SimCentric immersive training platform simplifies VR for military personnel

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SAF-TAC can be deployed anywhere, meaning military personnel may no longer need to be “put behind keyboards and re-trained to be ‘virtual soldiers’”

Quick read

➨ In March, SimCentric was awarded a contract worth £300,000 to evaluate, compare and trial SAF-TAC
➨ All that’s required to run the platform is a laptop, router and headset
➨ To find out more about SimCentric, sign up to receive the third issue of VRWorldTech Magazine for free when it’s published on 24 April

The story

SAF-TAC, the immersive training platform being trialled in partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence, is designed from the ground up to be simple and apply the strengths while mitigating the perceived weaknesses of VR, according to SimCentric director of innovation Tom Constable.

In March, SimCentric was awarded a contract worth £300,000 to evaluate, compare and trial the platform, which uses Unreal Engine 4 and can train more than 30 personnel at the same time, using 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. 

Constable, who designed and developed the concept for SAF-TAC at his own startup before being acquired by SimCentric, a software and smart wearable company run by veterans of the armed forces, said in an interview with VRWorldTech Magazine: “What makes our VR training solution different to others on the market is the recipe. Every solution is going to have the same ingredients, such as graphics and hardware, sound and input controls, but they will not all be put together in the same way. Our platform is designed from the ground up to apply the strengths and mitigate the perceived weaknesses of VR.”

An initial successful concept demo helped to drive and inform the SAF-TAC product vision. Constable said. “We designed the platform to be plug and play. All that’s required is a laptop, router and headset, and users can start their training in minutes.”

SAF-TAC can be deployed anywhere, meaning military personnel may no longer need to be “put behind keyboards and re-trained to be ‘virtual soldiers’, sometimes with numerous and complex keyboard inputs”.

Constable said: “With VR, it’s becoming evident that immersion and engagement can be built at the right levels. The requirements mean users can carry the necessary equipment around with them and use it where they need to, all in order to help drive the success of ‘real-world’ training and operations.”

The platform is also uncomplicated when it comes to the type of headset being used. SAF-TAC is deployed on Oculus Rift S, which Constable describes as cost-effective, efficient, and technically capable because it comes with inside-out tracking.

“Users can interact with their rifle, change weapons, look at maps and even communicate over multiple radio nets—99% can and should be done with three commands.”

Tom Constable, SimCentric

The simulation uses just three controls: grab, move and shoot. “With those three actions there are very few scenarios that require more. Users can interact with their rifle, change weapons, look at maps and even communicate over multiple radio nets—99% can and should be done with those three commands.”

Unreal Engine 4 is a tried and tested base that this generation of soldiers are familiar with. “The vast majority are all gamers themselves,” Constable said, “so what they see on our training platform is what they see on a daily basis back on their blocks during their downtime. That makes them feel invested in the platform and that they understand it already. They know what to expect.”

To find out more about SimCentric and SAF-TAC, sign up to receive the third issue of VRWorldTech Magazine for free when it’s published on 24 April

Image: SAF-TAC from SimCentric uses just three controls: grab, move and shoot
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