Project Leader: Diane Piepol

The FlatWorld project is an immersive virtual reality environment in which users can walk and run freely among simulated rooms, buildings, and streets. FlatWorld uses a system of “digital flats,” large rear-projection screens that employ digital graphics to depict a room’s interior, a view to the outside, or a building’s exterior. By adding physical props to the flats, FlatWorld becomes a “mixed reality” environment where users interact with both the physical and virtual worlds seamlessly.

Digital flats can be readily assembled in any open space to simulate multiple situations in a variety of geographic locations. The scenes on the digital flats can represent a real world setting, such as a city in the Middle East, depicting actual city buildings in their correct locations.

The FlatWorld display system also integrates immersive audio and 4D sensory features with the visual displays. The FlatWorld Simulation Control Architecture software enables environment designers to synchronize sounds and effects with real-time graphics, as well as respond to user interactions with physical props (such as opening a door or window). Sensory immersion in a scene can further be augmented by strobe lighting and tactile floor speakers, which simulate the flashes and vibrations of explosions or a lightning storm. FlatWorld provides a genesis point for a training system that participants could easily walk through unencumbered by head mount displays, and incorporates life-size projected displays with physical props and real-time, 3D graphics.

The FlatWorld immersive system acts as an integration point wherein the advancing work of other ICT research projects such as ICT Natural Language, Virtual Humans and the ICT Graphics Lab can be incorporated. This work will assist the transition of ICT technologies to actual use in operational settings.

The JFETS installations at Fort Sill, Oklahoma leverage FlatWorld mixed reality technology to replicate real world conditions without the costs associated with live exercises. Two different multi-room configurations of the FlatWorld system are under development for use by the Office of Naval Research. These are the Infantry Immersive Trainer- Flatworld systems installed at Quantico, Virginia and at Camp Pendleton, California. Each system is custom designed to meet the needs of their respective facility.


  • Create a modular and transportable mixed reality environment that can simulate a variety of real-world locations
  • Exploit low cost, common off-the-shelf technology (COTS) whenever possible