Army rifleman ‘charged’ for killing comrade in VR sim

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A British Army soldier who grew bored and killed a comrade during a virtual battlefield exercise has been formally charged.

The Army rifleman, believed to be based in Edinburgh, is thought to be the first soldier in the UK to be punished under military law for committing offences in a virtual environment, according to The Telegraph.

The unnamed soldier was part of a group training in a VR urban environment. After two weeks, the rifleman is said to have grown bored and killed a comrade, before driving down a virtual street and smashing into other vehicles.

A source reportedly said: “It’s safe to say the officers in our battalion did not find it as funny as we did.”

The rifleman was reprimanded for his behaviour and later formally charged with disobeying orders. His reported punishment was to carry out guard duties at the 3 Rifles base at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh over a weekend.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson told The Telegraph: “We take the training of our service personnel very seriously and anyone who is disruptive to this training will receive disciplinary action.”

“Virtual reality training programmes are able to deliver greater flexible training and replicate complex scenarios allowing for rapid experimentation, development of tactics and ability to test new vehicles in multiple environments.”

The British Army is a significant supporter of VR. Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BiSim) developed a pilot for training members of the British Army as part of an £800 million fund investing in technology for military use.

The VR Reality in Land Training (VRLT) pilot tested high resolution VR headsets to improve environmental immersion, mixed reality to allow soldiers to see and interact with physical objects, and avatar customisation replicating realistic facial features and body shapes to allow users to recognise their fellow soldiers.

BiSim won the contract through the £800 million Defence Innovation Fund, which helps develop technology to benefit front-line services. The VRLT pilot was one of many successful Army bids into the fund, a part of the Defence Innovation Initiative.