Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim) is continuing to work with the British Army to help provide collective training using virtual reality (VR) through Virtual Reality In-Land Training (VRLT), a pathfinder project for the Collective Training Transformation Programme (CTTP). Building on the VRLT1 pilot from 2019, BISim is now helping deliver VRLT2 as the technology partner with QinetiQ Training and Simulation as the prime contractor and training delivery partner. The team is using VBS4, BISim’s whole-earth virtual and constructive simulation, to deliver innovative technology and new training capabilities through Virtual Reality (VR).

During VRLT2 exercises, VBS4 is regularly being used to train more than 40 military personnel and can scale for 90 trainees using BISim technology and VR headsets. On these exercises, the soldiers use VBS4’s integrated support for VR interaction for player movement, including weapon control, handling, player stance, and full-finger tracking to enhance gesturing and complex hand signals.

One of the strengths of VBS4, according to Rusty Orwin, BISim’s Head of Sales UK, Ireland and BISim’s VRLT Project Director, is that it enables training in VR not just at the individual, platoon and company level, but also allows soldiers to train in VR integrated in formations up to brigade level with thousands of units (both friendly and enemy). This creates a complex training environment with simulation of artillery, close air support and even naval gunfire to further immerse trainees.

“Unlike many commercial game engines, which are limited to small terrain areas for virtual training, the VBS4 whole-earth terrain database allows users to train in VR anywhere on the planet,” Orwin says. “So, for the British Army partnering with many nations around the globe, soldiers can get a look and feel for where they might go or, actually, where they are right now.”

BISim’s technology is being used from the individual level to the sub-unit level and on terrain sizes that a Battlegroup would operate in on live operations. “This enables soldiers to train alongside equipment not normally possible in live exercises, in a simulation environment made more immersive by VR,” Orwin adds.

Over the last two years, BISim’s technology has been significantly enhanced for VR and has helped train hundreds of soldiers ranging from Cavalry, Infantry, Logistics, Army Air Corps and Royal Artillery. BISim’s software has been combined with partner technologies to simulate a broad range of systems including instrumented Light Guns, AFC control systems, simulated CR2 turret trainers and synthetic wrap-style ISTAR feeds. It is also integrated with Cervus Defence and Security’s Hive Engine for training data exploitation.

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“VRLT2 is one of the world’s largest government-sponsored evaluations of the benefits of VR and its potential for military collective training,” Rusty says. “It is providing the Army with valuable insights for CTTP and showing where the Army can rapidly incorporate VR into training exercises to provide increased capabilities, better experiences and troop readiness.”

The VRLT pilot was led by BISim and delivered a series of 26 innovations over the course of the pilot study in 2019. Innovations included a high-fidelity 3D model of the Warrior IFV for VR, an automated system for monitoring individual performance, and the use of mixed reality to allow users to take notes and annotate maps during exercises or display battlespace management applications without breaking immersion.