Norwegian Army trials Oculus Rift headset for tank applications

6 May 2014 (Last Updated May 6th, 2014 18:30)

The Royal Norwegian Army is evaluating the Oculus Rift virtual-reality head-mounted display, in an effort to provide tank drivers with an unobstructed view of the surroundings during combat missions.

The Oculus Rift

The Royal Norwegian Army is evaluating the Oculus Rift virtual-reality head-mounted display, in an effort to provide tank drivers with an unobstructed view of the surroundings during combat missions.

Carried out at an undisclosed location, the trials used four cameras with spherical lenses mounted on the front and back of the tank to generate a 360° feed of surroundings, and an ordinary PC to transfer the images to the driver's Oculus headset, reported Teknisk Ukeblad.

The driver will simply have to make head turns in order to move their view around.

Norway-based imaging company Making View has designed the system using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, which is cheaper than the legacy military camera systems.

Norwegian Army combat lab major Ola Petter Odden said the drivers become more or less blind while driving with a closed hatch during combat operations.

"With our software ... you can have a map, you can show each orientation, how much you tilt [and] the speed."

"With this system, you can see just as well as if you were seeing out the hatch," Odden said.

Making View development manager Daniel Mestervik said: "With our software ... you can have a map, you can show each orientation, how much you tilt [and] the speed. It's very useful when you have to close all your hatches."

However, the system has its own set of drawbacks, such as average picture quality, and is also more strenuous for the eyes over long periods.

Odden was quoted by BBC News as saying: "The picture quality is good for 10-15m, but after that it is difficult to distinguish details, for example whether an opponent is carrying a weapon."

The army is planning to conduct additional tests with the system in 2015.


Image: A development version of the Oculus Rift headset, which is being evaluated by the Royal Norwegian Army for tank applications. Photo: courtesy of Sebastian Stabinger.

Defence Technology