physically separated DataWall command centers is also being researched.

A PC-based Interactive DataWall is being investigated as a low-cost alternative to Unix workstation-based systems that have been developed. A transportable version of the DataWall is also being researched that can be disassembled, transported, and reassembled in a short period of time for indoor use.


Hardware: Software:
SGI Interactive DataWall: Nuance Continuous Speech Recognition (Nuance)
SGI Onyx Workstation w/ 3 Reality Engines X-META-X (X-Software)
([1280 x 3] x 1024 pixels) Laser Pointer Tracking Software (AFRL/IF)
SGI Indy Desktop Workstation (for speech recognition) Tiled Display Alignment Software (AFRL/IF)
Sun Interactive DataWall:
1 Sun Ultra 60 SPARC Workstation System Availability:
2 Sun Ultra 30 SPARC Workstations
([1280 x 3] x 1024 pixels) The SGI and Sun Interactive DataWalls are
located in the Command & Control Technology
Deployable Interactive DataWall: Center, Rome NY
Sun Ultra Enterprise 3500 Server
([1024 x 3] x 768 pixels)
Demonstrations may be arranged by contacting:
All Systems:
3 Video Cameras Mr. Peter A. Jedrysik
3 Video Projectors AFRL/IFSB, 525 Brooks Road
Rear Projection Screen Rome, New York 13441-4505
Wireless Microphone Email:
Laser Pointer Voice: (315) 330-2150 DSN: 587-2150
Laser Pointer Tracking Hardware (AFRL/IF) FAX: (315) 330-7136 DSN: 587-7136