SimX expands US Air Force partnership for VR medical training 1

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SimX expands US Air Force partnership, KLM Cityhopper introduces virtual reality training for pilots, Tilt Five attracts $7.5 million in series A funding, and AMPD Ventures partners with Shocap Entertainment on R&D projects

SimX expands US Air Force partnership

SimX is expanding its partnership with the US Air Force to develop operational medical training systems through its virtual reality medical simulation platform.

The new $1 million Virtual Advancement of Learning and Operational Readiness (VALOR) programme builds on existing collaborative efforts between SimX and innovators within the US Air Force, as military simulation training capabilities already deployed within the Department of Defense.

Recognising the urgent need for education and training to combat the global Covid-19 pandemic, this programme will also allow for military adaptation of SimX cases focused on the evaluation and management of the virus.

Currently, the civilian version of these cases can be downloaded and used free of charge by any hospital or training programme with Oculus Quest or HTC Vive devices.

This project was made possible through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Direct to Phase II programme, in collaboration with AFWERX, a team of innovation specialists within the US Air Force, and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

AFRL and AFWERX have partnered to streamline the SBIR process in an attempt to speed up the experience, broaden the pool of potential applicants and decrease bureaucratic overhead. 

SimX chief technology officer Karthik Sarma is the principal investigator for the programme and will coordinate efforts with US Air Force Colonel John R Dorsch, DO, Wing Surgeon of the 24th Special Operations Wing (SOW), and pararescue medical director.

Dorsch said: “The VALOR programme will increase overall medical capability and improve survival rates in US, Coalition, and partner force combat casualties.”

“These capabilities are critical for ensuring that the highest level of combat trauma and austere medical care are provided by the 24th SOW’s special operations ground forces.”

KLM Cityhopper introduces virtual reality training for pilots

KLM Cityhopper is introducing virtual reality training for pilots flying Embraer 175 and 190 aircraft.

Developed in-house, the virtual reality training courses will allow pilots to make more effective use of their training time and will also yield cost savings. KLM Cityhopper says it’s the first airline to integrate virtual reality into its pilot training for Embraer aircraft.

KLM subsidiary KLM Cityhopper has a fleet of Embraers serving European destinations. It decided to investigate the capabilities of virtual reality in an effort to respond more flexibly to pilots’ differing training needs.

Sebastian Gerkens, senior instructor for Embraer at KLM Cityhopper, said: “Virtual Reality  makes training more accessible. It is on-demand and site-independent—pilots don’t have to be in a classroom or a simulator at a certain time. What’s more, it invites them to explore, something they can do safely in a virtual environment.”

“VR allows pilots to familiarise themselves with the cockpit in advance, so that they make more effective use of their simulator time.”

The new training approach will also generate cost savings, because it cuts down on the number of external suppliers and makes pilot scheduling more flexible.

The virtual reality training courses for the Embraer 175 and 190 were developed by KLM’s own experts in cooperation with KLM Cityhopper. Training consists of three applications, all part of the type rating course in which pilots learn the specific characteristics of the aircraft they are going to fly.

These applications include a virtual cockpit, a 360𝆩 point-of-view video, and a virtual walkround the aircraft.

“These are also the three different ways to capture content used to create VR applications,” explained Werner Soeteman, manager of the VR Centre Of Excellence at KLM IT.

Soeteman continued: “The interactive virtual cockpit was created on computers entirely by our team of VR developers and 3D designers. To produce the 360-degree video and photographs, one of our VR engineers sat in the cockpit operating an advanced 360-degree camera during a flight, in close cooperation with the KLM Cityhopper pilots. Our developers haven’t the faintest idea how an Embraer works, although they’ve certainly learned a lot.”

KLM has long been interested in using virtual reality for staff training. It already has courses for maintenance engineers and KLM Cityhopper cabin crew.

KLM Cityhopper is exploring whether it can obtain European Union Aviation Safety Agency certification for these courses, which would then eventually replace some of standard training components, such as classroom instruction, the cockpit poster and textbooks.

Tilt Five attracts $7.5 million in series A funding

Tilt Five, the developer of augmented reality games, is set for a capital boost, with SIP Global Partners, a Japan-US headquartered venture capital firm, leading its $7.5 million series A funding round.

