Inside a non-descript, soundproof building on the south side of town, researchers from Missouri University of Science of Technology are building an audio battlefield, complete with the sounds of tanks, ordnance, gunfire, shouting and helicopters. Called an immersive audio environment, the testbed facility is leading the way in an effort to better prepare soldiers for combat.
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“When soldiers train in a classroom and learn how to perform different tasks, that’s very different than when they get on the battlefield and suddenly there’s a cacophony of warfare going off all around them,” explains Dr. Steven Grant, the Roy A. Wilkens Missouri Telecommunications Professor at Missouri S&T. “By training soldiers in an immersive auditory experience, they will be better able to complete their tasks quickly and efficiently when they get into a combat situation.”
In the United States, very few immersive audio environments exist, and the ones that do are experimental in nature, expensive and inaccessible to the general military trainee. In Rolla, 64 loudspeakers hang on a truss system. Eighty-hertz subwoofers shake the ground while the sounds of combat scenarios are recreated by varying the volume between triangles of speakers.
“The difference between ‘green’ and ‘battle-hardened’ war-fighters is the ability to function effectively in stressful operational environment,” says Grant, whose research is funded by the Army’s Leonard Wood Institute. “Our idea is for soldiers to get accustomed to an environment that they haven’t been exposed to yet.”