Hammond's GeoTrooper featured on Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet

Image of Tracy Hammond

GeoTrooper, a project created by Dr. Tracy Hammond that addresses the complex difficulties of navigation and assembly for paratroopers on the drop zone, is featured in a video released through Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet. Hammond is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University.

The GeoTrooper project began with funds from the DARPA IPTO program and with equipment donated through the Rockwell Collins Charitable Corporation program. During times of national emergencies, thousands of paratroopers simultaneously drop out of the sky and attempt to coordinate quickly on land among an array of hazards, including enemy fire, darkness and confusion.

To address these difficulties, Hammond, director of Sketch Recognition Lab, and student members of the lab created and developed a multi-modal mobile navigation system that uses ruggedized beacons to mark assembly points and heavy drop equipment and smartphones to assist in navigating to these points while minimizing cognitive load and maximizing situational awareness.

The Commanding General of the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg aided significantly with the development of the project, visiting the Sketch Recognition Lab twice to evaluate and discuss solutions. Additionally, he enabled Dr. Hammond and her students to visit the military base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, so they could observe and interact with the paratroopers, other officers, and subject matter experts during their jump training and tests.

Texas A&M's ROTC was pivotal in the success of GeoTrooper. Every other weekend, members of Texas A&M's ROTC volunteered to test and provide feedback on the system in order to ensure an ideal system. The Texas A&M Department of Military Studies was also pivotal, as instructors provided significant feedback during the life of the project.

In the end, GeoTrooper evolved to Haptigo, a jacket embedded with modules on the left, right shoulders and one in the small of the back to get paratroopers and other military personnel to a rendezvous point without occupying their hands or distracting their ears and eyes. In multiple demonstrations, the soldiers arrive at their destination quickly; what could take more than two hours, now takes ten minutes. Needless-to-say, the military has adapted the Haptigo technology for field use.

Hammond and her students Danielle Cummings, Manoj Prasad, George Lucchese, and Chris Aikens were nominated for best case study for their GeoTrooper research at the 2013 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Prior to that, GeoTrooper won first place in the Graduate Research Poster in Social Sciences category at the Texas A&M 2013 Student Research Week, the Texas A&M CSE Undergraduate Research Excellence Award in 2012, and the People's Choice Award at the 2011 Tapia Conference.