Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

How can virtual reality be useful for the military? DEUS shares its ideas on this matter with readers of Holography. She presented the first Russian professional virtual reality glasses Odin and emphasizes her attention to the military industry, which lacks domestic production solutions. In this article, DEUS wants to show how rich is the scope of application of virtual reality in the military-industrial complex. And the editors invite you to discuss the material in the comments.


The defense industry is one of the first to accept virtual reality technology. The prerequisites for this are rooted more in politics than in economics. BP (the civil service is a suitable place for such abbreviations) represents an enormous potential for the army to influence the user’s mind, the brain and whose senses believe in what is happening and react accordingly. It is difficult to overestimate the benefits of this property, multiplied by the possibilities of creativity in computer graphics.

Virtual reality began its way in the laboratories of defense institutes, but in recent years its development was more likely connected with the consumer market, the competition and exactingness of which promoted progress in such matters as convenience, quality of graphics, and standardization. It’s time to return the accumulated civilian knowledge in their stronghold.

In this article, we deliberately do not consider virtual reality as a propaganda tool. It is definitely an effective tool for influencing the mass consciousness, but bringing existing examples of such projects can cause unnecessary debates on political topics that one would like to avoid.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

Personnel training remains the most important part of military activities. Anyone, even the smartest machine, needs an operator who will make a decision in a critical situation. This applies to both automatic rifles and nuclear submarines with transcontinental missiles.

Unfortunately or fortunately, hundreds of thousands of people cannot be constantly thrown into combat conditions, if only because it is too expensive, not to mention the dangers of such permanent training conflicts.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of applicationSoldiers of the Royal Netherlands Army at guest training in Germany, June 5, 2013

But to create simulators of virtual reality, as close as possible to real conditions, it is quite possible. They will not be able to convey the real “smell of gunpowder” as a Russian language lesson will not teach a student to write novels, but in such a simulator you can hone skills and teach how to handle new tools of any complexity.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

Here are a number of scenarios in which virtual reality is already used in military training:

  • control simulators of various combat vehicles;
  • large-scale multiplayer combat simulators for infantry;
  • simulators of command of individual battles and the course of entire military campaigns;
  • Simulators of various weapons.

In these and other cases, the maximum approximation of virtual conditions to real ones, the ability to imitate any details, including physics, create an infinite number of scenarios and combine them, are of particular value. Due to the fact that in BP a person perceives himself as part of what is happening, his actions, his stress and emotions will be close to those in real situations.

Criticism of virtual reality simulators is often associated with their virtual nature: it is better to teach a novice pilot in a real cockpit with real instruments and displays around the perimeter than in a computer environment where there is no tactile memory training. It’s hard to argue with that.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of applicationIt is not yet possible to completely replace such a simulator with virtual reality. But there is no need for it.

VR simulators have a different advantage. They are many times cheaper and smaller, which allows them to be introduced in a greater number of classes, in which it is impossible to purchase extremely expensive electronic-mechanical examination systems for financial reasons. An important opportunity is the use of VR simulators at home – those students who do not regret the time to study.

Examples KB RBP works with a collective tactical infantry simulator on the domestic VR Virtual Concept software platform. A similar project is developing the British army. Professional aviasimulators for virtual reality creates Constant-Design.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of applicationRemotely controlled self-propelled unit (DUSA) TR-10, which led the exploration in Chernobyl. Behind it is the control unit on the cable, since radio interference is extremely difficult for wireless communication.

The need for a qualitatively new interface for remote control of machines sharply confronted engineers in the last century. Probably, all of you have seen cadres of the Chernobyl chronicle, in which the liquidators use robots in places where people are deadly dangerous. Then the machine control panel was a huge computing cabinet with a table and a monochrome monitor for the operator.

Since then, the interfaces have changed a lot: robots offer panoramic cameras that, in real time and with minimal delay, show what is happening in color, with excellent viewing angles. But this is not enough. Even with these cameras, monitors, and remote manipulators, telerobots remain clumsy appendages of humans. Imagine how control of a machine stuffed with a weapon can end if the operator is uncomfortable to control it.

Scientific experiment on the use of virtual reality in the remote control of industrial robots. More information about the project can be found in the publication “Baxter’s Homunculus: Virtual Reality Spaces for Teleoperation in Manufacturing”

Virtual reality glasses, equipped with special controllers with feedback, transfer the operator to the cockpit, to the hull or even to the robot, if we are talking about an android, like those that are going to be launched into space missions. A full view in any direction, the maximum transfer of what is happening, including physical sensations, as well as the ability to transfer along with a picture a lot of tactical data – this is a new step in remote control of combat vehicles.