Tilt Five uses proprietary augmented reality glasses, a game board and a wand controller to engage players in tabletop and video games in 3D holographic environments.

As part of the Series A investment, general partner of SIP Global Partners, Jeffrey Smith, will join Tilt Five’s board of directors.

Other participants in the round include top-tier investors Bitkraft Ventures, Galaxy Interactive, Logitech and games industry innovator Ken Birdwell.

Following its $1.7 million Kickstarter campaign in October 2019, Tilt Five will use the Series A funding to hire additional employees, build partnerships and expand available content.

Smith said: “SIP Global Partners invested in Tilt Five because we believe that, with its revolutionary approach to AR and deeply collaborative experiences, Tilt Five is poised to be the first globally successful consumer AR game system.”

“We’ve been closely following Tilt Five CEO Jeri Ellsworth’s career and believe she and her team have the technical acumen and depth of experience to make Tilt Five an incredible success.”

Ellsworth said: “At Tilt Five, we’re creating an AR experience that will magically bring games to life and introduce game players to a new way of interacting with each other.”

“With the support of SIP Global Partners and Jeffrey Smith on the Tilt Five Board, Tilt Five has a bright future.”

AMPD Ventures partners with Shocap Entertainment on R&D projects

AMPD Ventures is partnering with Shocap Entertainment to conduct a number of joint projects and research and development initiatives focused on innovation in virtual production technologies and high-performance computing infrastructure for live performance.

Shocap is a Canada-based company that produces cutting-edge, live cross-reality entertainment harnessing real-time visual effects technology and on-stage human performance to create unique shared experiences for in-venue audiences and online participants simultaneously.

The company was formed in April 2020 by Brett Ineson, president and chief technology officer at Animatrik Film Design, a leader in virtual production and real-time filmmaking for films, games and XR, alongside Athomas Goldberg, president at Lifelike & Believable Animation Design, an expert in interactive 3D character tools and technologies for triple-A games and virtual reality experiences.

With funding from the Epic Games MegaGrant programme, and support from the Canada Media Fund and Creative BC, Shocap’s first project, LiViCi, for live and virtual contemporary circus, is a real-time blended reality theatrical and virtual online performance in partnership with Montreal’s Les 7 Doigts de la Main (The 7 Fingers of the Hand) Arts Collective.

LiViCi aims to advance Shocap’s mission to create new and exciting shared experiences that combine the visual expressivity of computer animation and visual effects with the emotional immediacy of live performance.

Shocap utilises a range of professional real-time virtual production tools, such as the Unreal Engine, Optitrack, Ncam and Pixotope, alongside internally developed proprietary systems to generate the awesome power of 3D animation and believable CG avatars in real-time.

The company also recently announced that it is employing its advanced technology to bring Vancouver’s historic Palomar Supper Club back to life in XR, with a live-streamed show featuring Jill Barber and her Phantom Jazz Band on 20 November in collaboration with Live Nation Canada.

AMPD’s technological expertise across animation, visual effects, and online game development and distribution means that it is ideally positioned to help Shocap in a number of areas, from designing and refining its in-studio tech pipeline, through to the challenges of distributing Shocap’s blended reality performances to thousands of users around the world.  

Anthony Brown, chief executive officer of AMPD, said: “AMPD has been working with digital creators for nearly twenty years to help them design, plan, and budget the technical components of their complex digital media projects. Shocap is innovating in an exceptionally exciting way, and we are pleased to support them where we can through our recently announced AMPD Lab initiative and beyond.”

“A hands-on approach to problem solving is totally aligned with our project-based approach to innovation, and we expect the outcomes of this partnership to have broad application as we explore the fringes of the metaverse with both entertainment and enterprise applications.”

Athomas Goldberg, executive director at Shocap Entertainment, said: “AMPD’s involvement will contribute in a meaningful way to Shocap as we explore the technology and infrastructure components of our roadmap.”

One of the first direct outcomes of the partnership is a joint initiative at the leading edge in virtual production, and in expanding XR for arts and entertainment.

Working with researchers at Simon Fraser University in big data, visual computing and machine learning, the umbrella project includes exploring predictive motion capture technology in low-latency, high-performance computing pipelines and distribution networks. The debut project is supported by provincial and federal programmes.