Training has been an early application of virtual reality (VR) in government. In fact, in a recent survey, 50% of public safety professionals report using virtual reality as a training mode in their organizations. Today, the use of the technology is extending far beyond training and into operations. VR is increasing in use across the federal government as a new way to conduct medical treatment and even warfighting.
Taking training where it's never gone before
Some of VR's first applications in government were for military training. Virtual reality for military training gave personnel a safe environment to learn complicated and risky maneuvers. In addition to being safer for personnel, it saved wear, tear, and even damage to expensive equipment. Flight simulators, specialized mission simulations, and even maintenance and engineering training have long happened via virtual reality in the military. While VR has long been used as a more affordable and safer way to conduct these hands-on training, it is now being applied to a different type of sensitive mission.
The U.S. Army is preparing sexual harassment prevention and response techniques training. The program will fully immerse soldiers into real-world scenarios as a way to learn how to intervene, respond, and report sexual harassment/assault response and prevention related incidents.
Similarly, the military is using VR to practice de-escalation techniques. Law enforcement and military personnel can use a VR application to create realistic interactions where they can de-escalate a situation using diplomacy rather than weapons.
Virtual care for real patients
One of the areas with the greatest potential for VR use is the medical field. VR can be used to treat addiction patients, with a doctor monitoring their physical responses to potential external stimuli. VR's proven use in training can also help instruct surgeons prior to operating on a patient. The availability of 5G now extends the use of VR to more physical areas and could see the introduction of Augmented Reality (AR)-guided surgical navigation. 5G also enables new use of patient wearables to provide alternative treatment and therapy options.
VR moves from training to tactical for the military
A recent drone swarm demonstration was enabled by VR. The idea of a drone swarm is that each unit can operate independently once given a command or an objective by a human operator while also communicating with other drones - assigning cooperative goals to individual units and making sure they support one another. In the recent demo, 130 physical devices backed by 30 simulated drone platforms were used. This scope was too much for a single drone operator, or even a small team, to try and individually control each unit. In this case, the swarm operator watched everything using a virtual reality headset that showed various camera views. The software consolidated all of the data coming in from the swarm and built a virtual environment for the human operator making it easier to see what areas of the environment had been surveilled and assign the swarm to areas that had not yet been covered.
As with any new technology there are concerns to be addressed. Because data is being transmitted and shared through networks or an individual storage center, interference and hacking remain issues. All VR use will require special attention to ensure they do not become targets for cyberattack and exploitation.
GovEvents and GovWhitepapers have a number of resources related to VR technologies and their applications.
- Second Annual Air Force: IT Plans and Priorities Forum (March 9, 2022; virtual) - The U.S. Air Force is working to accelerate its digital transformation and information technology modernization efforts. The service branch is leveraging advanced technology such as robotics, automation, virtual reality simulation and artificial intelligence to strengthen its workforce, update legacy infrastructures and address global pacing challenges in the modern battlespace. Hear from public and private sector leaders as they discuss the strategic priorities, cutting-edge technologies and innovative initiatives driving the Air Force today.
- How to Use Simulation to Align Your Work Team (March 10, 2022; online) - We're all very familiar with the idea of simulation. By creating a small copy of reality on which to practice with high focus, freedom from consequences and practical reflection, we can save time, money and even lives. This webinar will explain how the same approach has been used very effectively with work teams to develop battle rhythm and to save time on projects and missions.
- Cyber Education, Research, and Training Symposium (CERTS) 2022 (May 9-11, 2022; Augusta, GA) - Hosted by AFCEA International, this event brings government, education, research, and industry leaders together to focus on advancing cyber workforce development, training, retention, and support. Leaders will discuss how senior leadership are developing the nation's cyber workforce to prepare and address challenges of today and tomorrow.
- Accelerating Industrial Digital Transformation and Sustainability (June 20-23, 2022; online) - Technologies like cloud, machine learning, edge computing, IoT, cybersecurity technology, additive manufacturing, augmented reality, and more are enabling new business processes and obscuring traditional functional boundaries. OT, IT, and ET teams are growing their skills and capabilities and transforming real-time operations. Seeking to be among the winners in the new normal, leaders charged with driving transformation are seizing this moment to innovate and deliver real value.
- Enabling the U.S. Government to Virtualize Operational Training in the Pandemic (case study) - The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to rethink how they deliver training to their workforce. Learn how one agency adapted their secure, classroom-based course into an engaging, interactive, and fully virtual learning experience.
- Army and Marine Corps Should Take Additional Actions to Mitigate and Prevent Training Accidents (white paper) - Tactical vehicles are used to train military personnel and to achieve a variety of missions. Both the Army and Marine Corps have experienced tactical vehicle accidents that resulted in deaths of military personnel during non-combat scenarios. GAO reviewed issues related to the Army's and Marine Corps' use of tactical vehicles and this report looks at trends in reported tactical vehicle accidents, deaths, and reported causes, and evaluates the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps have taken steps to mitigate and prevent accidents.