U.S. Navy Recruits Using Virtual Reality (VR) Technology

Within the Department of Defense, the impact of VR and AR has fundamentally changed major functions over the course of 30 years. It has opened countless doors to new uses that are now commonplace throughout the armed services. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy has come a long way from its evolution of advanced technology in the thousands of ships and aircraft serving worldwide. Research of technology such as virtual reality (VR), has become the platform for use in recruitment, training, and operations.

The U.S. Navy has recently begun using virtual reality for recruitment by driving around a tractor-trailer, called the Nimitz, around the country to schools, Fleet Weeks, air shows, and other special events. It has eight virtual reality pods, all donned with Oculus Rift headsets, and allows the Navy to accommodate about 60 people per hour. The virtual reality experience, created with design studio Helios, consists of a series of immersive experiences. Participants begin with being issued an RFID dog tag, go through a briefing, and participate in a virtual high-speed water extraction of a Navy SEAL team pinned down under enemy fire.

Participants navigate the mission using a piece of wearable technology called a SubPac that percusses in real time to the sounds of the mission, such as helicopter blades and live mortar fire. Participants also use a cutting-edge steering wheel and throttle system to replicate the actual sensation of piloting a high-speed assault craft. Once completed, participants then move to a “debriefing” station where they receive feedback and even a performance grade. It provides an opportunity to transform and elevate what it feels like to be part of today’s Navy.

Training and Future Operations

The Fleet Integrated Synthetic Training/Testing Facility, or FIST2FAC, was created in response to an urgency for a more inexpensive and portable way for ships to train in any given operating area. The latest iteration of the U.S. Navy’s simulator training technology blends live-action exercises with virtual reality. For example, sailors operate a 50-caliber machine gun on a ship, wearing augmented reality glasses, enabling them to see virtual enemy combatants within a live physical setting.

Sailor defending against virtual enemy combatants during a virtual reality training program demonstration. (Photo: US Navy)

FIST2FAC uses reusable software and gaming technology that helps sailors develop strategies through interactive intelligence forces in various virtual environments. It can realistically replicate situations with aircraft carriers, helicopters, lethal and nonlethal weapons, and enable training on several missions simultaneously.

Future of U.S. Navy Technology

Virtual reality technology has the potential to fundamentally change how military personnel training is delivered. These solutions, and future solutions that are just beginning offer tremendous benefits to the U.S. Navy, from spreading awareness and encouraging new enlistments, decreases in costs, on-the-go training, and ultimately increasing readiness for sailors around the world.