Virtual Reality (VR) has strong roots in the military. Long used for training and simulations, the military has helped develop VR technology and continues to innovate in how it can be used. VR continues to be invaluable to tactical, mission training but is also being used in other training areas. For example, the Virtual Welder Trainer program simulates multiple welding processes, blending real world and computer-generated images into a VR environment to allow welders to train without having to use real world resources. Just as flight simulators save money in terms of aircraft use, other virtual reality in military training applications provide similar cost savings in terms of equipment and travel.
Designing and Maintaining Military Equipment
VR is being utilized in all aspects of equipment management. In the design phase, VR can help engineers test designs in combat environments. It can also help determine if a piece of equipment designed for one scenario might work in another and what changes would have to be made to ensure products can operate in a desert environment as well as in cold and rainy climates.
Collaboration Gets (Virtually) Real
VR is moving online collaboration beyond traditional video conferences. With virtual reality military training systems, users can work together on 3D models across continents. VR can also help meet the needs for socialization while working remotely. Federal contractor Accenture has been experimenting with VR headsets, building a virtual environment called Accenture Park. They tell employees Accenture Park is located on the company's "nth floor" as an "always open, always available, virtual reality onboarding campus." People meet, learn through gaming, and interact there. It's even equipped with virtual coffee shops with cappuccino machines.
Virtual Reality Recruiting
VR is also being used to give military recruits a more real world look at what a life of service looks like. One program uses VR headsets to replicate a medical arena so potential recruits can see the work they would carry out as an Army doctor, nurse or medic. Other programs simulate a helicopter mission to put out forest fires, a parachute jump, and firing weapons in the Army Marksmanship Unit. The Army reports that these immersive experiences resonate with its target demographic of 17-24 year olds.
If You Build it They Will Come...Or Will They?
Even with the "cool factor" of VR, there's no guarantee people will want to use it. A recent Inspector General report found that the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) did not include enough user acceptance testing in its development and runs the risk of not being used by soldiers. The report claims that though there were surveys and testing completed as part of the development, there is not enough documentation that IVAS will meet user needs.
- Multi-Domain Operations Workshop (July 19-21, 2022; El Paso, TX) - The theme of this year's workshop is Optimizing the Test & Evaluation Process for Multi-Domain Operations. It will discuss how to apply tenants of this support to test planning and test support. Considerations such as cyber, C4I , distributed testing, modeling and simulations, autonomous systems, hypersonic systems, directed energy, spectrum, advanced instrumentation systems, and Big Data will be included in discussions.
- AUSA Warfighter Summit and Exhibition (July 27-28, 2022; Fayetteville, NC) - With a theme of "America's Response Force: Ready Today, Ready Tomorrow," this event will feature presentations by distinguished speakers from across the defense and academic enterprise on topics that span the seven warfighting functions and highlight the way Army operational forces can sharpen their capability edge for winning throughout the expanded competitive space.
- iFest 2022 (August 16-18, 2022; Alexandria, VA) - The theme of "New Paradigm of Learning: Partner and Prevail" highlights the value of working together to build the DoD's future learning ecosystem.
- Defense Tech Week (September 12-16, 2022; Washington, DC) - Senior leaders across the Department of Defense continue to hammer home the point that to stay apace with great power adversaries, the U.S. military must invest in data-driven emerging technologies and prepare for conflict that takes place in cyberspace as much as it does on a traditional battlefield. This event is dedicated to technology's critical role in the future of modern U.S. defense and national security.
- Emerging Military Technologies: Background and Issues for Congress (white paper) - This report provides an overview of selected emerging military technologies in the United States, China, and Russia. It also discusses relevant initiatives within international institutions to monitor or regulate these technologies, considers the potential implications of emerging military technologies for war-fighting, and outlines associated issues.