Military Uses AR To Substitute For Live Fire Exercises

Soldiers test out augmented reality technology for firing exercises at U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Ask any military expert and they will tell you that when it comes to training troops there are no substitutions for the experience gained during a live firing exercise. Its the pressure of being in a live fire situation can have a profound effect on the alertness of troops, and trainers have been unable to find anything close enough the replicate that effect – until augmented reality (AR) came along.

At the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition soldiers donned specialised AR equipment along with dummy riffles and looked around to see the real world with AR holograms superimposed over it, including what appeared to be a full-sized helicopter flying around shooting holographic hellfire missiles at the soldiers who were involved in the demonstration.

Feedback from soldiers who have been involved in testing the equipment has been positive, according to U.S. Army Research Laboratory chief engineer Pat Garrity: “Augmented reality technology now allows soldiers to train indoors, outdoors, day or night,” Garrity said, “They’re no longer tied to brick and mortar training facilities.”

While previously this type of equipment might have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per solider, using off-the-shelf parts and customising existing technologies such as videogame engines and the types of sensors and hardware already used in consumer AR and virtual reality (VR) hardware has enabled the cost to be substantially reduced.

Another consideration is weight. Soldiers already carry much in terms of body armour and equipment, so any new addition needs to be as lightweight as possible, preferably light enough that soldiers forget they are wearing it. Though the technology is at the moment geared towards ground troops, Garrity believes that in the future it could be configured for use by vehicle crews, aviators and other parts of the military service.

The program is currently in the ‘science and technology’ phase until 2020, when Garrity hopes to be able to transition it into a state where it will be ready to be integrated into training scenarios and demonstrations.

VRFocus will continue to report on uses of VR and AR technology in the military.

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