AR and VR’s future in military training and on the front lines

by | Sep 5, 2022

VR and AR are used by defence forces around the world.

This is no longer hypothetical. It’s not a prediction. It’s a fact.

A pertinent example of immersive technology’s applications in a defence force, is the US army’s (STE) Synthetic Training Environment.

As we speak, it’s training soldiers. Teaching them skills they’ll need for combat readiness and operations.

STE can simulate any battlefield in any part of the globe.

The training it provides can capture the complexities of any operational environment. It walks soldiers through equipment deployments on a 1-to-1 scale, allowing them to practise procedures again and again in a hyper-realistic environment. All at a fraction of the cost of physical training.

Another example is the US Airforce’s virtual reality training for its Mobile Aircraft Arresting System (MAAS).

In an immersive 3-D environment, Airmen can interact with the MAAS and use objects, tools, and equipment similar to what they will use in the field.

They can practise setting MAAS up, taking it down and responding to problems. All without the expenses, logistics and risk of conducting this training in the real world.

There’s no limit to how many times an air man can attempt any of these procedures. No instructor needs to be there to observe and divide their attention between a group of trainees.

The experience is the same on base, at home, or in an airconditioned office. Information transfer is much more efficient too. Rather than reading from books and 2D instruction manuals, the instructions are overlaid on top of the equipment. Visual guidance and prompts direct the trainee, as they learn and remember these instructions can be stripped back or removed entirely. However, it’s not a passive experience. Trainees need to go through the steps themselves, and nothing happens unless they expressly tell it to. These sessions can be recorded, analytics extracted and unparalleled insight can be gained into competency.

In a simulated environment a misakes only consequence is an opportunity to learn.

Closer to home, WA Police just put out a request for tender for a Virtual Reality Interactive Tactical Training System (VRITTS). The idea behind the simulated training is to “immerse the officer’s consciousness so they react as they would if the scenario was real.” – fst

They requested VR training for Active Armed Offender and ‘use of force scenarios, such as actions with knives, batons, tasers, and vehicle stops.

The tender also requested that the system be ”Australianised’ where necessary” – for instance, ensuring simulated vehicles are right-hand drive only. All the equipment models will be tailored to the equipment that WA police use. The goal is to build a serious game that’s as close to the real life and real risk that these officers will face.

It’s not just the military and police that need a risk free, low cost training environment.

Shell has built a VR simulation to train staff to respond to fires – erupting from a storage tanker after an overspill.

We can see how such systems will quickly become invaluable in high-risk professions. Imagine being able to ‘rehearse’ a law enforcement scenario numerous times until an officer is confident they could execute it perfectly under pressure.

Consideration for building VR training systems

In this conference on STE, a panel of generals and majors spoke about characteristics that an effective simulated training environment needs to have, and the mistakes they made developing STE training in the past.

They highlighted the importance of modular, open architecture. In the past, they’d built closed systems that couldn’t talk to each other, and used different databases and terrain.

For future development, they concluded, it’s absolutely critical to correct this and develop concurrent systems. A modular system can be rapidly updated because an improvement in one module is an improvement in all modules.

As the game/physics engines, AI, hardware, and software that powers these experiences improve it becomes quicker and cheaper to achieve higher levels of fidelity.

Another major development in the military’s use of AR is a contract the US Military signed with Microsoft to build 12,000 custom Hololens headsets as part of a $22 billion contract that will span 10 years.

The “Integrated Visual Augmentation Systems” is a more durable version of the Hololens.

Here’s a rundown of the capabilities:

  • Night vision
  • Thermal imaging sensor
  • GPS mini-map showing 3D terrain and the position of soldiers
  • Holographic instruction manual to repair or use equipment in the field
  • Project a gunsight onto the IVAS display, showing where a soldier’s weapon is aimed even if he or she isn’t looking down the sights
  • All current STE training with a more durable headset

Combat and training have a high tech future aahead

It’s currently used by the armed forces of India, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Turkey, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, New Zealand, South Africa and Algeria.

It weighs only 16 grams and is a little less than 4 inches long. It can fly into buildings and map out terrain, equipment and combatants with its electro optic camera.

These microdrones were used on the front lines in Afghanistan by the UK’s Brigade Reconnaissance Force at Camp Bastion. In 2015 the Black Hornet was deployed with US Marine Special Ops teams.

LIDAR technology, a type of optical scanning, is already used for mapping construction sites in engineering, resources, and construction industries. It creates models accurate to a millimetre.

Do you want a prediction? In the next three to five years, scans from these microdrones will be fed back to AR headsets to save the lives of soldiers. What defence force can turn down the ability to see around corners, know where every hostile combatant is located before entering a building, and have perfect awareness of the position of every friendly is possible.

Imagine that technology on a heads-up display, with both hands-free to operate a weapon or any other equipment. A Call of Duty style minimap for a real combat situation.

AR will aid in disaster relief efforts

After a natural disaster, first responders face a multitude of challenges. From debris and cracked roads to power lines down and missing landmarks, the environment is in chaos. It’s all too easy for someone to get lost or injured. AR can provide visual overlays to help with navigation and awareness of potential dangers. It can also enhance communications between relief workers.

Taking a step back, buildings, sites and environments planned with AR are better prepared and more disaster resilient. Pre-disaster, AR can be used for a full building walkthrough to identify potential hazards and make changes. Post-event, AR can again be used for navigation and identifying structural damage.

Let’s wrap this up

Virtual and augmented reality are making training safer and more effective. This tech is only going to get better in the years to come. So what does that mean for you? If you’re considering training in one of these cutting-edge technologies contact 3D Walkabout today and together we can discuss what’s possible and propose solutions for the challenges of tomorrow.

Related Articles

If you’d like to receive our full 'XR for Business Information Pack & Price List' that you can present to & share with your colleagues please add your details below.


Follow Us