By 2025, VR in the military will be a $1.4 billion dollar in revenues industry. The growth rate YoY (year on year) stands at a staggering 21.5% which makes it one of the hottest industries to be a part of. Adoption is still low and the technology mostly has users in the militaries of the developed and ‘often-at-war’ nations like the U.S and U.K, for the militaries of the developing nations, even though VR has a lot of applications, the adoption is low, simply owing to the lack of awareness or the perceived return on investment from the use of this particular technology. Regardless of how it’s currently perceived, this technology can save some serious bucks for everyone involved. Let’s look at a few areas which currently have a lot of inefficiencies that can be reduced —
- Tanks — Army tanks are expensive and have a limited life, they require a lot of updates and not to mention a huge baggage of administrative tasks just to get them to run -> tanks have special roads, require special mechanics and maintenance of expensive parts and to mention new tanks hit the market with newer tech onboard, making older ones completely obsolete within a few years. Quite an expensive task if you don’t have a war going on right? While most of this cost can be justified by “security” but there is one huge cost that may not be justifiable, which is the tank ammunition. These are huge, expensive rounds that need to be fired many times in undisclosed areas in the deserts so that the team can get a proper training of coordination with the team members and of taking the enemy down. Armies around the world spend millions of dollars in these exercises where teams are transported to remote areas with food supplies, tank maintenance material, loads of fuel (tanks aren’t the most fuel efficient vehicles out there) and most importantly loads and loads of ammo. Each armor piercing tank round could cost upwards of $4,000. Thousands if not millions of these are fired in these month long exercises, taking down “imagined” enemy targets. Different “scenarios” are created by army commanders and the teams are deployed to successfully complete these missions as a part of this exercise. These exercises open up huge amount of logistical challenges (manufacturing the ammo, transporting securely to remote locations across thousands of miles) which keep adding up to the costs. What if there was a way to conduct these exercises but many more of these, all throughout the year without any logistical challenges and any need of transportation and without firing even a single round? Well, VR can definitely make this possible. And this can be applied not to just tanks but all sorts of ammo that is expensive such as bofors, howitzers, mortar, RPG, bazookas.
- Layouts of buildings with hostage situation — Currently when army teams move to close in on an enemy team in a hostage situation, they use charts and paper based schematics to plan the entry points and the vulnerabilities in the building structures that can be exploited by the army team to take the enemy by surprise. The schematics can be inaccurate and lead to various misinterpretations and the plan may not, finally fold out the way it was actually envisioned. VR can create a possibility where the teams are able to view the insides of the building in a sort of a simulation and plan better and can even have simulations before the actual plan is executed. A.I can automatically create simulations by taking into factors of the current hostage situation at hand. This can reduce casualties, increase success rate of operations and make the planning process more streamlined. This has even been shown in many movies and may currently even be a reality in developed nations.
- Flying drones and specialty aircrafts— The ability to fly drones using immersive headsets is being quickly adopted, this can be mixed with VR to train the personnel in flying in different conditions such as snow, rain, storm and can be used to attack simulated targets under all these conditions.
- Nuclear emergency training — nuclear emergency is something that you can’t possibly train for because this will be a rare event and cannot be created in a controlled environment to enable your personnel to train on it. This is why, the training for this scenario (which is of high importance in today’s time) is one of the major applications of VR. Simulations of nuclear fallouts can be created in VR and the personnel can be trained on the next steps and protocols to follow to contain the radiation and protect persons important to the nation. This use case has not been addressed by any of the VR providers and can make for an interesting place to enter the market from, though convincing authorities of the importance and needs of this and the urgency could be slightly on the challenging side.
