Army trains in virtual reality with £1m trial

The British Army has awarded a software developer a £1 million contract to explore how virtual reality can be integrated into its soldier training programmes.

The Virtual Reality in Land Training (VRLT) pilot has been developed by Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BiSim), a global developer of military simulation and training software based in the US.

The decision to commission the pilot scheme comes as interest builds in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) as a solution for workplace and military training scenarios.

The British Army pilot will be a testing ground for BiSim’s VR applications, including:

• High resolution VR headsets, to improve environmental immersion.

• Mixed reality, which will allow soldiers to see and interact with physical objects against a digital background.

• Avatar customisation, replicating realistic facial features and body shapes allowing users to recognise their fellow soldiers.

• After-action review enhancement, which provides data capture and analysis so that soldiers can better understand their own performance.

VRLT will allow soldiers to train in a wide range of complex and hostile simulated scenarios that are not easy to recreate on a training ground. The system will be able to place troops in the middle of an urban firefight, intense crowd control situation or within a building filled with enemy soldiers.

At the end of the programme, recommendations will be put forward on how to best exploit this new technology for soldier training.

UK Armed Forces already utilise simulation to hone the skills of their service personnel. At the end of last year, RAF Odiham unveiled their £53 million Chinook helicopter simulators which replicate real-life operations.

The Royal Navy also benefit from bridge simulators, which create an immersive experience that allows officers to take charge of a vessel in a range of weather and emergency conditions.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our Armed Forces have always embraced innovation and continue to push the boundaries of technological advancement – we are committed to harnessing new and emerging capabilities like virtual reality through our £800 million Defence Innovation Fund.”

Army head of training capability Bobby Walton-Knight said: “Our training continually develops and so we constantly look for the best technology to make it as effective as possible. Innovations such as virtual reality offer immersive and flexible training, and this pilot is pushing the boundaries to explore how we might make best use of it.”

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