The AWARE Project: Arming Wearable Augmented Reality Equipment to Strengthen Psychological Reserves and Resilience

Augmented reality (AR) offers a powerful new tool to see and interact with the world. To unlock the potentials of using holograms, the US Army recently invested $22 BILLION into the research and development of AR headsets to enhance soldiers' abilities on the battlefield. The risks of entering battle to protect freedom and democracy are severe – as 10% to 30% of military persons who experience war suffer critical mental health issues, notably, post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and major depressive (MDD) disorders.

This proposal, The AWARE Project, aims to increase CSUN's research capacities to examine the promise AR may have off-the-battlefield. In the past two years, CSUN faculty, staff, and students have successfully researched and developed five functional AR headset applications to promote mental health and functional capacities. Pilot and feasibility studies on these applications have been conducted with community-dwelling older adults, nursing mothers, and people with Parkinson's Disease. Students and faculty are currently limited in their research capacities due to having access to only three AR research and development setups (headsets + laptops).

The Equipment/Instrumentation grant will be used to purchase 70+ research and development setups to increase the scale and reach of current research capacities of five ongoing AR research projects. Purchasing more AR equipment enables CSUN, one of the nation's largest Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) of Latinx (34,633) who are majority (55.4%) low-income, to collect data faster and involve six times as many students.

Providing more students with AR research experience will make them competitive to obtain high demand AR positions, as the marketplace grows from $3.48 billion in 2017 to an estimated $198.17 billion by 2025.

AR technology, however, is still in its infancy. Much more research is needed to examine whether human-AR interactions promote or burden human functioning, especially for vulnerable groups such as deployed soldiers. Correspondingly, The AWARE Project maps onto The Army Research Office's recent Broad Agency Announcement on Social and Cognitive Networks and our research findings informs knowledge about the promises and limitations of AR.

The AWARE Project increases CSUN's abilities to train a large minority, low-income student body on state-of-the-art AR technologies and increases their likelihood of entering the STEM fields of today and tomorrow. More importantly, CSUN students who engage in The AWARE Project are helping to shape how this new technology can improve soldiers' mental capacities both on and off the battlefield.

Project Themes:

mental health interventions human-computer interaction technology research and development Computer and Systems Architecture

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