BAE Systems’ Oculus Rift VR Tech Could Revolutionise Warfare

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‘Mixed Reality’ displays will allow control of the battlefield from hundreds of miles away

Britain could be set to take a major step forward in terms of futuristic defence capabilities thanks to new designs revealed by one of the UK’s largest engineering firms.

Technology being developed by BAE Systems and the University of Birmingham could mean that in future, generals are able to direct their forces using ‘mixed reality’ Oculus Rift-powered headsets that blends together sources of information beamed in from hundreds of miles away.

They will also be able to pilot drones carrying missiles and survey vast sways of territory using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and Augmented Reality (AR) displays, with the technology possibly available within the next five years.

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“We’re already seeing virtual and augmented reality becoming more commonplace in consumer products, and the possibilities it offers the armed forces are hugely exciting,” said Nick Colosimo, futurist at BAE Systems.

“Our unique approach will identify the optimal balance between the real world and the virtual – enhancing the user’s situational awareness to provide battle-winning and life-saving tools and insights wherever they may be.”

BAE say that operations will be able to be set up using a mobile command centre the size of a briefcase, which then links to an Oculus Rift style headset and can even supply computer-generated advisers to suggest tactical advice.

A prototype has already been built by the company, which says such technology could be in place by 2020. It has already been used to create a ‘wearable cockpit’ device (pictured right) that sees augmented images replace physical images and controls in combat aircraft, which could be in use within a decade.

Looking further ahead, BAE believes that the headsetsbae virtual reality3 could be replaced within 20 years by contact lenses that would project the 3D images and information screens directly in front of their eyes.

“Being able to physically manipulate virtual objects in the real world has been challenging scientists for 40 years,” said Professor Bob Stone, simulation and human factors specialist at the University of Birmingham.

“Since my first virtual reality experience at NASA nearly 30 years ago, the technology has evolved from the primitive head-mounted displays and computers to today’s world where we can interact with complex virtual objects, integrated in real-time with real-world scenarios.”

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