Written by Michelle Henderson – March 1, 2021
Virtual and Augmented Reality: A game changer for defense and law enforcement training
The first in a series on how VR and MR are enhancing realistic learning when it is needed.
Technologists have mused about when virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) would cross the chasm in the innovation adoption life cycle. Five years ago, The Economist magazine declared that virtual reality was “awaiting its iPhone moment.” To be sure, “it is a promising technology, but will not go mainstream in its current form.”
In October 2020, in its Technology Quarterly, The Economist took a more optimistic view. It noted that computer-generated “realities” were becoming ubiquitous. In fact, Goldman Sachs was now predicting a market for the emerging “metaverse” of nearly $95 billion by 2025. The investment bank’s reasoning: Because the display of information is no longer confined by the size of a physical screen on a desktop or a mobile device, but can fill the entire field of vision, the use of VR and AR “creates a new and even more intuitive way to interact with a computer.”
Yet the article failed to mention perhaps the most promising and necessary application: increased realism for defense, law enforcement, military police, and corrections training. As of early 2021, some influencers already think that VR and AR are ready to join the more mature simulation technologies presently serving military training commands and law enforcement agencies. These latter technologies continue to prove their value in enabling warfighters and law officers to confront likely realistic scenarios.
VR and AR: Ranked as top technologies for the coming decade
In January 2021, two information sources acknowledged that AR and VR were becoming critical for training: one in defense and the other in law enforcement. In this blog we will discuss the impact on military training, to be followed by a look at law enforcement.
In the defense arena, Military & Aerospace Electronics Editor-in-Chief John Keller ranked virtual and augmented reality in simulation, training and mission rehearsal among the “top aerospace and defense applications and enabling technologies for the 2020s.” Keller, a long-time military journalist and influencer, called VR and AR “game changers.”
He distinguishes the two technologies as follows:
- Virtual reality creates an entire scene, and those using it typically use special headsets on which they view and interact with these simulated environments.
- Augmented reality, conversely, generates only part of the scene when viewed through battlefield goggles or night-vision devices. It is a computer-assisted heads-up display for infantry warfighters.
How these new technologies will change defense training
Keller cites three key reasons why VR and AR will make major improvements to military training:
- They solve a critical and expensive training logistics challenge with training close to home. To ensure their training is as realistic as possible, “forces travel to far-flung places like the jungles of Central America, snowy mountains in Alaska, and to deserts of the Southwest. That way they can train in the same conditions in which they are expected to fight. But VR and AR greatly simplify logistics. Soldiers can train in realistic conditions without ever leaving home bases and sometimes without ever leaving their building.”
- They will save money for DoD. Virtual- and augmented-reality training and mission rehearsal will “have the potential to save perhaps millions of dollars from the Pentagon’s operations and maintenance budget by enabling warfighters to practice their missions on computer-generated ranges, rather than on distant training centers.”
- They will [conveniently] offer independence from range time. Per Keller: “Warfighters could train individually or in networked groups virtually any time, without having to wait in line for precious range time.”
Keller also notes that other key enabling technologies will be involved with VR and AR: General-purpose graphics processing units (GPGPUs); electro-optical headsets; wearable electronics; smart phones and tablet computers; and physical devices like treadmills that enable users to run, jump and roll to enhance realism.
Training for the protection of military bases
Although VR and AR commend themselves increasingly for combat training, especially with the emerging possibilities of near-peer conflict, they are immediately needed for protecting military bases.
In December 2020, the U. S. Army issued its Army Installation Strategy, discussing the vital need for defending and modernizing these assets. The report says, “In the current operating environment, we expect adversary actions directed against the homeland. Installations are no longer sanctuaries. Together, we must ensure installations have the ability to care for our soldiers, families, and civilians, while remaining resilient and ready for Multi-Domain Operations (MDOs).”
Military police obviously play a key role in these situations at home and abroad. Their training must encompass not only response to attacks, but also handling continuum of force. Consequently, they need versatile training that can prepare them for a wide range of scenarios, from a physical breach to countering criminal activity to managing corrections. Virtual reality can provide the realism for improving competence in many capabilities.
For example, the VR-DT (“Verdict”) by InVeris Training Solutions offers a system that can adapt to these needs that uniquely combine military and law enforcement requirements. InVeris creates all content for the immersive headset system in conjunction with military police partners. The company’s years of experience in developing training for military police enables the creation of meaningful, challenging scenarios.
Because military police are often the first line of defense for installations, this training can make them and their missions more secure.
The next blog in this series will address how virtual reality is transforming law enforcement training.
For more information on VR and AR, please contact email@example.com.
 See https://www.economist.com/leaders/2015/08/27/awaiting-its-iphone-moment “Crossing the chasm” is Geoffrey Moore’s term for the difficult transition from visionaries (early adopters) to pragmatists (early majority). See https://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Chasm-3rd-Disruptive-Mainstream-ebook/dp/B00DB3D81G/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
 See https://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2020/10/01/computer-generated-realities-are-becoming-ubiquitous
 See https://www.militaryaerospace.com/home/article/14196342/enabling-technologies-for-aerospace-defense
 This video posted on FedTech on January 5, 2021 shows the Army’s use of the Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) devices to accelerate training applications: https://fedtechmagazine.com/media/video/army-ramps-augmented-reality-training-cots-inspired-gear
 The entire document is available at https://www.asaie.army.mil/Public/SI/doc/Army_Installations_Strategy_(AIS)_FINAL_Signed.pdf For a summary, see https://breakingdefense.com/tag/army-installations-strategy-2020/