AR-VR Based Military Training Applications

Augmented and Virtual Reality Applications in Military Training


Thesis: Augmented/Virtual reality technology can advantageously be integrated into military training.

  1. In military training (Livingston, et al., 2011, pp. 671-672; Rathnayake, 2018, p. 1; Brown, Stripling, & Coyne, 2006, para. 1)
  2. Ground-force training applications (Hicks, Flanagan, Petrov, & Stoyen, 2002, para. 1)
  3. Battlefield augmented reality system (Julier, Baillot, Lanzagorta, Brown, & Rosenblum, 2000, pp. 1-6; Livingston, et al., 2011, pp. 678, 679, 682)
  4. Urban skills training system (Brown et al., para. 4-5; Livingston et al., 2011, pp. 696-697)
  5. The mission rehearsel exercise (Rathnayake, 2018, pp. 2-3)
  6. Augmented maps (Rathnayake, 2018, p. 3)
  7. Aerospace training applications (Macchiarella, & Vincenzi, 2004, Abstract)
  8. Call for fire/Close air support simulation (Champney, Salcedo, Lackey, Serge, & Sinagra, 2016, p. 364)
  9. Virtual reality based navigation training system (Liu, Liu, Zhu, An, & Hu, pp. 417, 422)
  10. Flight simulation (Livingston et al., 2011, p. 679)
  11. Helmet-mounted displays (Yuen, Yaoyuneyong, & Johnson, 2011, p. 126)
  12. Head up displays (Caudell, & Mizell, 1992, p. 661)

Augmented and virtual reality applications in military training

Human beings’ distinctive capability of both visualizing what they have experienced and envisioning dreamlike adventures has driven their fate forward. A valuable gift of this special capability provides them with a technology of building imaginary worlds. In this context, virtual reality is a simulated environment in which the real world’s events and objects along with the unreal platforms can be created veridically. Besides, augmented reality uses symbols, graphics, and images belonging to virtual reality in order to superimpose them into the three dimensional world space. There have already been numerous researches about virtual and augmented reality available and it seems that this study field is destined to be researched about even more. Virtual and augmented reality offer a good deal of applications in many areas for various purposes such as educational and training aims. In time, the new-style applications supported by this technology will expectedly continue to replace with the conventional educational applications. Military training is the one drawing attention within this framework. Since this technology’s being cost-efficient, fault-tolerant and didactive, supplying a more realistic exercise opportunity, having an interaction option, teaching through an enjoyable way, and so forth, it has obvious supremacies over the traditional education of areas mentioned above. Thus, it can be claimed that augmented and virtual reality technology can advantageously be integrated into military training.

