Military Embedded Systems

Fight-or-flight response? Virtual reality training in the U.S. Navy


April 22, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Fight-or-flight response? Virtual reality training in the U.S. Navy
Photo by ONR

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) with support from its Reserve Component demonstrated its virtual training technology at its Fleet Integrated Synthetic Training/Testing Facility (FIST2FAC) located in Ford Island, Hawaii. It uses software and gaming technology to help the U.S. Navy construct virtual scenarios superimposed into reality for training exercises that will enable better strategies for diverse missions and evolutions.

“FIST2FAC was created in response to an urgent need for a more portable way for ships to train in any given operating area,” says Glenn White, ONR’s integration and transition manager for the project, in an ONR release. “It allows Sailors to ‘train like they fight’ by presenting realistic forces in a visual, tactical and operational environment.”

The military lives and breathes training. It was part of my daily activities. There were certain things that you just simply couldn’t skip, and training was one of them. Whether it was hands-on training, running evolutions, or a simple death by PowerPoint training episode – take your pick. Training was, is, and will always be a huge part of the military.

ONR’s FIST2FAC virtual training takes gaming technology to the next level, but does it take our innate fight-or-flight response into account? What happens when in real life battle stations are called and it’s not a game anymore?

The system has its pros. Training is costly. This technology will allow the Navy to save an obscene amount of money just on fuel alone. With this technology, the U.S. Navy can train anytime, anywhere. According to ONR officials, this re-useable software can be modified to different environments, but how do you simulate the heat of a main space fire a few feet from you? Or the focus you immediately get when you hear the alarming bell that signals that the helicopter is coming in hot and in trouble?

Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport Division helped to develop FIST2FAC. The demonstration showed new enhancements to the training simulators that included sailors manning a 50-caliber machine gun while virtually seeing enemy combatants; Trainees on the USS Michael Murphy and trainees on shore experienced the enemy jamming their communication signals such as simulated degraded radar, video streaming and communications.

While this technology is land locked for the time being, White says, “The ultimate goal is to wrap a destroyer in an augmented world where everyone throughout the ship can see virtual vessels, aircraft and adversaries, and train to respond appropriately.”