Vern's GRIDS page
UNC Seal Old Well

GRIDS (Geospatial Registration of Information for Dismounted Soldiers)

(Vern's GRIDS page, a personal perspective)




DARPA logo Warfighter Visualization logo

Research on user head tracking for augmented reality
in the Department of Computer Science at UNC Chapel Hill
moves from the lab to the battle zone
Funded under the DARPA ETO Warfighter Visualization Program


UNCCH has conducted a long standing research program in the tracking of users' head positions and orientations quickly and accurately for use in virtual and augmented reality (AR) display of computer generated imagery. Until recently, our focus has been on minimizing size and weight of the user-worn tracker, and maximizing its precision and response speed. The various clients we used to provide driving problems for this research were architectural walk-through and medical applications , all appropriately implemented in a laboratory environment with controlled tracker support infrastructure. Recent interest by the military in using AR technology to aid the foot soldier in the battlefield has led to funding for the development of AR tracking in the field without supporting infrastructure. The GRIDS project is our attempt to develop and integrate components of our tracking technology to work under such conditions, particularly for urban warfare which is seen as one of the principal kinds of battle zones of the future.


Year 1 Demo at Webster Field annex, PAX River Naval Air Station



Vern Chi checking the GRIDS display

In an engineering mock-up prototype of the GRIDS helmet mounted display, Vern Chi views textual data overlaying a feature on the horizon during the DARPA Warfighter Visualization Year One Demonstration exercises at Webster Field.

In June 1998, the DARPA Warfighter Visualization Program conducted their "Year One Demo" for potential military clients across the services. The combined demo consisted of real time video data acquisition on board an Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) ExDrone (essentially a military grade radio controlled model airplane) from Webster Field, telemetered to a command post where it was used to incrementally update a terrain database using Sarnoff Labs technology, and to render useful images of the database using Cambridge Research technology, with potential for wireless distribution to ground troops for display through augmented reality technology provided by the GRIDS team. This team comprises UNC Chapel Hill and University of Southern California performing innovative tracking research, Hughes Research Labs (now Raytheon) developing this research into a head wearable prototype and Raytheon Defense Systems integrating it with their existing augmented reality technology for the foot soldier.

The Year One Demo was a big success, generating a high level of interest and enthusiasm among the many brass and technical advisors attending from across the services.

And from the UNC team, Gary Bishop, Greg Welch, Vern Chi, Hans Weber, Steve Brumback and Kurtis Keller all enjoyed it immensely. In particular, since there are no hotels or motels in St. Mary's, MD (the location of Webster Field), Vern had suggested we try a Bed and Breakfast for accommodations. Jim Mahaney of the MSL staff handled the details and found us a vineyard located right on the water of Chesapeake Bay, and it was unquestionably the finest and most gracious accommodations Vern has ever experienced on a business trip.

To the home page of Leandra Vicci, nee Vern Chi

(Last updated on 1 November 1999)