There are numerous educative and training application areas of Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), and military training is one of the most significant areas which substantially benefits from this technology. According to Livingston et al., the army probed into new operation instruments for both operations and training processes since progressive military operations were quintessentially getting varied and it was required to deal with the late arduous missions. Augmented reality was correlatively exposed to development in this direction as well due to military needs and abilities (2011, pp. 671-672). From a detailed point of view, as Rathnayake observed in 2018, there are a lot of diversified kinds of duty holders in the military activities. These activities may sometimes contain fatal tasks and result in deaths or injuries because many unforeseen events might take place in the real operations. AR/VR provides soldiers with simulated trainings in order to minimize the scenarios that they have never experienced. Although AR/VR provides such an opportunity, some shrouded impractical situations are still available to be required to be resolved for better results (p. 1). After taking into account all of those, augmented reality has lately been made use of inserting virtual simulations into the scenarios of the real world so that it can create a more effective training system in terms of expenditure and repeatability for some time now (Brown, Stripling, & Coyne, 2006, para. 1). If types of military training task areas are thoroughly examined, it is clear that ground-force and aerospace missions are the two special military task areas which extremely require capabilities of cutting-edge training AR/VR technology in order to minimize the fatality and injury rates and gain high mission success rate. In the first place, AR/VR plays a vital role in executing ground-force training applications. As emphasized by Hicks, Flanagan, Petrov, and Stoyen (2002), battlegrounds witness blood, big chaos, and indefiniteness. Correct moves on time mean life whereas not timely situation awareness usually causes dying (para. 1). That is why ground-force’s land warriors must be provided with effective combat training applications. Just as Julier, Baillot, Lanzagorta, Brown, and Rosenblum explained nearly two decades ago, it is still predicted that many of the future’s military operations are required to be carried out in urban areas. These anomalous, recent-specific battlegrounds bring more complicated spatial environments and confrontations with them. To give an example, the nearest street level’s buildings may function as hospitals or headquarters as well as posing dangers like hosting snippers on any floor of them. It is also feasible to construct networks of underground tunnels in such environments. Maintaining a permanent line of sight with a friendly asset or enemy is also unfeasible. All these challenges are needed to be taken into consideration to keep civilian casualties and collateral damage minimum. As a matter of principle, if every land warrior’s situational awareness is thoroughly augmented, most of the challenges in question are explicitly destined to diminish. In order to fulfil this decrease and replace the traditional training system containing laptop computer, the application of augmented reality is brought forward by name Battlefield Augmented Reality System (BARS). BARS contains a head up display and it is worn by the soldier. Critical and related information provided by BARS is transformed into computer graphics, and then these graphics are displayed on the head-mounted display. The graphics are oriented with the soldier’s head coarse and superposed in the real world (2000, pp. 1-2). A soldier can practically wear the hardware components of BARS while carrying out his duty (see Figure 1). Julier et al. also reported that BARS technically includes information management system, information filter, calibration system, and experimental system. As for the main hardware components, BARS is composed of a laptop, a GPS receiver, an inertial tracker, a freewave radio modem and a head-mounted display (2000, pp. 2-6). Moreover, as Cox’s 2008 study, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s 2010 research, Office of Naval Research’s 2010 research (as cited in Livingston et al., 2011) state in their researches, the BARS has remarkably contributed to continuing endeavours in real operations as well as in training operations. Overall situational awareness is easily shared by each member of the team and therefore, time-sensitive target tasks have been achieved without confusion and friendly-fire accidents have been ceased (pp. 678-679). AR/VR training applications in urban areas include not merely BARS but also urban skills training system. As research by Brown et al. (2006) focused, contemporary warfares mostly take place in cities rather than open areas, and this shift has projected training style of land warriors to be adapted. A significant extension of the land warrior’s first and ongoing adaptation is Military Operation in Urban Terrain (MOUT). Virtual reality based urban skills training system is also an improving alternative to MOUT. A securely controlled training system is supplied by virtual reality along with the advantage of its being repeatable. These can be assessed as the facts of prefering virtual reality based urban skills training system to MOUT. However, the soldiers are devoid of the real world scenarios that are not simulated at present, and it is the drawback of virtual reality based urban skills training system. With the aim of integrating virtual reality control into the real world’s trueness, an augmented reality training model appears and it superposes the three dimensional information produced by computer in the real world (para. 4-5). Figure 2 shows a virtual enemy which can be created in the real world’s three dimensional space with the help of urban skills training system. As the results of the research by Livingston et al. indicated, the participants mostly assessed that they encountered a sighting hardship while using the weapon of augmented reality’s training system, and this difficulty caused poor exact registration. A bad visibility with the augmented reality’s video-based display along with some other ergonomic problems was also another feedback of the study. However, the importance of bringing virtual enemy into existence instead of real manpower in training was noted. The study concluded that they saw no significant differences between the static targets of augmented reality and live static targets (2011, p. 697). Consequently, it is evident that AR/VR technology can contribute to developing the skills of the land warriors in the urban environment’s unconventional style operations thanks to the integration of BARS and Urban Skills Training System into their training process. Another ground-force training application taking advantage of AR/VR technology is the Mission Rehearsel Exercse (MRE). Rathnayake defined the MRE in his research in 2018. The MRE depends on virtual reality and it is enabled to choose diversified scenarios with regard to military sites. The MRE application sets sight on correct judgement passed by the land warrior even though it contains most of the scenarios pertinent to the battleground. With the help of this system, a virtual and crucial warfare scenario can be created and then the soldier is expected to find a way out of the difficulties in the most optimal way. Moreover, the application does not offer possible choices, but the soldier has the responsibility to decide whether to do an action or not. In the meantime, (s)he needs to run very fast. This exercise provides no help for that (pp. 2-3). As emphasized by Haar’s study (cited in Rathnayake, 2018), the group of soldiers is obliged to complete the mission at a given time once a specific scenario is chosen (p. 2). Figure 3 shows an MRE scenario scene in a virtual battleground. The MRE makes it possible that a soldier can experience the milestone of an ongoing war under harsh conditions such as executing his/her unapplied strategy and testing plans, making critical decisions correctly and rapidly. What is more, Augmented maps are the virtual big pictures of the battlefields and they meet this need by using virtual reality background. Ejder, Haskologlu, Duzgun, and Kurt (cited in Rathnayake, 2018) wrote about augmented maps in 2012 and highlighted that headquarter staff carrying out a continuing operation could use augmented maps in order to be able to detect the exact locations of both ally and enemy forces. Imaging the war stage and accordingly making solid choices strongly depends on it. 3-D programming lets the commandant observe the locations of the ally and the foe through the AR’s glass covering so that (s)he can have an increased situational awareness (p. 3). As one can see, augmented maps have the potential to affect the course of events positively during a warfare since they are able to provide the staff with a higher situational awareness. To sum up briefly, land warriors are evidently required to be well trained due to the fact that they are going to perform their duties in line of fire. Battlefield augmented reality system, urban skills training system, the mission rehearsel exercise, and augmented maps are the principal ground-force training applications utilizing AR/VR technology. These exercises can obviously satisfy these training needs to a great extent and they are convenient to be developed in parallel with AR/VR technology’s increasing harmony with military training purposes.

