German Army integrates Virtual Reality into Training.
More efficient. More effective. More flexible.
The German army needed a new modern training approach. A solution that improves quality, makes training more realistic, interactive, and flexible while reducing the overall costs. These complex challenges require various solutions, with one being the integration of virtual reality into training. For this, the German Army partnered with HOLOGATE. Since 2020, we are jointly developing a turnkey XR solution that combines expertise with high-end immersive technologies and proprietary software. As a first result, the “VirtHT – Virtueller Handlungstrainer” (transl. Virtual Action Trainer) was built. The deployment of this virtual reality platform is intended to help establish an efficient training network and significantly shorten the training time through a new quality standard.
The “VirtHT“ is a revolutionary free-roam, full-body VR system featuring state-of-the-art VR technology that isn’t dependent on cumbersome backpacks. By streaming high-end quality VR directly into the headsets, soldiers move freely and effortlessly in the expansive training space of up to 200m2. When compared to a traditional wired VR system, the free-roam framework creates a virtual space that feels significantly larger that allows for more fluid movement which is an enormous advantage as it enables more realistic training.
Equipped with high-fidelity tracking technology from head to toe, soldiers are fully immersed in the virtual world. Soldiers can move, interact and communicate naturally as virtual avatars. Via an integrated audio system, soldiers can talk to each other. The trainer is linked to the system and can pass on instructions during the exercise. Lifelike virtual interactions, such as communicating via hand signals, pressing buttons, or holding equipment, can be performed easily and intuitively, with unique “data” gloves, making the use of any controllers obsolete. To increase the sense of physical presence, soldiers wear a haptic vest that signals a hit through triggering vibrations.
For training to be as realistic as possible, authentic weapon replicas are used. For instance, a G36 assault rifle soft air replica with a recoil system is modified to be used in the VR environment. The weapon weight and handling in this licensed replica are based on the original specifications allowing for precise shooting in virtual space.
4D effects, including wind, scent, and heat, are added to activate all senses and merge the participant even deeper within the virtual environment.
The “VirtHT” is being developed as a VR platform on which every imaginable real-world and high-risk scenario can be simulated, visualized, and trained. This is proving to be a real gamechanger from an operational perspective. Many exercises that previously could not be realized for organizational or safety reasons are now possible. Virtual training is safe, variable, and accessible at any time. The intuitive interface of the “VirtHT” makes it easy to manage by a single supervisor, and exercises can be run as often as needed, both of which spare personnel and resources. Adding it all up, it shows that the integration of virtual reality significantly increases training flexibility while reducing overall costs.
The German Army regularly conducts test studies on the system to improve the developmental process. These show that the soldiers are emotionally fully immersed in the virtual events. The combination of active interaction with team members, virtual environment, and haptic feedback creates a realistic impression, and thus high-stress situations can be effectively and convincingly simulated and trained.
“This was a real firefight. You could feel the impact of the hits. You felt the recoil of the weapon, and it was very realistic.” – Study participant
An essential part of virtual training is the After-Action Review. All movements of each soldier and the whole team can be analyzed because the system has recorded the entire training session. Each participant can follow the procedure from different perspectives and as many times as needed until it becomes committed to memory.
The “VirtHT” is designed as an open VR platform, allowing external modules to be easily integrated. One example is the Digital Map Table (DigLT), which is being developed by Fraunhofer IOSB. This is an interactive world map, making it is possible to virtually jump to any point on earth and explore the environments.
Together with the German Army, we are constantly developing new training content and applications, such as a VR Motion Simulator for flight training.
The long-term goal is to establish the “VirtHT-Virtual Action Trainer” at hundreds of locations worldwide to build up an innovative training network. By linking the systems, different teams and military units will be able to jointly train missions in the virtual world.