Training for the future of the fight? Test augmented reality headsets and biometric sensors
Against the synthetic backdrop, the sniper watches a squad of allies advance before targeting his target. He or she radio quietly and tells everyone to stay calm. The sniper fires, a miss followed by a second shot that hits the enemy. If the coast is clear, the squad progresses through its training simulation while the sniper observes everything in his training capsule, more than 200 miles away.
This scenario, or at least a version of it, is the great promise of 4GD, a British and American company building a novel training system for urban combat. Delivering on that promise means borrowing extensively from virtual reality, synthetic training environments, and biometric sensors to create a system that plays as smoothly as a laser tag game.
It’s an ambitious plan that is still largely on the lookout for a buyer. As the military, like those of the United Kingdom and the United States, look to conflicts of the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s, it is likely that they will want to train soldiers in the regular use of everything from coordinating with snipers and drones to using Reading intelligence information on breast pills. Large real-world training drills can provide hands-on experience, but towing a drone for field surveillance means using an expensive tool to train grunts, and even then, only for the limited amount of time she can participate in the exercise.
While it is impossible to predict every type of danger that will arise on a future battlefield, enough is known to anticipate some of the contours of a new and modern way of combat. The remaining trenches on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, were dug by marines in anticipation of the US entry into the First World War. Trench training was a low-tech shelter around the well-known high-tech dangers of the Western Front.
The Pentagon believes urban battlefields will be a crucial part of the coming decades of war, and these wars will be fought with drone scouts. By turning to the augmented reality of 4GD, soldiers could train for anticipated battlefields, with tools and threats evolving over time.
4GD was founded in 2016 by veterans of the Royal Navy “knowing that urban warfare is going nowhere,” said James Crowley, 4GD’s business development director.
“We were all relatively contemporary soldiers, but we were all trained in pretty sluggish, pretty boring urban environments, both in the UK and internationally,” said Crowley. “Some were made out of shipping containers, some were made from fairly simple briseblock-type devices. We knew there was a gap to bring in technology and provide a soldier’s view.”
The threshold for what qualifies as a municipal training facility can be quite modest. One such compound, used by West Point cadets, consists of about half a dozen cinder block structures in a wooded clearing that doesn’t have the density or complexity of an urban area more populated than a rural homestead.
The US Army is actively seeking the development of a training tool that includes augmented and synthetic reality under the name Synthetic Training Environment. Are contractors for the program To be determined, although a planned focus is on the Integrated Visual Augmentation System developed by Microsoft. Before Components shown This includes virtual reality headsets and laser attachments for rifles.
In order to achieve a more demanding and therefore more realistic training, 4GD first looked at virtual reality or VR.
“Virtual reality doesn’t really suit the needs of dismounted hand-to-hand combat soldiers,” said Crowley. Those needs, as Crowley understood, are that the training be as close to the real-world experience as possible. That means using the same equipment as in the field, from normal rifles with simulated ammunition to the same chest-mounted plaques that are worn in combat.
“When you use a remote situation awareness device, it sits at a certain point in your chest,” he said. “What you want to achieve is the level at which, when you move around to fold this down, you intuitively … you’ve done it a million times.”
A VR headset, while providing an immersive experience, requires the user to fight their way through the game console’s controllers. By covering the wearer’s eyes, any peripheral vision is also eliminated. For a single player going through a game, that’s fine. In order for one squad to train to absorb the other’s non-verbal cues, the elimination of peripheral vision is a no-go.
The training environment offered by 4GD uses instead of a fixed and familiar connection that generations of cadets can recognize, instead modular and flexible facilities in a dedicated facility. Troops could train with the same configuration over and over, or they could be set up as unique scenarios to advance training. 4GD offers five levels of complexity, each with more technology to enhance the experience and help coaches analyze team performance.
Lights, smoke, smells, and automated targets that can respond to sensor signals from the soldiers themselves all make for a more immersive experience. A large number of sensors inside the system also record movements, light and noises. Trainers who moderate an exercise can simulate gunshots and explosions.
The other benefit of complex virtual training is the ability to remotely involve participants, such as the sniper working with a unit in the 4GD scenario. The sniper, miles away from the others training, has the scenario projected onto a rotating screen. Inside the sniper’s scope, he can see a target on the screen and aim at it.
The same target is a moving unit in the 4GD facility in space. If the squad opened the door or shot through a window, the sniper could observe it from a distance.
“If the target was hit, it would physically fall, but at the same time the sniper watching this virtual reality would see the target’s avatar fall and the unit would move into that space,” explained Crowley.
Training with snipers in a combat exercise without the synthetic environment would require the units to be physically in the same location and use the same substantial space as they would in the real world to train. By using the synthetic room and a virtual reality intermediary between training facilities, the unit leading the course can train with snipers stationed elsewhere and still learn how to call for help, wait for the shot, and then clear the room.
Regular training becomes really expensive when other tools such as drones are used overhead. 4GD can simulate these and, during training, forward video feeds to the soldiers’ tablets attached to their chests.
For troops whose daily routine does not regularly include interpreting drone surveillance videos, they can become familiar with the type of information they will see in the field if they are on hand every time they go through a training scenario. It is inherently a method of performing the movements to make the modern and special aspects of combat appear like routine and routine.
The full range of facility levels was introduced by 4GD in January 2021. There are currently no military facilities that have adopted the technology. A demonstration of the technology is part of the UK Department of Defense’s ongoing Army Warfighting Experiment, and although the company has sold portions of its system, it hopes to sell the full suite in the near future.
“We wanted to transform tactical training in the city and make it accessible like going to the gym,” said Crowley.
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