In the second place, military aviation training applications are also largely comprised of AR/VR based teachings. Since military aerospace training require overcosting budget, these applications exerting AR/VR technology are assessed to be of significance. In particular, as Macchiarella and Vincenzi state, augmented reality can take the condition of aviation maintenance and military pilot training forward due to this technology’s matchless features combining virtual and real things. Because it has a potency for escalating study performance and remarkable diminishing time of training, progressing researches of its training applications are needed (2004, Abstract). First and foremost, Champney, Salcedo, Lackey, Serge, and Sinagra reported in 2016 that a shaping up assessment of Call for Fire (CFF)/Close Air Support (CAS) simulators is what their research was regard to (p. 364). They described the two simulators like that:

Model A was a portable-outdoor capability augmented reality (AR) system incorporating a head-mounted video-see through display, accompanying backpack hardware and fully functional simulated Binocular tool. Model B was an augmented virtuality (AV) indoor system incorporating an optical-see through display inside a darkened enclosure and representative props for Binoculars and Compass tools. Both systems utilized a real map, pen and notepad for manual tasks within the training. Of interest in the different approaches was the perceived usability of the systems, the presence and magnitude of any simulation sickness, and the impact on immersion while training with the systems. (2016, p. 364)

Additionally, CFF and CAS entail a high coordination between air force staff and ground force staff. It seems that both Model A and Model B are well-designed AR/VR military training applications that have the capability to meet such a critical coordination need even though they have some supremacies and inferiorities over one another. A further aerospace training application depending on AR/VR tech is directly related to training for moving in a space station. As Liu, Liu, Zhu, An, and Hu (2016) discussed in their study, some virtual reality methods for a navigation training system along with the carried out trials were wielded so as to gain the best training tactics because this system can assist astronauts to have a good orientation and obtain navigation abilities while they move in a space station. A simulated spaceborne station, man-computer interaction equipment, and some types of modules are what this virtual reality centered navigation training system is composed of (p. 417). Liu et al. (2016) concluded in their research that virtual reality is viable and operative to help astronauts be trained well for space navigation. This system’s techniques also play a vital role in mission achievement (p. 422). All things considered, one can express that virtual reality offers a successful system made up of certain helpful navigation training procedures which enable astronauts to move in space station without being disoriented. Lastly, flight simulations are well-known instances of aerospace training applications drawing advantage from either augmented reality or virtual reality. They are essential implementations in a lot of ways, particularly with their contribution to reducing cost of flight training. Parallelly, Gardley et al. (as cited in Livingston et al., 2011) claimed in 2008 that flight simulations were regarded as normal instruments for pilots’ training and virtual training applications had the potency for supporting farther conditions of military aviation. Whether or not augmented reality was an influential way of the training of C-130 military aircraft’s loadmaster procedures was sought by a project carried out by the United States Air Forces Air Education and Training Command. This project drew a positive conclusion about the whole responses to this augmented reality system (p. 679). Besides, flight simulators have two primary augmented and virtual reality components interacting directly with aviation trainees. The very first is Head Mounted Displays (HMDs). As Sisodiaa et al. (cited in Yuen, Yaoyuneyong, & Johnson, 2011) stated in their 2007 study, HMDs are involved in a well-recognized military application using augmented reality. Fighter and copter pilots use HMDs by putting them on, and they provide pilots with displaying related information like orders, maps, and the positions of their opponents. It is also reported in the study that military warfare’s course of events might evolve in incognizable way with the help of this augmented reality helmet technology (p. 126). Evidently, HMDs are said to be a superiority element in case one party has them, but the opposed party does not. Apart from HMDs, the second flight simulation component is Head Up Displays (HUDs). They cannot be worn and they are mounted in the simulator’s shield as distinct from HMDs. Caudell and Mizell (1992) declared that HUDs were the conventional implementation letting the fighter pilots have situational awareness. HUDs are generally installed in frontal windshield of military aircrafts. However, it is possible to integrate HUDs with a system of head mounted display (p. 661). Obviously, HUDs are one of the traditional military aircraft elements and they look like HMDs except that the head position of the user is determinant to obtain information displayed on HUDs. Flight simulation with its principal HMDs and HUDs components consequently enable military pilots to be trained well and also use this augmented reality supported application in their real tasks effectively. To sum up briefly, augmented and virtual reality technology has widely been put to use in aerospace training applications such as CFF/CAS simulation, virtual reality based navigation training system, and flight simulation. Thus, it can be asserted that these training applications have the potential for training aviators who are able to change the fate of a modern war thanks to the applications.

All in all, military training is the pronounced area with which the technology of augmented and virtual reality can be oriented rewardingly. All the military training applications promoted by this technology submit noteworthy innovations to make land soldiers, pilots, and astronauts ready for their real tasks and it can also be said that they gain the competency to change the destiny of a contemporary battle. The processes of augmented and virtual reality backed applications are expected to carry on taking places of old-fashioned teaching applications ceaselessly. Therefore, military cadets should be trained with these modern teaching implementations and take advantage of them.


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