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VR, AR, and MR in the military. The avant-garde!

26.03.2021

VR, AR, and MR in the military. The avant-garde!

The army has always been looking for new, cutting edge technologies. Think of how ingenious were the good ol’ besiegers of Troy. But the history of ingenuity has not ended, it actually even moved to other kinds of realities. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) are now the battlefields. What is more, the boundaries between realities are a bit blunt now, and mix reality seems to be on the sharp rise. How about digging into details on the use of VR, AR, and MR in the army and army-related businesses?

Let’s explain the basic terms used in the article once again to avoid inaccuracies. Virtual reality is a 3D based simulation of any type of environment. It can be viewed through VR goggles and interacted with by using a set of controllers and other electronic items. The other term, augmented reality, determines videos, 3D models, animations, and other media on the real-world environment seen through a mobile device, usually a smartphone, tablet, or AR goggles.

The mixed reality term, is rather new. It describes something in between virtual reality and augmented reality, namely an artificial image that is displayed via goggles on what we really see. As you can imagine, mixed reality brings lots of new possibilities that are especially appreciated in the military sector.

IVAS – custom MR goggles for the US Army    

First of all comes the example from the US. The Americans not only experiment, but according to plans are already going to introduce a custom version of mixed reality goggles in Q4 this year. The project is named IVAS, which stands for Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

IVAS is developed with close cooperation with Microsoft. It’s core functionality is to overlay graphics onto a wearer’s field of view. This may give a huge advantage to soldiers because they can use lots of information in combat. The American army has already experimented with the concept and tried to introduced “similar” goggles in the 1990s. However, at that time the project was all in all unsuccessful; the headset was very heavy, head mounted, unreliable. Nowadays, after decades, the concept is dressed in much better hardware and software.

IVAS has got a wide set of functionalities. First of all, it will help in acquiring targets, seeing through smoke, and operate freely during the nighttime. Secondly, IVAS will have the ability to navigate and link with army vehicles, (such as Strykers) or other group of soldiers. IVAS will be ready to be plugged into tactical drones (such as Black Hornet). Among other features facial recognition and monitoring of the soldier’s conditions are especially important. According to ArmyTimes, the US Army ordered 40 219 IVAS goggles.

Photo: Bridgett Site, A Soldier uses the IVAS during STP 3 in October 2020. Photo: Bridgett Site, A Soldier uses the IVAS during STP 3 in October 2020.

Chinese VR competition

There’s not a lot of specific information on the Chinese VR/AR/MR projects. We don’t know about any kinds of IVAS’s counterparts, but the logic and direction of the arms race dictate that there must or will be an equivalent of it. What is known for sure is that China uses VR for training their parachuters. Chinese soldiers train how to take-off, land, and how to behave emergency situations. The recruits and commanders are very pleased with the results of VR. The commentators state that VR training is especially important for Chinese soldiers, because in opposition to their American and Russian colleagues they lack real military experience. Apart from the above the Chinese defense ministry admits that virtual reality is used for training pilots.

On top of that, what is known for China and VR is that the Chinese government has adopted a country’s strategy on the development of VR. We may even call it a VR development doctrine, released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. According to this document, China want to be a VR global leader by 2025 in the fields of VR patents, standards, and products.

VR for training purposes

VR is especially useful in training, both on civilian and on the military market. The advantages of VR are enormous – VR lowers the costs, make training process more efficient thanks to engaging more senses, VR also provides lots of data and statistics after the training and what’s very important – enables going through dangerous, life threatening situations, that are impossible to practice in real life.

These advantages make it extremely important for the military sector to use VR for training purposes. For instance, in South Korean army soldiers train individual shootings. It trains such competences as positioning behind gun, eliminating terrorists and fighting enemies. Different warfare scenarios allow for choosing lots of scenarios, and get a lot of data on individual performance of each soldier.

AR for the arms industry

While VR is especially valuable to training soldiers, augmented reality comes in handy in production processes.

A good example of the use of AR is the Russian Sukhoi factory. In the end of 2020 it was revealed that the Russians use AR technology in the production process of Su-57. In the video published on YouTube we can see a technician on a production line using AR in guiding himself in the manufacturing process.

A screenshot from a video published on YouTube showing the use of AR in Russian Sukhoi factory

A screenshot from a video published on YouTube showing the use of AR in Russian Sukhoi factory

The same technology is used by the Americans to produce F-35. The Americans made it even publicly known fact, and revealed the glasses to the public. The Americans claim that thanks to the use of AR, the engineers work 30% faster and their accuracy rises to 96%.

Another screenshot from a video published on YouTube showing the use of AR in Russian Sukhoi factory

The future is now

All the examples show that VR/AR/MR are not so much the future as the present of the military sector. Flint Tech, as a technology & solutions provider also in this segment is glad to see this technology getting more popular. It is a common truth and a proven fact, that military technologies move to the civil market over time. This means, that the real boom for VR/AR/MR will come soon. Be ready for it! Contact us to get more details about our offer

 

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