From Australia to Alaska, trainers of defence forces, law enforcement, medical and other safety-critical professionals are implementing virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and extended reality technology to enhance knowledge and skills at reduced cost. Here are a few representative developments in recent months, as featured on

‘Pilot-Dedicated’ Headset - Vrgineers (Prague, Czechia) has launched its XTAL 3 VR and MR headset. XTAL 3 offers an extended field of view (180° horizontal and 90° vertical) and 8K resolution (a combination of two 4K resolution displays and a pair of 4K mixed-reality cameras). The mixed-reality version of the headset allows pilots to see their hands and interact with instrument panels, learn proper motor skills, and practice standard procedures. The XTAL 3 currently supports Vrgineers’ proprietary inside-out tracking, Optitrack, ART Tracking and Vicon with plans to integrate Lighthouse tracking later this year. The initial XTAL 3s will be delivered to the US Navy and US Air Force to support current contract commitments. 

Varjo Base 3.5, recently released by the Finnish company, introduces a new experimental distortion reduction model, personal settings for foveated rendering, and improvements to existing features. New personal calibration settings for foveated gaze rendering help personalize each VR/XR experience. The Base 3.5 features include: foveated rendering - new calibration options, Unity - AR Foundation support, API - experimental new measurements (in mm) for pupil and iris diameter eye-tracking, API - global chroma key toggle for Varjo mixed reality. Users are now able to use the geometry generated through Ultraleap as a dynamic hand mask in mixed-reality experiences.

ERAU-USHST-Ryan Research - An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University research project is analyzing how VR-enabled flight training can dramatically improve aviation safety. The study is being conducted in partnership with the US Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) using technology provided by Ryan Aerospace and its partner Precision Flight Controls. Project lead Dawn Groh, Associate Professor of Aeronautical Science and Department Chair at ERAU, is a former US Army (Black Hawk) aviator. She said the project is using the baseline USHST video “56 Seconds to Live” to insert rigor and fidelity of unintentionally entering bad weather and instrument meteorological conditions in training by way of simulation. “The argument that I am making is there is a significant reduction in training cost. There are things you can safely do in the simulator that you cannot do in the aircraft.” 

Street Smarts for Security Forces - The US Air National Guard 195th Wing’s Security Forces wing tested out the Street Smarts VR training system, part of a cost-effective innovation plan to help implement SF training for both SF defenders and SF augmentees stationed throughout the state of California. “Security forces are usually the first to respond to a situation and that requires extensive training and confidence in that training, by trusting the information given to you, trusting your gear and knowing how to use it,” said Staff Sgt. Alex Tranchina. “Street Smarts VR allows a better understanding of the information that is being taught to you and the equipment that’s being given to you. When you become more confident and skilled in your tools, tactics and timing, that directly relates to the de-escalation of violence.”

Street Smarts VR offers an immersive, full-body experience with real-time feedback, so a unit can prepare for high-risk situations and worst-case scenarios safely, affordably, and with repeatability. Training includes numerous types of scenarios and equipment options including lethal and less-lethal weapons to enhance reactionary responses, focused decision-making, and de-escalation techniques for potentially violent situations.

Keystone State Cops Go Mobile - The public safety Mobile Virtual Reality Experience (MVRE) will offer 36 credentialed VR training modules to municipal law enforcement departments and educational institutions through the Wrap Technologies Reality platform. Wrap is partnered with the Emergency Response Training and Certification Association (ERTCA) and the Mansfield University Public Safety Training Institute (MUPSTI). The mobile platform began traveling throughout Pennsylvania and Upstate New York in March. “Virtual reality is perhaps the most important tool educators have in leveling the playing field when it comes to in-service training,” said Chief Scott Henry, Director of MUPSTI’s ACT 120 program.

Make My Day - InVeris Training Solutions unveiled its VR-DT (Virtual Reality – Decisions and Tactics) solution and full range of live-fire and virtual training products at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in Las Vegas. The immersive VR-DT enhances training for de-escalation, safety tactics, mental health crisis intervention, use of force and protocol.

Aussie Naval Firefighting - The Australian government is funding the development of AR/VR naval firefighting training system for the Australian Defence Force. Deakin University will collaborate with Australian immersive learning solutions developer Flaim Systems, based in Geelong, and Kellogg, Brown & Root. The immersive training system will combine AR/VR technology with Artificial Intelligence. Flaim’s portfolio includes the US Air Force, Rio Tinto and CFA; they developed the world’s first immersive technology-enabled firefighter training solution at Manufutures on Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus.

Virtual Hangar in Alaska - The 176th Maintenance Group at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, used squadron innovation funds from ARCWERX to create a VR lab which will enhance training capabilities for maintenance airmen by giving them an interactive way to familiarize themselves with maintenance processes without a physical airframe. “This is intended for a trainer to be a safety rep and stand behind him but also to teach while he’s going through the steps,” said Master Sgt. Bryan LoPorto, 176th MXG maintenance training manager. “It enables them to provide training to supplement what they would learn on the aircraft in an environment that’s less stressful.” Virtual Hangar uses the same controllers and program available on Steam, a game service that is popular in the online gaming community. The lab currently has access to C-130 modules, but the long-term plan is to have modules that focus on the other airframes present at the 176th Wing.

Soft-Tissue Surgical Robotics - Cambridge, UK company CMR Surgical is launching a professional education programme for the Versius Surgical Robotic System, the first soft-tissue surgical robotics system to offer VR training as part of its surgical team training pathway. Versius VR, in partnership with FundamentalVR, mimics the real-life environment of an operating room. Versius integrates into existing workflows, increasing the likelihood of robotic minimal access surgery (MAS). 

Nuke Ops VR - General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy is utilizing its Nuclear Virtual Reality Solution tool to help nuclear power plant operators train personnel for outage, operations and maintenance work. John Mackleer, Senior Vice President, Field Services for GEH, said, “Virtual Reality immersive rooms enable outage and maintenance personnel to gain realistic, practical experience including training for scenarios that cannot be recreated in physical mock-ups or during plant power run cycles.” Nuclear VRS offers the flexibility to replicate the layout of different plants, including boiling water reactors and pressurized water reactors, and fuel movement technologies. 

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit at US Air Force Base Fairchild in Washington implemented new VR training to continue to prepare airmen in recognizing and assisting victims of sexual assault. “For those who have never had to help a sexual assault victim, this training helps them see what a sexual assault response might look like, and it also gives them options on what to say,” said Jessica Bradshaw, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. “So if at that moment they don’t know what to say, or they feel they might say the wrong thing, this training helps them pick out what would be appropriate.”