Multisensory Integration for Pilot Spatial Orientation

Period of Performance: 06/06/2003 - 03/06/2004


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Nti, Inc.
927 Fred Johnston Drive
Fairborn, OH 45324
Principal Investigator


Spatial disorientation (SD) contributes up to 30% of all Class A mishaps in the United States Air Force. Type I SD mishaps occur because pilots do not attend to or misread primary flight information from their cockpit displays. The inability of current displays to provide pilots with intuitive and preconscious (ambient) information concerning the aircraft's attitude is believed to be responsible for the attention overload and processing failures that result in Type I SD. Several technologies have been proposed to improve the quality and naturalness of orientation information in the cockpit, including peripheral visual displays, 3-D audio, and tactile cueing. However, very few empirical data exist concerning the efficacy of these technologies in isolation, and none exist concerning their efficacy in combination. A comprehensive methodology is proposed for evaluating each display's controllability, attention demands, ability to overcome motion conflict, and effectiveness in unusual attitude recovery. The basic evaluation algorithms will be developed in Phase I, while the evaluation of candidate displays will be conducted in Phase II. A primary benefit from the Phase I effort will include an evaluation methodology that can be used to assess the effectiveness of multisensory technologies planned for advanced fighter aircraft cockpits. These technologies include helmet-mounted displays, 3-D localized audio, and tactile situation awareness systems. This product may also have commercial applications that include general aviation aircraft. In addition, given the increased use of virtual environments for training purposes, and wearable computers as navigation aids and aids for the handicapped, it is likely that situation awareness and orientation displays can be evaluated for commercial applications, using the same or similar technology. The Phase II effort should result specific recommendations for displays and types of displays that will be particularly effective for each of the above applications.