British Army to train soldiers with VR under new pilot scheme

Talal Husseini 4 February 2019 (Last Updated February 4th, 2019 16:11)

The British Army has awarded a £1m contract to software developer BiSim to pilot the use of virtual reality (VR) for soldier training exercises.

British Army to train soldiers with VR under new pilot scheme
Defence simulation software firm BiSim won a £1m contract with the British Army to pilot virtual reality for training exercises. Credit: BiSim.

The British Army has awarded a £1m contract to software developer BiSim to pilot the use of virtual reality (VR) for soldier training exercises.

BiSim, which develops simulation and training software for military training purposes, created the Virtual Reality in Land Training (VRLT) programme to enhance future British Army training using VR.

BISim’s UK head of sales Rusty Orwin told Army Technology: “BISim is using commercially available VR head-mounted displays, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Pro, to study how VR hardware and our simulation software VBS3, VBS STE and VBS Control can be used in the collective training environment.

“The performance data will be collected and analysed to see what benefits VR can bring to collective training. Each training event will get bigger (i.e. involving more players and will introduce other combined arms components), testing the scalability and complexity of the technologies.”

In the VRLT pilot, British Army forces will test high-resolution VR headsets to improve environmental immersion, and explore the use of mixed reality, which allows for soldiers to interact with physical objects.

It also has a built in avatar customisation feature that allows the user to recognised body shape and faces of fellow soldiers, and after-action review enhancement that collects data on an individual’s performance, helping them to improve their own abilities.

Through VRLT, soldiers will be able to train in several replica training situations, such as in an urban firefight, crowd control situation, or within a building filled with enemy combatants – to name a few examples.

"The performance data will be collected and analysed to see what benefits VR can bring to collective training."

“The army has a reputation for world-class training which prepares our people for demanding and complex operations,” said army head of training capability Brigadier Bobby Walton-Knight CBE.

“Our training continually develops and so we constantly look for the best technology to make it as effective as possible. Innovations such as VR offer immersive and flexible training, and this pilot is pushing the boundaries to explore how we might make best use of it.”

The Ministry of Defence awarded the contract to BiSim to create VR for soldier training through the £800m Defence Innovation Fund.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our Armed Forcmostes have always embraced innovation and continue to push the boundaries of technological advancement. We are committed to harnessing new and emerging capabilities like VR through our £800m Defence Innovation Fund.”

After completion of the pilot programme, UK soldiers will have the chance to recommend how to improve and utilise the software further.