Dr. Amela Sadagic is a Research Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. She also serves as a Co-director of the Center for Additive Manufacturing (CAM) and a Co-director for the Consortium for Additive Manufacturing Research and Education (CAMRE). In the past, Dr. Sadagic coordinated the National Tele-immersion Initiative (NTII) research consortium that involved 30 researchers from four U.S. universities. The largest NPS project led by Dr. Sadagic as a Principle Investigator (PI) included 40 researchers from three institutions – NPS, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Sarnoff Corporation. While at NPS, she has been a PI and co-PI on research efforts with over $10M of research funding for the VR and AR domain and a Co-director for $15M for the Additive Manufacturing domain. The user studies led by Dr. Sadagic involved over 4,700 subjects from the Naval domain.
Dr. Sadagic is a recipient of the 2021 Richard W. Hamming Annual Faculty Award for Interdisciplinary Achievement. She has been a chair of committees at multiple conferences and a member of numerous international program committees. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for three professional journals: “Frontiers in Virtual Reality - Industry section,” “IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics,” and “PRESENCE: Virtual and Augmented Reality.” She is a member of the IEEE VR conference Steering committee. Her research interests include virtual reality, augmented reality, human factors in VR/AR, multiuser collaborative environments, coupling and evaluation of emerging technologies in support of systems for operation, training and learning, adoption of additive manufacturing and innovation by domain users, and diffusion and large-scale adoption of technology. Dr. Sadagic holds a Ph.D. in computer science from University College London, UK.
Before coming to the Naval Postgraduate School I worked in a research company that initiated several remarkable technology projects - National Tele-Immersion Initiative that I worked on, Internet2, and ThinkQuest. While my educational background and my research were predominantly focused on the technical side of Virtual Reality, through the project work with my Ph.D. advisor Met Slater, I got drawn to the domain of human factors, where one investigates the needs of the users and examines how the technology can support those needs. The nuances and ever-changing demands on the users and technology make that domain dynamic and genuinely fascinating. The work at NPS offered ample opportunity for that type of research, and I have been doing it ever since. The work with our students—the variety of domains and ideas they bring—and the ease with which I can collaborate with colleagues across the campus are two qualities that are rare to find in one place. Those two elements impacted my academic life at NPS the most.
The work of Lt. Col. Attig championed the domain of part-task trainers realized through low-cost commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and software solutions. We combined that work with the aspects of the diffusion of innovation and technology adoption to support the needs of a large number of users, in his case, all pilots. Lt. Col. Attig reflected on his experience as a pilot and remarked that the flight simulators required the pilots to integrate several skills for the first time, which may have been too early in a training regimen for many. As a result, the time on the flight simulator could not be used most effectively. Before using such costly resources, the pilots needed an inexpensive, highly deployable, mobile training solution that would 'sit' between the classroom training and flight simulator to get them gradually prepared for the challenges of the flight simulator. The pilots could use those part-task training solutions anytime and anywhere to practice different elements of air operations before the limited time on the big simulator. Lt. Col. Attig's work inspired several other theses that followed the same rationale. After graduation from NPS, Lt. Col. Attig was even able to design and build such a solution for the Marine Corps. He completed that while being a Director of the Battlefield Simulation Center in Twentynine Palms, California. The complexity of that work was also a testament to the knowledge and a range of skills he acquired through the MOVES curriculum.
Parachute training in the physical world is connected with frequent injuries that are to a great extent caused by human error—they do not evaluate the height correctly, miss to maneuver the elements of the parachute, and, as a result, touch the ground with inappropriately high speed that may result with the injuries of lower extremities, but also the back, spine, head and neck injuries. In short, any effort committed to preventing those injuries is a great investment. The unique value that thesis research done by Capt. Duran brought is two-fold. Firstly, that was the first effort to study how humans evaluate vertical distances (past research focused only on the evaluation of horizontal distances). Secondly, he examined the use of immersive VR technology to teach people to evaluate vertical heights. His research identified unique issues with estimating vertical distances and confirmed the potential of using virtual environments to assist in teaching people to evaluate vertical heights. We started working on a research paper that will report all those findings.
There are quite a few examples during my 19 years at NPS. More recent examples include Cmdr. Brendan Geoghegan's work on simulating augmented reality display solutions in support of ship navigation - two user studies that tested the performance of conning officer, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Timmerman's work on using augmented reality to enable collaboration and visualization of complex operational technology computer networks, Lt. Joanna Cruz and Lt. JaMerra Turner expanding that work to include the concept of persistent augmented environments and use AR headsets to support mission planning, and Capt. Michael Ashmore going even further and employing persistent augmented and virtual environments to support a novel framework for aircraft maintenance, potentially saving huge resources, preventing human error and making operators more efficient.
A full integration of immersive VR and AR technologies into the warfighters' operations is bound to happen. In my work, I combine two major approaches: the use of mobile, low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf solutions that support a range of individual and team needs, both in training and operations, and the design of those technological solutions with large-scale adoption in mind. We are also very careful when identifying the situations where this type of technology brings value to the operators—technology application should not be done for technology's sake. Similarly, if there is another type of technology or form of training that is more effective, one should use a solution better suited to user needs. After years of studying military domains and the needs of its users, I expanded my research to service-wide solutions that bring major strategic advantage to the organization. The research results we obtained so far suggest that, for example, a systemic application of persistent augmented and virtual environments in daily operations and training onboard Navy ships and Marine Corps installations will significantly impact Department of Navy operational readiness and provide a strategic advantage for the augmentation of human performance.
Regarding immersive technologies, we continue to pursue the efforts of human-machine teaming, with greater effort dedicated to synergy with other domains like computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics. A unique quality of NPS is in its in-depth understanding of the military domain by its faculty and students and the application of that knowledge to a variety of research domains studied at NPS. Very few other universities are ready to dedicate that amount of energy to master some application domain so well and with so many faculty members. Still, we are a relatively small university, so the best way to make big leaps forward is to join forces with others. In that sense, the next step is to bring that unique expertise and form coalitions with colleagues from academia and industry to pursue larger interdisciplinary efforts. I am very excited to harness the potential that the Naval Innovation Center will bring to NPS and DON, and I look forward to future endeavors in that direction.