Monday, March 30, 2009

Military Symbology Needs Upgrade

While the standard military symbol (MIL-STD-2525B and APP-6A) is well organized, fast to display, easy to learn, and is of course the standard, in my opinion it needs to be upgraded. Check out this poster from AGI. There’s a mix of 3D models for everything from jets to entire cities with materials, jet exhaust, shading, labeling, etc. but right in the middle of the graphic are the typical military symbols. They seem completely out of place in the modern digital military age. It seems to me that there isn’t much of a reason to continue to use these symbols when many of major cities of world are currently being modeled in 3D virtual globes and the ease at which something like a tank can be created. I think the military should invest in developing a new standard based on 3D models that are just as intuitive, easy to learn and perform just as fast as the current standard. While I realize this would be a huge effort and would take years before we see it come to fruition, it would probably be a good idea to start the new standard now because the technology and means to display this kind of symbology is really already here.

Which tank would you prefer?

Also, what about orientation of the symbol? In order to see the standard symbol at all angles you must turn on billboarding otherwise while in a perspective view you might not even see the symbol. Of course this isn’t a problem with fully realize 3D symbols. Another aspect of orientation is when animating the symbols. Because something like a jet has a front and a back it makes since to orient it correctly so you can intuitively determine its heading. It doesn’t make much sense to add a leader line to show the heading of something that naturally has a heading based on its orientation.

In the end it just makes sense to view 3D objects because that’s how we perceive them in the real world but I’m not holding my breath for any big changes to the military symbology.