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Virtual Reality In Military Simulations

Virtual Reality in military simulations was one of the earliest uses of VR.

From early flight simulators built in 1920's to more modern instrument flying simulator in the 1950's, developers have constantly battled with representing a realistic environmental vision.

Before VR, video cameras were used to capture terrain around an airport, and the resulting image was sent to a television monitor placed in front of the pilot in the simulator. His movement of the control stick and throttle produced corresponding movement of the camera over the terrain board.

The next step used multiple monitors to simulate the entire field of view from the airplane cockpit. This method is still in use for transport aircraft simulators, giving 180 degrees horizontally and 60 degrees vertically.

For fighter aircraft simulators, the field of view must be at least 180 degrees horizontally and vertically. For these applications, virtual reality has been able to expand the virtual images.

A cockpit is placed at the center of a domed room, and virtual images projected onto the inside surface of the dome.

These types of simulators have proven to be very effective training aids. A project called SIMNET has enabled electronic connection of two or more simulators to produce a distributed simulation environment.

Distributed simulations can be used not only for training, but to develop and test new combat strategy and tactics. An IEEE data protocol standard for distributed interactive simulations allows the distributed simulation to include not only aircraft, but also land-based vehicles and ships.

Following on from this DOME based simulation environment, the use of head-mounted displays (HMDs) was introduced to decrease the cost of wide field of view simulations.


Telepresence For Military Missions

The military employs telepresence in their operations to reduce exposure to hazards and to increase stealth.

Many aspects of combat operations are very hazardous, and can become even more dangerous if the combatant seeks to improve his performance in skills such as firing weapons and reconnaissance. This is extremely time consuming.

Smart weapons and remotely- piloted vehicles (RPVs) were developed to address this problem. Some smart weapons are autonomous, while others are remotely controlled after they are launched.

This allows the weapon controller to launch the weapon and immediately seek cover, thus decreasing his exposure to return fire. The RPV can be made smaller than a vehicle that would carry a man, thus making it more difficult for the enemy to detect.


Military Information Enhancement

Current, reliable, accurate, easy to read information is invaluable to those operating in a dynamic combat environment. In addition, provision of this information must be done in a way that is not distracting to the receiver.

The Head-up Display (HUD) optically combines critical information (altitude, airspeed, heading) with an unobstructed view through the forward windscreen of a fighter aircraft. This means:

The pilot never has to look down at his instruments.

When the HUD is coupled with the aircraft's radar and other sensors, a synthetic image of an enemy aircraft can be displayed on the HUD to show the pilot where that aircraft is, even though the pilot may not be able to see the actual aircraft with his unaided eyes.

Night Ops

This combination of real and virtual views of the outside world can be extended to nighttime operations.

Using an infrared camera mounted in the nose of the aircraft, an enhanced view of the terrain ahead of the aircraft can be projected on the HUD.

This gives the pilot a 'daylight' window with both a real and an enhanced view of the nighttime terrain and sky.

The pilot can choose to focus totally on the virtual information and completely exclude the actual view and vice versa.

NEXT: Using VR In Travel Planning


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