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I/ITSEC 2023: How VR and AR are reshaping the training capabilities for the Pentagon

25th November 2023 - 13:40 GMT | by Flavia Camargos Pereira in Orlando


VR and AR can reduce the time and resources required to prepare soldiers. (Photo: Booz Allen Hamilton)

DoD’s branches and agencies have been working on multiple programmes in the growing realm of VR and AR to develop advanced systems that can recreate the complexities of a changing battlespace.

Aware of the need to improve soldiers training to face various threats in multi-domain theatres, the Pentagon has been increasing efforts to enhance the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) solutions and improve its training capabilities.

AR and VR technologies support the development of new advanced systems, which can better recreate the complexities of a changing battlespace.

The US Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) branches and agencies have been working on multiple programmes in this realm. In its FY 2024 budget proposal, the Department has requested more than US$20 million to progress with the deployment of gaming technology and to support simulation centres across its services.

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Some advantages provided by virtual and augmented realities to military training include reducing the time and resources required to prepare troops to perform their tasks.

Moreover, those technologies can be applied in multiple areas, replicate complex battlefield conditions and simulate the operation and maintenance of various equipment and platforms.

Speaking to Shephard, Todd Burnett executive advisor for accelerated readiness at Booz Allen Hamilton, explained that it can create a ‘mission rehearsal exercise’ which is only limited by ‘developers and technologists imagination’.

‘I can have my developers build up that terrain, put the same threats that they [soldiers] are going to see, and they can do it all in AR and VR’, he noted.

It enables operators to virtually use their organic weapons and attachments, creating muscle memory, which allows for better results on the firing range while saving rounds.

The deplorability of simulation systems is another benefit of AR and VR as solutions using those technologies have been becoming smaller and easier to transport and deploy worldwide.

‘We are going to keep building stuff to make soldiers more lethal, and we got to be ahead of it from a training standpoint,’ Burnett stressed.

Booz Allen is currently involved in some DoD efforts involving the use of augmented and virtual realities. The company has recently implemented a joint firing observation training into virtual battlespace within the US Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps.

Booz Allen’s Extended Reality Analytics Engine. (Photo: Booz Allen Hamilton)

The system provides users with a pre-course before going to the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The supplier also created a virtual reality trainer to prepare soldiers for counter-UAS missions. The solution replicates all the devices that are typically deployed overseas, according to Burnett.

‘We probably put in 125 small UAS, both friend and FOE, and that lets them do everything that they need to do with their devices,’ he claimed.

At I/ITSEC 2023 in Orlando, Florida, Booz Allen is showcasing other of its immersive systems, such as the Extended Reality Analytics Engine (XRAE) that simulates the flight of T-6 Texan trainer aircraft at Sheppard Air Force Base.

Designed to be easily integrated with COTS game and simulation engines, the system provides AI-powered analytics on human and machine performance in training and in-theatre.

Burnett explained that XRAE gives users real-time feedback and ‘increases their ability [to fly] when they are going to do it live’.

The Modular Adaptive Synthetic Controller (MASC), meanwhile, is a low-cost virtual environment extension tool that allows warfighters and commanders to integrate equipment into existing simulation systems.

AR and VR can replicate complex battlefield conditions. (Photo: Booz Allen Hamilton)

The company also put on display its digital twin solutions, which span the lifecycle of a product or process, providing a single source of truth for use cases, including planning, design, construction, sustainment and operations.

It is intended to address problems before they occur, improve operations, minimise downtime, increase cost savings, and maximize return on investment.

Another Booz Allen solution is the human performance analytics and 3D soldier SWaP capability, which combines advanced analysis with a 3D holographic display to deliver a multi-user XR experience without a headset.

The system is engineered to provide real-time mission analytics and biometrics to increase resilience and optimize operations for soldiers.

It assimilates data from human performance wearables on an interactive display, seamlessly integrating with Unity and other game engines.

Shephard's I/ITSEC 2023 coverage is sponsored by:

Flavia Camargos Pereira


Flavia Camargos Pereira

Flavia Camargos Pereira is a land reporter at Shephard Media. She joined the company in …

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