Cape Henry Associates and Mixed Reality Technology: An Interview with Chuck Wythe on Mixed Reality Technology and What It Means for CHA

By: Heatherlynn Akins, Powerhouse Planning Technical Writer and Quality Assurance Specialist

Cape Henry Associates (CHA) is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business that provides manpower and personnel analysis and training services (MPT) to the U. S. military and other clients. CHA has consistently been on the forefront of innovative technology in its quest to provide state-of-the-art services to its clients. They are making a concerted effort to move toward vertical integration of all MPT products. Recently, CHA announced it would be incorporating mixed reality technology (MRT) into its already cutting-edge technology platform as part of its move toward vertical integration. I sat down with CHA’s chief revenue officer, Chuck Wythe, to discuss this latest addition to their services, and to find out what mixed reality technology is and what it means for the future.

HA: What is mixed reality technology?

CW: I could get into real technical details about how wave systems are tricking your eye into seeing something it’s not, but I won’t. Basically, think of Xbox’s Kinect technology. It tracks motion and translates that onto your gaming screen. Companies such as Microsoft have taken that technology, flipped it around, and put it on your head via a headset. It maps your real environment and allows you to interact with both the virtual and the real world at the same time. In other words, it takes virtual environments, overlays them in the real world, and meshes them together to create a mixed reality (MR) environment.

HA: How does mixed reality technology fit into the core services you provide at CHA?

CW: Right now, we’re doing tests and evaluations to determine exactly how it will fit, but we’ve been building high-end training services for quite some time involving 3D models, etc. The vast majority of assets can easily be repurposed into the MRT environment in short order. For example, we can construct a gas turbine model in under two days that provides a much more immersive experience for the user studying it. Currently, we’re looking at the educational value of this technology and trying to answer questions such as, “How do we use this tool to make our training better?” and, “What training models can we create to measurably improve cognitive skills among other things?” Basically, we want to improve training the best way we can using this new technology.

HA: What types of clients could benefit from your mixed reality technology services and what would they gain from MRT at this time?

CW: CHA is principally military based, so we don’t do a lot of work outside of that area. However, we’ve started to expand into analysis and logistic work. We’ve begun to take on clients who don’t work directly for the government, but are ancillary clients who produce items for the military. These clients benefit the most from what we’re doing with mixed reality technology at this time. They can weigh in on the process in a real but virtual way, from a distance, which is powerful.  Clients no longer have to be on site to have an interactive say in how the process is evolving.

Let’s say, for example, that a client provides maintenance for a building. We could build an MRT model of that building that includes all those hidden areas, like pipes and A/C units, etc. We can overlay error data from a malfunctioning unit such as an A/C unit so the maintenance tech can easily identify which individual unit is malfunctioning and fix it quickly. In addition, we foresee a potential cost benefit to clients. If MRT works out the way we hope, we should be able to save our clients money from a point of work perspective. It will take less time to build what the client is looking for, thus reducing the overall cost of the project. Although I would stress that at this time, this is a hypothetical savings.

HA: What else would you like to share about mixed reality technology?

CW: Basically, mixed reality technology is a laptop on your head. Most things you can do on your computer can be done in a holographic view through mixed reality technology. It’s going to free people up from their desks. As we go further, the way we interact with data is going to go from 2-dimensional, which data isn’t, to 3-dimensional. Up to this point, we’ve only been able to view data 2-dimensionally. To be able to bring our ability to interpret and work with data into the 3-dimensional world it inhabits is an amazing concept.

It goes without saying that there are skeptics out there. A lot of other marketable products are coming from many vendors. Lots of electronics companies will be coming out with their own versions of MRT. It’s important to note that CHA isn’t tied to a particular lens headset or hardware as the device, but we are tied to the technology that makes these things possible. The concept of the holographic world is where things are going and we’re trying to be on the forefront of that capability. We want to get cutting-edge stuff out there when we see a real benefit to our clients. CHA is excited to take this journey and learn precisely what this mixed reality technology can do and discover all the ways it can benefit our clients – and through them, our country as a whole.

For more information on mixed reality technology – or just to see what the possibilities are – check out our latest videos here.