- Simulations of insurgent and hostage situations to bring number of variables in situations under control by training the army men with multiple scenarios — every hostage situation is different, if you aren’t living under a rock, you have probably seen one of the videos where a small army unit is training with metal targets that are wearing clothes lined inside rooms in the middle of nowhere to represent terrorists and wooden targets to represent hostages and the hostages aren’t supposed to be shot at while you need to shoot the terrorist. Now, when a room such as this is designed and built, you can only change the position of the targets and hostages a certain number of ways and are quite restricted, this leads to the training being very skewed and your team learning combat skills of only a particular type. But the real world can throw many different scenarios and mostly it will throw something that you haven’t trained for. But what if, you could have “free-moving” VR which is basically VR with which you can move around places freely without constraints and it can generate different scenes for you based on pre-programmed variables. You can create different rooms, different buildings, different setup and possibly millions of combinations of hostage situations. This can lead to a holistic learning experience for the team.
- VR therapy for PTSD — post traumatic stress disorder is a big problem amongst personnel who have returned from war. Creating simulations with environments that are able to slowly reduce their stress around war zones and war scenarios can help quite a bit. This is one of the areas where the use of VR is currently very rampant in the US army.
- HALO and HAHO in different landscapes — High altitude low opening and high altitude high opening are types of deployments of troops into the enemy territory. HALO is used when you want to ensure clandestine deployment of teams without radars catching your location, it involves opening of the parachute at a very low altitude. While these terms sound easy and self explanatory, it takes about 100 para jumps before an individual can start practicing these difficult para jumps and the margin for errors in these is very small, a small delay in opening the parachute can be the difference between life and death and it has led to thousands of accidents around the world with para jumpers losing their limbs or losing their lives. The reason is that HALO can be very different in a desert where air is dense and very different on top of a mountain and completely different in a forest and all these situations require different calibrations, different amount of airborne time and different times of deployment of the parachutes. Most of these parajumps are performed at night, leading to even more chances of failure. VR can help army personnel to jump in different landscapes in different weather and wind conditions and train for different situations, thereby cutting down the chances of failure.
- Snipers — snipers have to be very precise under all conditions and their work depends a lot on the weather conditions. Winds from different directions, air pressure etc. are the different variables which, if changed even slightly can lead to a big difference in the overall trajectory of the bullet. VR can help create different conditions and combinations of all factors providing the snipers a never before opportunity to train and perfect their art and reduce chances of failure under any conditions.
- Extreme weather reconnaissance — places like siachen glacier are unforgiving and personnel aren’t well equipped to handle the challenges that a place like that can throw at them as the challenges are unique and something that they haven’t experienced before. Army personnel can now train for such conditions and situations in controlled environments so that they are accustomed to living in harsh weathers before they actually have to go there. Even if those actual conditions like temperature are not recreated, atleast the personnel can be trained in medical procedures, safety procedures and precautionary measures to stop many accidents from happening.
- Minimal invasive surgeries for army medi-vac teams — the constant shift of required skills confronts surgeons with the need for skills different than those they are employing before deployment, but that they must somehow train or retrain to expertise before use. Although they are deployed, their previously sharp skills required in other theaters then may decay through disuse unless they are able to somehow train those skills as well. The enormous challenge posed by this problem is to understand and quantify the nature of surgical skill decay and develop a set of methodologies for training interventions to prevent that decay that minimizes training time, maximizes efficacy, and reduces mistakes during the initial portion of deployments. The Department of Defense estimates a need to train 100,000 military health care personnel annually, representing a profound educational challenge. The consequences of ineffective medical training are dire. In the United States, medical errors are estimated to result annually in at least 50,000 excess deaths and 1,000,000 avoidable injuries. The military has long pursued the integration of simulation and robotic technologies into medical training and applications, and these techniques may provide leverage to address this issue. Specifically, the use of these intelligent technologies for training military medical personnel can help measure skills, minimize errors, schedule training, and control the duration and expense of training. Medical personnel transitions, both when entering an operational area, and when returning to the civilian theater, are characterized by the need to rapidly reacquire skills that have decayed through disuse.
To summarize, VR has explicit applications in military and can provide various simulations to help train the personnel in different environments and also save money by reducing the need to deploy expensive equipment for training purposes. VR can save a lot of money and lives by holistically training the personnel.