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How Virtual Reality is Transforming Military Training

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How Virtual Reality is Transforming Military Training

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There are some jobs that are difficult to train for.

If you want to be a professional golfer, then you can start playing golf and taking some bad shots until you get good.  But if you want to be a lion tamer, then you probably want to be pretty confident even before the first time you’re put in the pen with the lion!

The same goes for military training. While there are exercises and tools that can be used to simulate and approximate warfare, none is able to truly capture the experience of being shot at and having to make life-or-death decisions in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, technology is changing all that and providing a more affordable, more flexible, and ultimately more realistic method for preparing soldiers for battle.

According to LTC Michael Stinchfield of the Combined Arms Center’s Training Innovation Facility at the National Simulation Center, VR experiences are helping to offer ‘better training for soldiers, more efficiently’.

VR equipment is getting more affordable, more accurate, and more immersive. Thanks to this development, it is now being used for a whole range of training scenarios: from mission rehearsals to live fire exercises. And as a result, combatants can test their focus, their reflexes, and their retention of information.

In other words, it’s one thing to sit through a class teaching advanced battle tactics. It’s quite another to be running for cover while your colleagues provide suppressive fire.

Tactical Challenges

Not only does this create a safer and more controlled environment for training, but it also allows instructors to more closely track and monitor performance (thanks to the ability to get advanced metrics from VR applications), as well as to save money on equipment, tools, and even instructors. Instructors can now even provide tutelage remotely!

As one military representative told Samsung:

“One of the benefits of this technology is that it can be used anywhere, making it easier to conduct effective training, in a shorter time frame and in multiple settings.”

Here, VR is being used for tactical exercises and simulations too. Here, the life-life experiences are used to mimic real-life scenarios that military personnel may encounter in the field. That means things like dealing with multiple targets, or following instructions when entering an unsecured building.

More Training Opportunities

The truly amazing thing about VR is that it can be altered to fit any scenario and any training application. Once the basic physics engine is in place, it’s relatively simple for a team of programmers to change parameters, to alter elements of the environment, or to raise or lower the difficulty. That means it can test the broader ability of soldiers as in the previous examples, or it can test the granular independent elements that make up a soldier’s overall ability.

This allows VR to be used in a wide variety of training situations. For instance, VR training will typically begin with a ‘virtual boot camp’ style of experience that can be done with 360 VR video. From there, diverse scenarios can be introduced depending on the needs of that particular service. There may be programs testing physical fitness, skills (such as putting together weaponry), knowledge (identifying certain types of situations or equipment), or even medical training!

More_Training_Opportunities.jpeg

Then there are vehicle and flight simulations, that is an ideal application for VR to help augment other forms of training. Here, the VR headsets are typically used in conjunction with simulators that recreate the physical movements of the virtual vehicle. In some cases, this experience can be almost indistinguishable from the real thing!

The army is just one organization that has shown an interest in VR technology. Of course, there are many more potential applications for this game-changing tech. It should come as no surprise that the same medical application is something that has been used to train doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical personnel for instance.

Likewise, it is only logical that this is a tool that NASA should also employ. It’s only a matter of time before we see a more widespread use of VR in classrooms. Imagine teaching Egyptology by letting children walk around a simulation of the Great Pyramid of Giza!

Virtual Reality Training the Mind

What’s more though, is that VR can be used to train the brain beyond simply learning and testing skills.   The brain is at its most plastic and adaptable when it is focussed and learning. We spend much of our lives sitting down and focusing on a big screen in front of us. The skills that are rewarded in business are those that require us to turn our minds inwards.

But success in combat comes down to being alert and focused: it’s about rapid decision making and quickly identifying potential dangers on the horizon. VR can help to train these abilities by placing us in situations where we are surrounded by virtual opponents, and by forcing us to react quickly and aim true.

As far as our physiology is concerned, this is no different to the real thing. This can trigger something called ‘brain plasticity’ – actually leading to the creation of new neurons and new connections that help to improve brain function.  Studies show that people who play computer games have great decision-making skills, along with better visual acuity. Imagine what VR can do for the brain then!

The Future

In the future, we can expect to see VR find its way into more settings. At the same time, its current uses will be expanded throughout the military and beyond.

Of course, resolutions and graphical fidelity will improve. Likewise, inside-out-tracking (a technology that relies on computer vision in order to approximate its position in space) will allow headsets to work ‘untethered’. They will get lighter and they will learn to track all the natural movements of our limbs. In short, they will allow for far more energetic and physical training scenarios.

At the same time, it’s only a matter of time before the military starts combining this technology with other innovations. For instance, ECG readings can be used to look for activation of specific brain areas. This can, in turn, provide vital biofeedback during combat training – so that coaches can see how their team is responding to challenges and help them to remain calmer and more alert. This could all help military personnel to improve their ‘unit cohesion’ – an elusive and crucial concept for surviving combat situations.

