MoD gives go-ahead to VR training platform for armed forces

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The UK MoD said the new platform will use the latest advances in gaming innovation to improve training for personnel, making it more realistic, intuitive and immersive, while lowering costs

Quick read

➨ The simulator is built on the same gaming engine as Fortnite
➨ SimCentric has been awarded £300,000 to develop and trial the simulator
➨ Tests with the British army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines will take place later this year

The story

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has greenlit the development of a VR training simulator built on the same gaming engine as Fortnite.

The new platform will use the latest advances in gaming innovation to improve training for personnel, making it more realistic, intuitive and immersive, while lowering costs, according to the MoD.

SimCentric, a software company run by veterans of the armed forces, has been awarded £300,000 by the MoD’s defence and security accelerator to develop and trial the simulator, using the Unreal Engine.

After initial successful trials with the parachute regiment and officers at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, further tests with the British army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines will take place later this year.

The MoD said a virtual simulator will be part of the armed forces’ wider training programme, and will be used to support and enhance real-life training exercises.

The simulator, which can train more than 30 personnel at the same time, uses intuitive gesture control designed to match real actions on the battlefield. HD surround sound and realistic visuals bring to life training scenarios tailored for VR interaction.

The MoD stressed the importance of the simulator’s realism to the effectiveness of training, with the point-and-click input of a computer replaced by VR, meaning users will be able to hold a ‘gun’ and crouch and crawl when necessary, just as they would on a real-life exercise.

They will be able to practice this virtual exercise as many times as needed before going into the field for real, preparing them more effectively for operational deployments, the MoD said.

Former British army air corps officer Tom Constable is now director of innovation at SimCentric, which is developing the simulator. He said “As a veteran and current reservist, I’m proud to help train the armed forces of the future.”

“I joined the British army in 2006 and later served in Afghanistan. This gave me a passion for building technology that will reduce the risk to our armed forces and improve the quality of training, with the ultimate aim of saving lives.”

Professor Dame Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser to the MoD, added: “The MoD is committed to developing radical and innovative ways to combat the challenges our armed forces face today, and equip them for the threats of tomorrow.”

“This new simulator is just one way we are bringing training into the next generation, using technology drawn from the world of gaming to support our troops in training.”

Last year, Bohemia Interactive Simulations developed a VR pilot for training members of the British army as part of an £800 million fund investing in technology for military use.

Images from the MoD: Service personnel using the VR equipment. Inset: Footage from the new simulator