VR Training Making Major Strides, Still Room to Improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The future of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in terms of training and new innovations is still an ongoing process, experts from the Navy, Marine Corps, industry and academic fields said during the Innovation in Training Through Video Games Panel at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition April 10.

While these fields are making great strides incorporating and expanding VR capabilities, costs and connectivity still prove to be “big constraints.”

Lucien Parsons, director of the Mixed/Augmented/Virtual Reality Innovation Center and professor at the University of Maryland, curbed panel attendees’ expectations when it comes to fully incorporating VR and AR training. Dubbed the “Debby Downer” by moderator Cmdr. James Phillips, Parsons pointed out the costs for fragile, user-unfriendly technology is still as high as a million dollars. Granted, that’s quite the drop from $300 million nearly 30 years ago, according to Parsons.

“I’ve worked on a game that costs $100,000 to make, and I worked on a game that almost cost a $100 million,” Parsons said, applying his real-life experiences. “What you’re aiming for makes a very big difference in what your budget is.”

For the military, the “game” they are aiming for is a simulation that is “reliable, realistic and reusable,” according to the three service officials on the panel.

Col. J. Bollock, director of the Training and Doctrine Command and capability manager, Integrated Training Environment, outlined the Army’s future solution for VR training, synthetic training environment (STE). Unlike the current model, STE will fully incorporate live, VR and AR training.

“The STE will provide immersive and intuitive capabilities that keep pace with a changing operational environment,” an accompanying video brought by Bollock stated. “Giving commander’s the ability to overcome today’s limitations and take on the challenges of tomorrow.”

“In focusing on training simulations, we can really enhance human training and performance,” said Dr. Kendy Vierling of the Marine Corps Training & Education Command’s Future Learning Group.

Parsons concluded his remarks by assuring that successful VR integration is very possible, but only if designers focus on designs and usability, avoid building a “multiverse” and never underestimate the serious concerns of security.