Portable Auditory Situation Awareness Training Tool (PASAT)
Navy SBIR FY2018.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2018.1
Topic No.: N181-084
Topic Title: Portable Auditory Situation Awareness Training Tool (PASAT)
Proposal No.: N181-084-0538
Firm: Hearing Ergonomics Acoustics Resources (HEAR) LLC
8138 Crestridge Rd.
Fairfax Station, Virginia 22039
Contact: Kichol Lee
Phone: (540) 922-2941
Abstract: HEAR, LLC will design, develop and test a Portable Auditory Situation Awareness Training system (PASAT) for training Auditory Situation Awareness (ASA) recognition/identification and localization skills in military personnel. PASAT, using a menu-based computer interface, will enable user-friendly setup, calibration, and operation by either trainer or trainee, and provide performance feedback during training exercises on accuracy and response time metrics. Using custom LabVIEW software, training will be enabled with both open ear and various HPDs and TCAPS, with on-screen comparison of results. A computerized automatic gain control innovation will maintain one of at least 3 preselected signal/masking-noise ratios sufficiently above ambient noise encountered in training environments. Options for various military-relevant, pre-calibrated WAV files of signals and noises will be selectable by the trainer/trainee. PASAT will include a 15-degree arcuate separation between signal speakers in azimuth/elevation, with speaker array mounted on a collapsible, portable halo-style frame. Phase I includes a subcontract to Virginia Tech's Auditory Systems Lab to enable its full-scale DRILCOM ASA test system to be used as a springboard resource. The Principal Investigators have extensive experience with ASA testing/training, having pioneered objective measurement of ASA performance in 2007, and thereafter developed instrumentation/protocols for its laboratory measurement and trainee skills acquisition.
Benefits: Functional Need and Benefits. The functional need is acute for an efficient, portable Auditory Situation Awareness training tool (PASAT) for instilling auditory recognition/identification and localization skills in military personnel as well as civilian workers in certain dynamic environments. Research at Virginia Tech has clearly demonstrated that: 1) most electronic HPDs and TCAPS that are militarily-deployed significantly compromise at least one aspect of the wearer's ASA performance, and 2) that the skills of ASA, with open ear and with some TCAPS, can be acquired and improved via structured training using proper instrumentation and protocol. Thus, the functional need for PASAT is to ensure that all military personnel who rely on HPDs or TCAPS are fully prepared, via training, to deploy with evidence-based confidence about their ASA performance when depending upon their devices in dangerous situations. The forecasted "commercialization strategy" is aimed at providing a turn-key, trainee-friendly and reasonable-cost PASAT system to the U.S. Navy and other military branches, in a form that can rapidly impact the training of military personnel to prepare them for operational missions where ASA is requisite. Market Need/Commercial Applications. The market need for the PASAT system is vast in part because most warfighters in every U.S. military branch are assigned an advanced HPD or TCAPS and must perform with it. In the U.S. Army alone for the period January, 2014-January 2018, there were approximately 30,228 TCAPS and TCAPS-Lite devices assigned to personnel. For the remainder of FY-2018, the projection is for an addtional 10,673 devices to be assigned. Thus, there are now approximately 40,901 soldiers in the Army alone who will need training with their new devices. Estimating that one PASAT device might be rotated amongst soldiers in each Army Platoon having a minimum of 16 soldiers and 2 commanding officers (Lt. and NCO) each, then approximately 2,300 PASAT's are required just to train those Army personnel who have or will receive TCAPS through FY-2018. More compelling is the scenario wherein ASA skills are deemed requisite for all military personnel, exceeding 1.1 million, who must function in auditorially-demanding missions, who may wear an HPD or TCAPS, and/or who may be noise-exposed. (Sources: PEO Soldier and https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/dwp/stats_reports.jsp.) Commercial market potential includes noise-intense civilian industries, such as law enforcement, road construction, and mining, where sound transmission electronic HPDs or headsets are provided to individuals who must detect, recognize and localize threats, alarms, horns and other sounds; thus, the expected benefits of the PASAT system for safety training are extensive. In the civilian sector, NIOSH can be enlisted for assistance in bringing PASAT into industrial training programs, in view of NIOSH's education and training missions. HEAR, LLC's proposal includes a forecasted plan for commercialization, starting 6 months into Phase II, with 8 well-defined steps toward achieving both military and civilian commercialization.