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Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to Enhance US Military Training

AR and VR technology can be used to keep military men and women mentally and physically healthy.

The mind and the body are pushed to the limits in military training. ‘The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat’ they say. But the current scenario of military training is leading to deadly results. Lt. Col. Warren Cook of the United States Marine Corps says that more soldiers and Marines are killed in training than in combat. Very often, the reason behind this is that they are exposed to fatigue, Warren said. That is why the military is looking at virtual reality apps, wearable sensors and mixed reality technology as the potential solutions.

At 2017 Body Computing Conference, held in September, military officers and scientists discussed the need of technological solutions in military training. U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s (NSRDEC) scientist, Charlene Mello said that the military is currently testing commercial products such as Fitbit to check and record physical exercise activity levels of the soldiers in training. Military officers and scientists also discussed the effects of body sensors to help trainees understand the limitations of their bodies to train them safely.

USC Body Computing Conference augmented reality technology
Image Source: USC Center for Body Computing

There are numerous augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality projects that could be used in military training. A drone aircraft is one mixed-reality project that is popular. Small in size, it captures person’s movements and follows them so the person can be studied under a training simulation. Currently, these drone aircrafts are being tested at the (USC ICT) University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative technologies. The other two major projects in the development stage are Monticello and Bystander.

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Monticello, an augmented reality and virtual reality app, is in its research and development stage. Soldiers will get the help of a virtual expert via the app. For example: In a combat situation when the area is unknown and dangerous, the soldier can send the pictures of the location to the virtual expert, who can then guide the soldiers to a safer place.

Another virtual reality app, Bystander, is developed to prevent sexual assaults. David Nelson, Creative Director of the Mixed Reality Studio and Project Manager at USC’s Mixed Reality Lab, says that sexual abuse and attacks are a big problem in the military. The military is interested in Bystander because they already have programs to try and stop sexual assaults.

As Paul Carpenter (Deputy, Science and Technology Demostration Program, US Army, NSRDEC) explains, sensors can be used in many different places and ways, including in normal, everyday life, as well as during combat, or when the soldiers first join military to potentially decrease injury. There are a lot of open questions as to where the sensors would be put, however, training certainly appears to be one of the first places and all panelists agreed that technology can be used to keep military men and women mentally and physically healthy.

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