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Blog Post

Virtual Reality

From Military Training & Simulation News

March 22, 2017

It would be surprising if VR systems were not finding their way into naval training, and this is one area into which General Dynamics Information Technology has been putting efforts. Mark Nesselrode, a former US Navy captain and now solution architect for training at the company, shares his thoughts.

Over the last 24 months, General Dynamics IT has been working on prototype development in the virtual reality technology area. The development involves using the Unreal and Unity game engines, and focuses on converting light detection and ranging scanned data (point cloud data) into 3D models that permit interaction for training, both in a classroom setting or aboard a ship, maintenance, operations, overhaul planning or shipboard fire-fighting.

Several prototypes have been developed and delivered to the USN, which are being used to evaluate potential uses for shipboard personnel, as well as for shore-based ‘point of need’ training throughout the sailor’s career.

General Dynamics IT has expanded its experience of the virtual environment (VE) and introduced audio and haptic (tactile) cueing, which significantly enhances the virtual experience. We have also done work that will demonstrate the ability to use game engines on mobile devices so that the level of interactivity can be tailored to the sailors’ location and need.

General Dynamics IT recently won three naval training contracts to deliver education and training support services to Naval Education and Training Command and the Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center. As part of each contract, deliverables will include analysis and design documents, self-paced, group-paced, and blended training, learner assessments and performance support systems.

Additionally, the navy has an interest in using computer-based training in the form of discs or as an adjunct to instructor-led classroom training. The more attractive price point for visual devices, such as the Oculus or HTC Vive, as well as the increased capability in tablets, such as the Surface Pro, has allowed the navy to look into how it can leverage game-based solutions.

There have been some awards, in prototype development, and there have been some follow-on projects, but large VR training contracts for this sort of capability are just beginning to take place.

The military and the navy understand that maintaining training capabilities for personnel, especially in highly perishable skills such as system training, damage control or casualty control, requires much more interactive methods. As such, the trend appears to be moving towards VR and augmented reality (AR) methods, handheld devices and multiplayer gaming.

These methods offer some distinct advantages from other forms in that assessment or feedback can be nearly instantaneous, and assessing the readiness – in terms of basic knowledge, procedures or some tasks – for individuals, small groups or watch teams can be completed for qualification or proficiency very easily.

Furthermore, the ability to transfer knowledge from experienced personnel can be done in a scenario-based format, which reduces the potential for personnel to experience a situation which is either rare or infrequent. Finally, VE training permits conducting evolutions which are either too dangerous or too risky to equipment to be done ‘live’.

An excellent example of an integrated event, which could be utilised in either a team or individual fashion, and would be conducive to both VR and AR would be naval gunfire support (NGFS). Using a combination of geographic representations for ‘targeting and spotting’ it is now possible for an individual on a NGFS team, or the entire team, to conduct a rehearsal, complete with safety assessment items, and assess individual or team performance. Range time is extremely valuable, and the use of a VR and/or AR capability could have a dramatic impact on this very critical, but also highly perishable skill set.

Advances in game-based technology are occurring at an increasing rate, and what was not possible two years ago, is now commonplace. The trend for using VE – both AR and VR – will inevitably spread across every community and warfare specialty.