Virtual reality and gaming technologies have been used by militaries across the world for training and therapeutic purposes. But the Norwegian military has taken VR-assisted combat to the next level with this Oculus Rift-supported rig used to pilot tanks through dangerous combat situations.
According to a report from the Norwegian TV station TuTV, the country’s military has begun testing a new system wherein tanks are rigged up with a series of cameras that offer a 185-degree view of each side of the vehicle. The pilot then dons a Rift headset, and can get a full perspective of the situation on the ground without having to lift his or her head above the hatch.
Major Ola Petter Odden, who works in the Army’s Combat Lab testing out the new tech, told TU that this offers innumerable safety benefits. It eliminates the need for drivers to stick there heads out in the open, allowing them to remain more safely shielded behind several layers of metal. Also, the technology could ultimately offer a more comprehensive and accurate perspective than a pilot could ever get by poking their head out of the hatch and trying to peek over the massive metal frame of a tank.
This gets to a strange irony of gaming’s entrance to the real-life Battlefield: for all the arguments about realism in military-themed video games, real-life military technologists are now taking cues from the sort of superhuman perspective of conflict that video games have trained players to expect.
“Those who play Battlefield can see much better than you do in an actual vehicle,” Daniel Ervik of the Norwegian company Making View explains in the video. “With our software you can add elements we are used to from games.”
All of this comes at a price, however. Odden said that staring into the Rift’s display puts much more strain on a driver’s eyes than doing things the old fashioned way. He therefore anticipates that this will only be used when a soldier truly needs it, lest they suddenly find themselves in need of glasses.
There’s a strong commercial benefit as well. While outfitting tanks with specialised cameras could cost upwards of $US350,000, he said that a market-ready version of the rift won’t cost much more than $US350. And with the recent Facebook acquisition, he’s confident that the technology will make it to market quickly and cheaply.
“I am optimistic that we will soon have good enough goggles to run this as an operational concept,” Odden said.
[via The Verge]