Reality check – soldiers help sharpen vision for VR


Neville MacMillan, NSC

Who better to help us drive forward the British Army’s understanding of Virtual Reality (VR) capabilities and its potential to support future military training than those responsible for keeping the UK’s Armed Forces on the move?

Soldier using VR headset and controllers

They may be more accustomed to convoys than kit usually found tethered to gaming consoles, but personnel from 3 Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps proved excellent allies during a trial of VR technologies at Dalton Barracks in Abingdon.

The week-long training event was part of phase two of the Army’s Virtual Reality In-Land Training pilot and saw simulation specialists from NSC – part of the QinetiQ Group of Companies put hardware onto the heads and into the hands of 54 soldiers.

With many of those plugging in members of the supposed “PlayStation Generation”, the troops intuitively took to the technological training aids and helped to generate quantifiable evidence, insights and data relating to the hi-tech tools’ suitability for readying troops for action.

As project lead, our recent interrogation of VR’s potential featured the integration of a range of devices and software geared towards delivering greater immersion for the training audience. These innovations included the incorporation of realistic weapons frames to enhance the authenticity of the VR simulation for dismounted soldiers.

Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim), our technology partner for the exercise, also tailored the latest iteration of its military-grade synthetic environment to showcase the high-fidelity experience VR can afford by bringing greater functionality to elements such as hand controllers, sight systems and electronic warfare effects.

Our endeavours to demonstrate the deployability and scalability of VR systems with the potential to support the Field Army’s Battle Craft Syllabus has since enlisted the services of soldiers from 3 Battalion, The Rifles, who were able to experience the effects of laying down virtual mortar fire.

While firing instrumented 81mm rounds via VR controls may have been something of a novelty for the exercising troops, creating such a capability is commonplace for NSC’s training and simulation specialists, who have a rich heritage of flexing their technical expertise to best support the unique demands of the Armed Forces.

Having designed the Army’s Unit Based Virtual Training (UBVT) capability, which allows users to practice tactics, techniques and procedures in a synthetic environment, we have helped to train more than 9,000 Servicemen and women at locations across the UK, Germany and Cyprus since entering core service in 2017.