Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Gray, Commander, Submarine Group Nine
Commander, Submarine Group 9 (CSG-9) hosted the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) Innovation Lab (iLab) at Trident Training Facility (TTF) Bangor, April 27.
The COMSUBPAC innovation lab roadshow demonstration featured a number of unclassified cutting edge technologies and virtual reality and augmented reality capabilities during this one-day event held in the lobby of TTF.
“The innovation lab is unique in that it leverages current technology with the talent, experience, and perspective from the waterfront in order to find new and better ways to meet our operational needs,” said Rear Adm. Frederick “Fritz” J. Roegge, COMSUBPAC. “One idea can change the world and the Sailors that make up our submarine force are the best and brightest our country has to offer. They are the experts on undersea warfare. So if we can leverage their expertise and inspire innovation, their great ideas can help us to retain our undersea superiority for years to come.”
Sailors had the opportunity to prototype the technologies and generate ideas for low-cost solutions to fleet training and operational challenges. According to Lt. Cmdr. Chris Keithley, assigned to COMSUBPAC, ideas both bold and modest, will be captured via log books or email and will be reviewed during periodic COMSUBPAC staff selection boards.
“Sailor participation is vital to the longevity and funding of the iLab, but more importantly, Sailor participation brings ideas from the eyes and ears of the fleet to people who are listening and trying to make these ideas a reality,” said Senior Chief Sonar Technician Josh Owens, from Galena, Kansas, assigned to TTF. “The technology that they are developing from the ideas of our Sailors will help train and shape our future Sailors.”
The goal of the iLab is to quickly transition new technology ideas, created by the Sailor, to the fleet.
“Innovation is critical to develop the capabilities that will keep us the world’s preeminent submarine force,” said Roegge. “Our Sailors are the best source of that innovation, and the iLab provides them opportunities to experiment with the latest technologies which will hopefully inspire creative solutions to their deckplate needs.”
The iLab opened Nov. 7, 2016, at Naval Submarine Training Center Pacific (NSTCP), and welcomes all Sailors, both officer and enlisted, to come and view the latest technology and help create new ideas to better the submarine force. It will be open for one to two years, depending on the quality and quantity of ideas generated. The iLab is partnered with the Space and Naval Warfare Command (SPAWAR) Battlefield Exploitation of Mixed Reality, the Naval Sea Systems Command New Training Technologies Program Office, and Booz Allen Hamilton. Partners will add new demonstrations and assist submarine Sailors in building tailored applications based on the ideas received.
“It is truly a privilege to host the iLab roadshow at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor,” said Capt. Ted Schroeder, Chief of Staff, CSG-9. “This provides an amazing opportunity for our Sailors to share their creative ideas, test new equipment, and help the future of the submarine force.”
In the TTF Lobby, Sailors were able to test out equipment like the OceanLens, which uses a Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset to create a 3D immersive environment for visualizing undersea topography; the HoloLens device, which allows users to virtually experience how to move within a model engine; and Interactive Piloting, which was created using seven GoPro cameras covering, 360-degree field of view that allows a drive-through view of actual port entry conditions and close-up views of buoys and natural features.
“The virtual reality headset felt really realistic; I have never experienced anything like that before,” said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Eliot Grubb, from Bloomington, Indiana, assigned to the Blue crew of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN 737). “I can definitely see how this technology would be useful during training, just because it could give you a first-hand look at your job before you ever set foot on a submarine.”
The iLab’s mission is to exploit and leverage commercial sector research and tools from the computer gaming industry and cellular phone markets to explore the latest technologies. This is the first and only stop for the iLab roadshow, but according to Keithely, because of the success of this trip, more may be scheduled in the future.
“Sailors can send an email with their ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org,” said Roegge. “Our staff will work with them, and for the ideas selected for further development, will help to develop a prototype. The point is there are no bad ideas. As we pursue new ways to leverage technology we must be open ourselves to pursuing new uses for technology no matter where they come from.”