Meet the Scientists: Dr. Josh Kvavle

Meet the Scientists is an Armed with Science segment highlighting the men and women working in the government realms of science, technology, research and development.  The greatest minds working on the greatest developments of our time.  If you have someone you’d like AWS to highlight for this segment, email Jessica L. Tozer at science@dma.mil.

Dr. Joshua Kvavle, engineer, wearing Google's second version of Google Glass(2014). Dr. Kvavle along with his associates executed a small investigation into how Google Glass could be used in the Navy at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

Dr. Joshua Kvavle, engineer, wearing Google’s second version of Google Glass(2014). Dr. Kvavle along with his associates executed a small investigation into how Google Glass could be used in the Navy at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

WHO: Dr. Josh Kvavle. Grew up in Hillsboro, Oregon. Went to Brigham Young University where he got his PhD in Electrical Engineering. Likes using technology to find ways of making life less inconvenient for us all.

TITLE: Electrical Engineer at SSC Pacific, working in the realm of research and development. He’s also a member of the CNO Rapid Innovation Cell.

MISSION: Dr. Kvavle is interested in developing augmented reality in the Navy. Augmented reality, in this context, is a fancy way of saying making things better for service members. Things like turning a wartime scenario into something as easy to navigate as a video game level. That’s where Ocean AR comes in. Ocean AR a CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) funded project project using Google Glass where Josh and his team try and figure out what the Navy could do with Google Glass.

What is the Ocean AR project?

“It’s a project aimed at trying to find applications and demonstrate those applications for Google Glass in full-spectrum Naval operations. The purpose of it is to demonstrate the look and feel of these apps. They’re not fully developed apps. They are just a demonstration of what could be done if we had access to Navy networks. The idea behind Google glass is that it’s a heads up display that gives you access to prompt information. So, information that’s available when you need it and hands free. The question that we’ve been trying to answer is, ‘how would that be done in the Navy, how would you use that’. The first one of those is a maintenance application. The second one is sort of a situational updater that gives you timely information on what’s going on.”

Tell me a little about the maintenance app. How does it work?

“The maintenance app we’ve put together is a structure where you can see a video of the repair task or the maintenance task. The way Google Glass is organized is they have sort of card navigation and each of these cards is sort of a stand-alone window into some sort of information or some sort of task. We take a video of the task so you can swipe though the others step-by-step. As you’re doing the task you can take a picture and it will record that picture as sort of forensic evidence of your completion of that task. It could be done for any maintenance or repair, whether it’s Navy-relevant or in your own personal home repairs.”

Tell me a little about augmented reality. What does it mean to you in this context, and why is the Navy interested in it?

“I’ve just been listening to a book called The Second Machine Age. The premise there is that the steam engine – with the industrial revolution – revolutionized our power, our physical strength. The Second Machine Age says that the computer has revolutionized our ability to think, our mental power. Our physical power was the steam engine, mental power was the computer. Augmented reality is basically a seamless window into that world.”

How is augmented reality different from, say, computer capability or smart devices?

Dr. Joshua Kvavle, engineer, wearing Google's second version of Google Glass(2014). Dr. Kvavle along with his associates executed a small investigation into how Google Glass could be used in the Navy at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

Dr. Joshua Kvavle, engineer, wearing Google’s second version of Google Glass(2014). (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

“Right now, in order to access a lot of the power of a computer, you either sit at your desktop machine or you pull out your smartphone or tablet. Now, smartphones and tablets have offered a lot of new applications, but you still have to remove yourself from the particular task at hand and go into that electronic world in order to get that information. What augmented reality can do is provide that view of the rich deep reservoir of information and data that we’re collecting and overlay it on your field of view. That way you don’t have to take out your phone and look at something; it’s there all the time, but only what you need when you need it. It can teach you things. It can remind you of things. It can help you see things that you couldn’t see with the naked eye. It can warn you, it can provide your point of view to someone else, and it can give you their visual perspective.”

“I think going forward, the second machine age is to be able to make what computers can do seamlessly integrated into our day-to-day lives so it’s basically invisible to us except when we need it.”

What is the goal the mission above your projects regarding our augmented reality and what do you hope that they will achieve?