Finally, VR training may have particular relevance for a new breed of soldier: those that pilot unmanned drones and other vehicles. For them, all warfare will be remote, VR warfare. What training could be more apt?  And as VR technology improves, the potential for this type of control will also improve.

Wrapping Up

In short, VR is currently playing a crucial role in the training of military personnel. However, we are only just scratching the surface of what it is capable of. This technology may be slow to reach mass adoption in the commercial market, but its potential applications spread far beyond that. It will change the way we do business, the way we communicate with friends, and the way that we entertain ourselves.  But perhaps most surprisingly, and impactfully; it will change the very way that we wage wars.

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TECHNOLOGY

On email security in the era of hybrid working

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Cloud Computing News

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With remote working the future for so many global workforces – or at least some kind of hybrid arrangement – is there an impact on email security we are all missing? Oliver Paterson, director of product management at VIPRE Security, believes so.

“The timeframe that people expect now for you to reply to things is shortened massively,” says Paterson. “This puts additional stress and pressure on individuals, which can then also lead to further mistakes. [Employees] are not as aware if they get an email with a link coming in – and they’re actually more susceptible to clicking on it.”

The cybercriminal’s greatest friend is human error, and distraction makes for a perfect bedfellow. The remote working calendar means that meetings are now held in virtual rooms, instead of face-to-face. A great opportunity for a quick catch up on a few emails during a spot of downtime, perhaps? It’s also a great opportunity for an attacker to make you fall for a phishing attack.

“It’s really about putting in the forefront there that email is the major first factor when we talk about data breaches, and anything around cyberattacks and ransomware being deployed on people’s machines,” Paterson says around education. “We just need to be very aware that even though we think these things are changing, [you] need to add a lot more security, methods and the tactics that people are using to get into your business is still very similar.

“The attacks may be more sophisticated, but the actual attack vector is the same as it was 10-15 years ago.”

This bears true in the statistics. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) found in its Phishing Activity Trends Report (pdf) in February that attacks hit an all-time high in 2021. Attacks had tripled since early 2020 – in other words, since the pandemic began. 

VIPRE has many solutions to this age-old problem, and the email security product side of the business comes primarily under Paterson’s remit. One such product is VIPRE SafeSend, which focuses on misaddressed emails and prevents data leakage. “Everyone’s sent an email to the wrong person at some point in their life,” says Paterson. “It just depends how serious that’s been.”

Paterson notes one large FMCG brand, where a very senior C-level executive had the same name as someone else in the business much lower down. Naturally, plenty of emails went to the wrong place. “You try and get people to be uber-careful, but we’ve got technology solutions to help with those elements as well now,” says Paterson. “It’s making sure that businesses are aware of that, then also having it in one place.”

Another part of the product portfolio is with EDR (endpoint detection and response). The goal for VIPRE is to ‘take the complexities out of EDR management for small to medium-sized businesses and IT teams.’ Part of this is understanding what organisations really want. 

The basic knowledge is there, as many organisational surveys will show. Take a study from the Enterprise Security Group (ESG) released in October in terms of ransomware preparedness. Respondents cited network security (43%), backup infrastructure security (40%), endpoint (39%), email (36%) and data encryption (36%) as key prevention areas. Many security vendors offer this and much more – but how difficult is it to filter out the noise?

“People understand they need an endpoint solution, and an email security solution. There’s a lot of competitors out there and they’re all shouting about different things,” says Paterson. “So it’s really getting down to the nitty gritty of what they actually need as a business. That’s where we at VIPRE try to make it as easy as possible for clients. 

“A lot of companies do EDR at the moment, but what we’ve tried to do is get it down to the raw elements that every business will need, and maybe not all the bells and whistles that probably 99% of organisations aren’t going to need,” Paterson adds.

“We’re very much a company that puts a lot of emphasis on our clients and partners, where we treat everyone as an individual business. We get a lot of comments [from customers] that some of the biggest vendors in there just treat them as a number.”

Paterson is speaking at the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo Global, in London on December 1-2 around the rising threat of ransomware, and how the security industry evolves alongside this threat. Having a multi-layered approach will be a cornerstone of Paterson’s message, and his advice to businesses is sound.

“Take a closer look at those areas, those threat vectors, the way that they are coming into the business, and make sure that you are putting those industry-level systems in place,” he says. “A lot of businesses can get complacent and just continue renewing the same thing over and over again, without realising there are new features and additions. Misdelivery of email is a massive one – I would say the majority of businesses don’t have anything in place for it.

“Ask ‘where are the risk areas for your business?’ and understand those more, and then make sure to put those protection layers in place to help with things like ransomware attacks and other elements.”

(Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash)

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London.

Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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