One of the accelerating, increasingly visible trends in the broad simulation and training (S&T) community is the uptick of dual-use, low-cost, high-impact learning (training and education) technologies among high-risk training enterprises. Leaders in diverse communities, from defense to commercial aviation to oil and gas and beyond, are investing in AI, XR, big data and other learning enablers to quicken their returns on investment – from decreased learning times to increased learning efficiencies and many others. While program managers, acquisition officials and other personnel across diverse organizations may commonly eye the latest hardware, software, systems and other materiel to support learning, they are noting not all S&T content is similar and with good reasons.

The differentiators between sectors’ learning technology content go beyond defense departments typically having more funds to invest in these programs – the increased demands of military training often exceed that in adjacent sector organizations, and then there are more stringent defense security requirements.    


One Defense Customer Perspective 

MS&T reached out to NAWCTSD to gain an insight on this Team Orlando member’s expanding, diverse portfolio across different warfare domains.

Military customers continue to seek the best value proposition for S&T materiel by using baseline commercial off-the-shelf materiel and other strategies – when feasible.  

In one case, the NAWCTSD MRTS (multipurpose reconfigurable training system) 3D is an example of an integrated suite of low-cost, COTS, PC-based hardware running domain-specific, virtual content developed in a commercial game engine. The command’s Director of Aviation Programs, Gregory Ouellette, noted the Navy is using MRTS 3D to train both operator and maintainers for various weapon systems. “There are many other examples of similar commercial product integrations that are used to provide immersive environments for individual and team training that target both cognitive and procedural skill acquisition to replace or supplement live training. Beyond the significant cost benefits, the flexibilities offered by the commercial hardware solutions, especially in user interface modalities (e.g., touchscreens, VR headsets, mixed-reality + haptics), are a key driver for the wide adoption across many high-risk training domains.”

Low-cost, commercial technologies are also being used within naval aviator flight training. The command executive pointed out that in many cases the Navy is using the same technologies flight enthusiast are using in their own home-built flight simulators. He added, “Commercially available flight simulator software packages can provide realistic to basic flight maneuvers.  Several flight simulators are being developed around low-cost VR technologies including a COTS version for T-6B training.” 

As business development teams and their colleagues are learning, there an expanding menu of specific military requirements they must conform with to sell COTS materiel to defense organizations. The NAWCTSD programs director said these requirements include cybersecurity adherence, protection of proprietary software, networking of devices, and mission system specific capabilities (not just basic flight maneuvers).  An additional more general, non-technical, challenge that may preclude the US Navy from taking advantage of certain training solutions available to other, especially non-federal, high-risks communities, are federal acquisition regulations (e.g. acquiring foreign owned technologies, etc.). 

MS&T Kauchak Blurring S&T lines Arcus_HillAFB_dusk_9-21-2023.jpg

The above screen capture of a military airbase venue should not detract from the Collins Aerospace Arcus IG's capability to support training for defense and other sectors' enterprises. Source: Collins Aerospace (an RTX business). 

Messages Received

The S&T industry is upping its game, providing forward-leaning content to deliver ever more challenging and higher-fidelity training for high-risk training audiences. At the same time, S&T companies have heard US DoD’s guidance loud and clear concerning security and other high-level requirements.

Three randomly selected industry insights illustrate these trends.

The author viewed Collins Aerospace’s Arcus image generator (IG) at I/ITSEC 2023. The IG is designed to enable a wide variety of training scenarios for a diverse customer set. Lance Moss, program manager for Arcus for Collins Aerospace, an RTX business, said that through its common PC hardware and software applications, Arcus supports a variety of simulated flight devices including full-flight simulators, flight training devices, headset virtual reality VR and mixed reality systems. “The scalability of Arcus reduces cost and increases opportunities for focused training using the same technology across the simulation spectrum.” 

This February, Collins Aerospace was in discussions with customers to bring its next generation IG to support training needs. For customers using another Collins-developed training system, information can be easily and quickly moved into Arcus to allow for minimal training downtime.

Of note, Moss emphasized Arcus can be modified in a number of ways to suit the customers’ unique needs, whether commercial or defense.

In the first instance you will encounter in this article of collaboration and integrating other technologies seen in other training spaces, the PC gaming capabilities provided by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine enhance the simulation products developed by Collins, leveraging gaming market investments into improved rendering for better training. “The combination of Collins’ simulation expertise and Unreal Engine makes for a realistic and scalable image generator,” Moss remarked.

In terms of early returns on investment offered by Arcus for training enterprises, the corporate program lead said what makes Arcus so unique and beneficial to customers is the flexibility and modularity of the IG. Moss concluded, “As a hybrid system, Arcus offers improved graphic capabilities to offer realistic flight simulation training. The Arcus image generator allows the flexibility for solutions to many types of training. This includes headset-based, part-task trainers to simple multi-channel devices and up to full-size flight simulators. All of these can share the same run time software, synthetic environment and appropriate hardware to keep costs suitable for the training tasks”.

