In this study we present results from a recent camouflage assessment trial where human observers were used in a search by photo methodology to assess generic test camouflage patterns. We conducted a study to investigate possible improvements in camouflage patterns for battle dress uniforms. The aim was to do a comparative study of potential, and generic patterns intended for use in arid areas (sparsely vegetated, semi desert).
We developed a test methodology that was intended to be simple, reliable and realistic with respect to the operational benefit of camouflage. Therefore we chose to conduct a human based observer trial founded on imagery of realistic targets in natural backgrounds. Inspired by a recent and similar trial in the UK, we developed new and purpose-based software to be able to conduct the observer trial. Our preferred assessment methodology – the observer trial – was based on target recordings in 12 different, but operational relevant scenes, collected in a dry and sparsely vegetated area (Rhodes). The scenes were chosen with the intention to span as broadly as possible. The targets were human-shaped mannequins and were situated identically in each of the scenes to allow for a relative comparison of camouflage effectiveness in each scene. Test of significance, among the targets’ performance, was carried out by non-parametric tests as the corresponding time of detection distributions in overall were found to be difficult to parameterize.
From the trial, containing 12 different scenes from sparsely vegetated areas we collected detection time’s distributions for 6 generic targets through visual search by 148 observers. We found that the different targets performed differently, given by their corresponding time of detection distributions, within a single scene. Furthermore, we gained an overall ranking over all the 12 scenes by performing a weighted sum over all scenes, intended to keep as much of the vital information on the targets’ signature effectiveness as possible. Our results show that it was possible to measure the targets performance relatively to another also when summing over all scenes.
We also compared our ranking based on our preferred criterion (detection time) with a secondary (probability of detection) to assess the sensitivity of a final ranking based upon the test set-up and evaluation criterion. We found our observer-based approach to be well suited regarding its ability to discriminate between similar targets and to assign numeric values to the observed differences in performance. We believe our approach will be well suited as a tool whenever different aspects of camouflage are to be evaluated and understood further.