“The whole purpose [of the Ocean AR project] is to help people start to see what’s possible. Things are changing so fast that no one person can keep track of all the developments. Someone needs to figure out how the Navy is going to stay in phase with these developments and that’s what I’m hoping to do.  I think repair and maintenance is one of those areas, I think medicine is another one. It’s pretty amazing what Google glass can do, but [where we are technologically] is equivalent to those brick mobile phones that we used to have. This is the first iteration. In the next five years there will be augmented reality displays that have full field-of-view and can provide what you need. Things are changing quickly. I want to make sure that that we find ways to invest in this technology that can be useful today. Then I want to research the things that will make it possible for using it in full spectrum naval operations, not just in these safer more sterile environments.”

Video games sometimes have things like this; augmented reality screens to tell you where you’re going and what you’re doing. Where the bad guys are, where health packs are, where to go. Is this where you’d like to see the technology going?

“That’s exactly what people are missing! Actually, a lot of this second machine age stuff has come first in video games. The Microsoft Kinect sensor is was the first real sensor that provided the key step for fixing this spatial localization and mapping (SLAM) problem that that people have had for years. Video games have figured out a lot of things, but our problem is we don’t have displays that are wearable and can be carried around yet. I would say that even video games haven’t taped into the full potential of augment reality.”

“We want to make it so it’s super easy so you see the enemy there, they’re outlined in red.”

“Video games have a lot of insight into what could be possible in the future. But this idea of exponential growth of information technology is not a new one. Some people believe that we’re coming upon a time where it will be growing so significantly that things will be changing much faster. So where we may think that the video game vision is years and years away, it may not so far away as we think.”

I agree! In your own words what do you think it is about this project that you’re working on that makes it so significant?

Dr. Joshua Kvavle, engineer, wearing Google's second version of Google Glass(2014). Dr. Kvavle along with his associates executed a small investigation into how Google Glass could be used in the Navy at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

Dr. Kvavle, along with his associates, executed a small investigation into how Google Glass could be used in the Navy at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

“An estimate from people who know more about brains than I do says that two-thirds of the brain is dedicated to vision directly or indirectly. If that’s true and we’re only tapping into that in part, and we’ve got this huge revolution in computing technology, then it just makes sense that a significant advance would be to couple computing as closely as you can with vision.”

“In the Department of Defense there’s something called the OODA Loop; Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The faster you can make those decisions to observe and orient yourself, the better you are completing your mission. So what better way, what faster way is there then seeing what you need to do [using augmented reality]? There’s a book called Blink where they talk about how when you have to focus in (often during stressful scenarios), you have this tunnel vision. Augmented reality could still speak to you in your tunnel vision they’ll just put it in your tunnel. Put the visual information in the tunnel. I think it’s hugely significant.”

What do you think is the most impressive or beneficial thing about the work you’re doing and why?

“Things have changed a lot in terms of what we’re capable of doing now. We just need the Navy and the rest of the Department of Defense to recognize the opportunity that is available and start funding opportunities like this. That’s when you’re going to start seeing the really impressive benefits. For example, in the medical field there are a lot of situations where expertise that people that aren’t necessarily well trained for is required, and that information gap could be filled with this augmented reality interface. Same with maintenance and repair.”

“I would ask that anyone who’s reading this article, and who’s happen to have large funding source, find somebody who can do Augmented Reality and invest in it because that’s the future.”

“If we don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it. Hopefully it’s somebody who’s our friend. It’s going to happen; this is the exponential growth of the second machine age and information technology is growing. It’s just a matter whether we have the vision to fund it. There’re a lot of problems with augmented reality still, it’s not ready for primetime in a lot of ways but it is producing tangibles results in different sectors that are starting to implement it. I believe in the next year or two, you’re going to start seeing applications in professional work and industrial settings [for augmented reality].”

I agree; I think is the kind of technology that doesn’t go away, it just grows and evolves. If you could go anywhere in time and space where would you go and why?

“Actually, I’d love to go 20 years into the future or 30 years into the future and document what happened with augmented reality so then I could come back and do a better job and avoid some of the pitfalls that are inevitably going to happen.”

Thanks to Dr. Josh Kvavle for contributing to this article, and for his contributions to the science and technological communities.

Publications:

Microsphere Formation Using an Excimer Laser

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Jessica L. Tozer
 is the editor and blogger for Armed with Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for science and technology in the military.

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