VR headsets can help tank drivers

Four Norwegian experts recently proved that virtual reality live streaming systems can practically be employed to control vehicles, when they helped drive a real battle tank — a German Leopard 1 — with the driver immersed in a virtual environment.

The driver had complete awareness of the actual environment all around the tank, without any delays in video rendering.

“Most people today are familiar with video games,” Pointmedia co-founder and producer Jorgen Stordal told Hypergrid Business. “The advantage in games where the driver controls a vessel, machine, car or tank, is the great overview in third person, but this had yet not been proved in real life.”

The team, which has expertise in a variety of areas included Jorgen Stordal, the initiator of the project, Ali Zareiee from Adapa360, who modified the hardware, Kim Bauman Larsen from Dimension Design, who solved software issues, Eric Sandum from Nucom, who conducted a parallel 360 degrees video test with drones, and Skuli Snaer Jonsson, who was the driver of the battle tank.

Courtesy of PointMedia

(Image courtesy Lasse Ibsen Thun.)

“The main challenge was to give the driver a stable stream without any delay, if not, this could be really dangerous,” said Stordal.

The team positioned two modified GoPro 4 cameras fitted with Entaniya lenses and 280 degrees field of view as modified by Adapa360, at the rear of the battle tank that was borrowed from Armydays. The camera streamed a live video to an Adapa360-modified Windows Intel personal computer positioned inside the vessel, and the driver took the pludge on an Oculus DK2. The system run on Vahana VR software.

“We did prove that expensive special hardware is not needed — standard equipment is now available to everyone,”  said Stordal. “The driver experienced a much greater understanding of his surroundings in virtual reality mode compared to the usual way in combat, which is with hatches down. This gives a narrow field of view from the inside of the tank and out that while in battle mode. With our solution, he had complete surveillance from bird’s eye view, behind the tank that gave him a much better maneuverability.”

Watch the video below of the exercise:

The team says the  system can be applied in various other industries such as unmanned arial vehicles and industrial machines.

David Kariuki

David Kariuki is a technology journalist who has a wide range of experience reporting about modern technology solutions. A graduate of Kenya's Moi University, he also writes for Cleanleap, and has previously worked for Resources Quarterly and Construction Review.

  • This is probably fun and even (maybe) useful in peace time, but for a hardened situation it is probably close to useless where the enemy could use very sophisticated jamming equipment like the Russians have used in Syria that completely disables all electronic equipment in a whole area.

    • I remember riding inside a tank once on the Tajik border with Afghanistan along a road on the edge of a cliff. The dirt road had been bombed — up ahead, there was a big bite taken out of it, about half the width of the road, on the right-hand side.

      The driver, a teenage boy, was inside the tank, with a small sliver of view. Another soldier, also a teenage boy, was standing up, so he could see out, telling the first guy where to go. He saw the giant hole in the road and warned the driver about it, so the driver started turning to the right. Into the hole. “Go right, right!” the spotter yelled, panicking. The driver turned further to the right, and the tank was at nearly a 45-degree angle, ready to roll off the road and down the cliff.

      Finally, the kid on the roof figured out what the problem was. “No, I mean left, left!”

      And, since I’m still here, we were able to recover and continue on.

      My point: adding a little bit more electronics to an already heavily-computerized military is not going to add a great deal more of incremental risk. Worst case, if all systems go down, they can send that kid to peer out of the hatch again.

      But providing drivers with 360-degree situational awareness will reduce risks dramatically. And you can reduce jamming risks by running cables, instead of relying on local wireless networks.

      • There is absolutely no doubt that such systems can be of great value and aid, but there is a tendency in the West to over-engineer and put too much reliance on digital components of equipment, and under-engineer failsafe operation of the same when the electronics for whatever reason fails to work / communicate.

        We have seen it here where branches of civil service have switched to digital emergency communication system where the result have been completed loss of communication at times because they rely too much on other infrastructure to always be operational, in combination with shutting down / removing land lines, the fact that most digital communications systems are more susceptible to noise and have poorer propagation in the terrain and therefore less coverage, etc, etc.

        The same has been the case with the F-35 aircraft where they have had to do major redesign of the electronics as they failed to operate in arctic conditions. Meaning the airforce has yet to receive the first craft that works.

        For historical reasons the Russians were forced to rely less on electronics, but that has in the long run turned out to be an advantage both because their equipment, including the rockets that service the ISS, works over a wider operating range and is more resilient to failure, electronic attacks and hacking, and makes it easier to EMP harden. It also is significantly cheaper.

      • David

        Maria, that experience must have been tense. Yes, in that way, VR can supplement the current tech being used.