The metaverse is not a new playground for the military.
Just when you thought everything under the sun had a twin in the metaverse, the U.S. military decided to make a metaverse of their own. On May 10, two fighter pilots in the U.S. used virtual reality (VR) headsets to simulate refueling an aircraft flying alongside them in the sky.
Besides hanging out with friends or attending a fashion show, many are using the metaverse to simulate tasks that are too difficult, dangerous or expensive to experiment on in real life. This statement couldn’t be more true for the military, where a small mistake could be the difference between life and death. Let’s look at the beginnings of defense simulations and how the industry is leveraging the metaverse to provide more realistic training for soldiers.
History of the military metaverse
Metaverse is a virtual environment created using VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies. While this is a new and unique development for most industries, the military has already been using VR for training purposes for a while. In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed simulator networking (also called SIMNET) to train a group of soldiers for missions collectively. SIMNET allowed soldiers to go back and replay battles so that they could learn from their mistakes and prevent them from happening in real life.
Besides training, the military has also been using technology for recruitment. In 2002, the U.S. military launched the first-person shooter game America’s Army. This game was a way for the army to attract potential recruits by giving them a virtual combat experience. After coming out with different iterations of the game on many gaming consoles, the game has been discontinued as of May 5, 2022.
How the military will use the metaverse
Aside from the refueling experiment, the U.S. has upgraded from SIMNET to a more advanced fighting simulator inside the metaverse. The metaverse is run using artificial intelligence (AI) and thus, according to its developer Red 6, results in a more realistic combat experience than conventional simulators.
Besides providing a realistic combat experience, the metaverse will also be useful for experimentation. Experimenting with military operations or testing strategies out in reality is not only expensive but can also be unsafe for the people involved. Conducting these tests in the metaverse can solve both of these issues and allow the military to test multiple weapons together in different virtual environments.
Also, compared to traditional video conferences, the metaverse can serve as a more immersive meeting venue where decision-makers can run through different mission plans while seeing how various strategies play out virtually. Instead of looking at pictures or videos of military systems, leaders can get a more realistic demonstration of how a weapon would perform.
Why the metaverse alone isn’t a perfect solution to military training
Sure, simulations can be helpful in training soldiers for combat, but ultimately, all wars happen in the physical world. This means there is a greater need for technology that can be integrated into real-world combat than creating a more nuanced virtual training environment.
Such technology is already in the works. An example is The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s latest project, Perceptually Available Task Guidance. Under this project, DARPA plans to create an AI that gives soldiers advice during real-world combat. Another AI technology that has been developed with real-world action in mind is Top Gun. Created by the startup, EpiSci, Top Gun is an AI pilot with superhuman capabilities trained to beat human opponents in aerial combat.
This doesn’t mean that the metaverse isn’t going to be helpful. All this implies is that multiple technologies need to work together to improve military performance. The utility of the metaverse is evident in the fact that other countries, like India and China, have also begun using it in their military endeavors.
The metaverse is still in its nascent stages, so chances are that its full military potential is yet to be explored. With the secrecy surrounding military programs, we might only find out what might secretly be in the works much later!
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