Example. Toyota’s T-HR3 robot looks very peaceful and is designed to help people. It is planned to be used on construction sites, in areas of natural and man-made disasters and outer space. Now he is clumsy, but is a step towards the fact that androids with control through virtual reality systems will be able to solve complex, including combat, tasks.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

However, most often the technique must be controlled while in it. This provides a much higher reaction rate, a better understanding of the situation and, as a result, the most appropriate choice of actions. What are the benefits of virtual reality in this case?

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

Simplicity always goes hand in hand with reliability. The smaller the loopholes in the armor, the fewer moving elements in the environment monitoring system (for example, in the periscope), the better. Placed around the perimeter of the camera hull, transmitting the picture on the display in a tactical helmet over the cable, will simplify the armor design by making an almost monolithic cockpit. And the operator will receive such visibility, as if sitting on the armor on top, only with an increase, data from all sensors and information from the on-board computer or a remote server. The dependence on electronics is also a factor of vulnerability, but in each scenario there are different solutions.

Example. Norwegian troops set up tank control experiments with virtual reality glasses back in 2014.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

This way of working with information in virtual reality, very limitedly described in science fiction films such as Lawnmower or Special Opinion, entered the defense market through a stock exchange case.

Exchange analysts need tools to simultaneously track a large number of data streams. It is common for a person to gradually get used to such high-loaded work, and as a result he is able to make high-precision conclusions based on an analysis of a variety of factors. Previously, for this purpose, they simply installed several monitors, which does not give either the desired level of immersion, or even a close useful viewing angle.

After leaflets and newspapers, we got used first to the radio, then to the television, and then to the Internet, each time going to a new level in perception. The next stage is virtual reality, when the data is presented not only in three dimensions, but also around, in a full sphere with theoretically infinite scaling and the number of layers.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

In the army and special services, the ability to analyze more data means speeding up decision-making and their refinement. Here are some scenarios:

  • layer-by-layer analysis of a three-dimensional battlefield of any size in real time with the connection and disconnection of the details of graphics for the types of troops and other factors;
  • search and capture of criminals through coordinating the actions of field teams with the help of a remote operator, especially in the conditions of megacities or any other spaces with the possibility of movement in three dimensions;
  • maps of air, water, and space spaces where 3D presentation is important;
  • development and service of complex engineering systems.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

Example. The Australian Air Force is experimenting with HoloLens to analyze the battlefield. Given the current image quality in augmented reality glasses, using virtual reality glasses for this was no less, or even more logical, because staff analysts have no need to constantly disperse attention to the real environment – it’s better to focus on a large-scale 3D model.

Before virtual reality, more or less realistic demonstration of new weapons could be done in the following ways: by delivering the samples themselves or models to an exhibition or other meeting place with potential customers, showing videos and delivering customers to the test site. Virtual reality within certain limits combines the advantages of all three methods. The action algorithm is as follows:

  1. make a weapon controller for a computer system. To do this, you can connect special sensors and scan the device by transferring the model to the program;
  2. create a software simulator with the most spectacular and realistic display of weapons that can be tested on virtual targets;
  3. wear glasses on the customer and follow his surprise;
  4. Collect reviews and refine software.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of applicationBohemia Interactive Simulations shows its flight simulator at the exhibition booth. Why not show this technique? Conventional equipment for amusement rides can make the manufacturer of combat cars a star of any exhibition, attracting the media, potential employees and strengthening the image in any social groups, from clients to ordinary citizens. It is enough to make two modes: professional and arcade.

This is not an attempt to replace the demonstration at the site. Of course, there is nothing better than field trials. But they are very expensive, especially when it comes to heavy machinery. For the first acquaintance, such a scenario is not suitable.

Virtual reality is ideal up to the stage of field demonstration – at exhibitions, at personal meetings, for image advertising by the manufacturer of equipment. Once you have created a BP solution, you can refine and use it over the years, adding new scenarios, improving the graphics and effect you have on the target audience.

Examples Swedish Saab using virtual reality shows rocket launchers. The same is done in China, as well as in any other countries of the world with any weapon.

Listed cases can not be called exhaustive. In practice, virtual reality glasses improve work with information in most cases. Sometimes their use, despite the novelty, as a result, turns out to be cheaper than working with conventional computer systems or specialized video walls.

This is due to a paradigm shift: one highly integrated new device successfully replaces a whole complex of old ones. In your memory, this has already happened with smartphones. Today is the time for a new breakthrough, in which the army should be ahead of gamers. After all, it is important: to defend your country should be prestigious and no less interesting than drive to the Tanki at the home monitor.

Virtual reality in the defense industry: five areas of application

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