A second technology activity finds Tobii bringing to bear its eye-tracking technology across diverse high-risk training enterprises. 

At next month’s WATS 2024 the company will join its partner Visionary Training Resources (VTR) to discuss how the combination of VR headsets and eye-tracking technology offers this community training enterprise a novel, cost-efficient, and ecologically valid way to both train and assess pilots. “The addition of eye tracking into a virtual training environment unlocks valuable insights about a trainee’s attention and skill development that can be critical for improving training effectiveness and assessment outcomes,” Tobii spokespeople Amanda Bentley, Senior Director of Integrations, and Keith Bartels, Sales Director for Americas observed and further explained, “Eye tracking allows trainers to confirm that a prospective pilot has completed all of their visual-only tasks in addition to physical tasks, which are easier to verify. The eye tracking data is also recorded so a trainee and their trainer can review the session afterward to identify areas for improvement.”

Tobii is concurrently working with Soma Reality, an Austrian startup developing neuropsychological insights for digital environments. Using VR, Soma Reality leverages eye-tracking data to understand the cognitive load in real-time adaptive training, which is becoming increasingly important for pilot training.

Peering across the high-risk training community, the Tobii spokespeople reflected that they see a trend in companies seeking to enhance their training programs, aiming for swifter and more effective training methodologies while also looking to trim internal costs. This drive for efficiency underscores a broader industry push towards optimizing training resources.

Additionally, they note a growing interest in comparing the performance of experts with that of novices. “Eye-tracking technology is particularly appealing, as it offers valuable insights into human behavior. By measuring attention and capturing gaze patterns, eye tracking facilitates a deeper understanding of individual and team performance in both simulated and real-world scenarios. This technology particularly benefits operators in critical environments like airline cockpits and control rooms, where situational awareness is paramount.”

Tobii's eye tracking tools were then noted to provide the means to assess training retention levels and identify potential issues before they escalate into real-world problems. By leveraging these insights, organizations can refine their training programs and optimize performance outcomes.


Collaboration and teaming are allowing different high-risk training sectors to gain S&T hardware, software and systems. Above, Tobii and VTR team-up to offer a training scenario for commercial aviation customers. Source/credit: Tobii/VTR.

Tobii is also becoming more agile to adapt to different markets and use cases, including “stricter software rules on the defense and government side than in enterprise.” A technology enhancement that should resonate well with different markets is Tobii’s intention to launch its cloud platform “soon.” 

Tobii’s reach into the defense market will be evident later this year when the company exhibits at I/ITSEC 2024.

RSi and Norxe provide another instance of a collaborative effort to offer materiel solutions to high-risk training enterprises. Whereas RSi’s business portfolio has an approximate 50%-50% split between the military and commercial aviation training sectors, similarly, Norxe’s projectors are in service at training sites in both markets and in other sectors.   

The RSI-Norxe partnership allows similar, baseline content and systems to be offered to multiple training communities. “This partnership enables both parties to deliver a ‘handshake solution,’ as projectors will never be better than the image generator and the IG provider, when working with partners on the display side, is the major way to meet resolution, numbers of channels and other specific, official requirements for the system,” Sondre Fauskanger, Senior Product Manager at Norxe, said.              

Training and simulation are core, number one markets for Norxe, the executive added. To meet this part of the company’s business model, Norxe’s projectors may deliver similar capabilities, including high image quality for flight training devices, multi-channel capacity for dome configurations, and others, for training audiences in different sectors. As significant, the company’s agile projector portfolio can also meet the defense market’s more rigorous materiel requirements for its unique missions sets, for instance, for higher refresh rates, the supply of a dedicated infrared channel and other capabilities.   

Alex Gibson, Marketing and Accounts Manager at RSi Visuals, provided another vital data point on meeting different sectors’ S&T requirements. In the case of commercial aviation pilot training, “it’s all about regulations.” And while RSi can help enable a full-flight simulator conform to a regulator’s level D flight training standards, it can also help the military customer exceed these standards and meet their additional mission-essential requirements.

While more demanding military training scenarios are one imperative driving more rigorous materiel requirements, there remains security compliance. 

Norxe hears the unique, clarion call from military departments, mainly in the West, for higher-level security capabilities – providing another differentiator between hardware and software content delivered for military training purposes and the commercial aviation market, for example. To point, the company has appointed a dedicated cyber security officer, whose oversight includes ensuring the company’s new software releases are compliant with the most current military standards for the expanding cyber domain. This should be no surprise, as Fauskanger recalled an early line of questions from a prospective military-industry team member may include: do you have a dedicated cyber security program; what is your certification level; and other queries.

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