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As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have grown in popularity within the gaming and entertainment industries over the past few years, the capabilities of VR and AR allow for a level of performance that users have never experienced before.
As such, it’s no surprise that this technology is being evaluated for military training. The increased level of immersion can directly correlate to an increased level of readiness. Some of the use cases for VR and AR technology in military training include firefighting and battlefield simulation, vehicle simulation and virtual boot camp, among others.
Cubic Global Defense’s Chief Technical Manager Andre Balta recently participated in a panel discussion on the topic of VR/AR at WEST, a premier naval conference. According to Cubic’s website, the panel discussed the future of virtual and augmented reality as well as other immersive realities for naval aviation training. Balta shared his industry insight and also gave a glimpse into what the company has done and is currently doing to incorporate VR/AR into its military training systems.
He explained that a typical simulation product has a team of systems, software and electrical engineers working to build, integrate and test. Computer-based training (CBT) courseware requires instructional system designers, psychologists and subject matter experts. However, VR/AR technology requires more, it requires up to 10 different skillsets. These skillsets range from human factor engineers, game developers, and technical producers, in addition to all the skillsets required for CBT and simulation products. Balta pointed out these are unique skillsets from different industries that are organically programmed to not communicate the same way. The company has spent the past five years building a studio dedicated to the integration of all these unique skillsets.
He referred to the complexity of Incorporating VR/AR into military training, both from a technical standpoint and a training implementation perspective. However, Balta stated there are newer generation advanced learning products that can be used as a platform for content and art. For example, Cubic’s Immersive Virtual Shipboard Environment (IVSE), an advanced learning product for the Littoral Combat Ship training program, supports the U.S. Navy by putting trainees in a photo-realistic 3-D virtual environment that teaches tasks in settings virtually identical to real-life scenarios.
The IVSE is built with the latest and greatest technology, offering the opportunity to be “re-used” as a starting point for AR/VR applications. Traditional legacy flight simulators, as an example, may not be suitable for such reuse.
Balta described other “immersive realities” that could be used for training, such as wearable collars that provide the scent of a fuel oil leak or haptic gloves that can simulate a hot pipe. The future could possibly be a combination of all these realities that end up providing an unparalleled immersive training experience for the user.
Balta concluded by noting, whether VR/AR is used commercially or for military training, training content is still king. At the end of the day, with virtual systems, the trainee is going to use the training content to train. The increased level of immersion in which that content is delivered will be the drive for innovation in the future. Naturally, the future for VR/AR within military training is bright and it’s only a matter of time until its true potential will be unlocked.