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29 November, 2016 - 15:19 By Kate Sweeney

Plextek device to train pilots and tank drivers could save MoD millions

Cambridge tech design innovator Plextek has helped devise a new training simulator for pilots and tank drivers that could save the MoD millions of pounds.

It has completed a proof of concept project with the UK government’s Centre of Defence Enterprise (CDE) to create the immersive skills training and development solution using the virtual reality headset the Oculus Rift.

The flexible system, run through a simple commercially-available laptop and the Oculus Rift headset, offers potential tank drivers the chance to test and hone vital skills such as hand-to-eye coordination, reading maps and 3D displays and team work.

Once wearing the headset, the user navigates themselves through different landscapes, carrying out different tasks such as matching colours and shapes while simultaneously balancing items using their controllers.

Other team members can join them inside the system with additional headsets to enable team collaboration exercises that ordinary ‘immersive’ solutions cannot provide.

With a traditional simulation training system costing around £20 million for a professional full motion simulator (or £575 for an hour rental), this alternative VR-based solution is also incredibly flexible, portable and saving several millions of pounds for the Ministry of Defence to implement across the tri-services, providing a cost effective yet unique approach to training in the defence industry.

Plextek’s VR system will also help the MoD to screen the innate abilities of groups of candidates at the start of the recruitment process and use the results to guide individuals towards specific career paths where they have shown a natural talent.

This will help optimise the overall time and cost of training by filtering out weaker candidates, who are a drain on resources, earlier in the process.

The current system will continue to be developed by Plextek with plans to expand beyond tank drivers to introduce a variety of other job functions across the tri-services.

Collette Johnson, director of medical & healthcare at Plextek, said: “Virtual reality is revolutionising the quality and accuracy of training programmes for the military, providing the chance for military personnel to not only understand the skills they are proficient in, but where they must learn and develop further.

“This new government-funded technology solution showcases the innovation the defence market is currently experiencing and how, in the future, we will see many more examples of ‘consumer’ technology being integrated more specialist military applications.”
 

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