back to article Norwegians trial Oculus Rift in tanks: The ultimate battlefield simulator

Gamers might be excited about using Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles for simulated combat, but the Norwegian army is trying it out for real as a way to maneuver its tanks without exposing the crew. Oculus Rift being tested by the Norwegian army 'Hold on, just checking Facebook.' The system uses four cameras on the sides …


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  1. Herby


    What you can buy at the local store (or mail order) these days. It's like you could equip your local army with a few bucks.

    Unfortunately, the think of those in "high places" is that cheap != good, so we all end up paying for expensive solutions to cheap problems.

    Oh, well.....

    1. Bill B

      Cheap Problem?

      Getting something to work reliably inside a heavily vibrating environment with high temperatures and lives that depend on the reliability of the item is a 'cheap problem'?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amazing...

      "Unfortunately, the think of those in "high places" is that cheap != good, so we all end up paying for expensive solutions to cheap problems."

      Not just those in high places, those of us in low places think like that as well...

      Put it this way, you have a rifle bullet flying at 1000fps towards your family jewels. Would you prefer the army to have spent hundreds of millions of pounds developing your bomb bay shield, or would you be thinking "thank god they saved all that cash".

  2. Knoydart

    Internet of tanks?

    With this Facebook ownership, do you poke the enermy to fire or like people to make sure you don't have blue on blue fire?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Internet of tanks?

      More likely it'll overlay ads on nearby trees, buildings, and vehicles.

      1. Mark 85

        Re: Internet of tanks?

        And periodically show Grumpy Cat memes.

        1. Anonymous Custard

          Re: Internet of tanks?

          Or combine the two, and just overlay the ads on the enemy as a greater incentive to shoot them?

  3. Tank boy

    Bad, just bad

    The US Army has things such as the SIMNET and CCTT, the latter being an excellent training platform (SIMNET sucks), but this is just pure laziness. If the Armor community thinks that this will pass muster, the Norwegians are going to have a long row to hoe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bad, just bad

      You may have misread the article. It's not about using Oculus as a simulator. The article heading was misleading in that respect. It's about providing all-round visibility for driver and commander.

      1. Tank boy

        Re: Bad, just bad

        Yeah, I've been a tank commander, this is bad. Please tell me how many gunneries you've shot.

    2. Duncan Macdonald

      Re: Bad, just bad

      Even a poor system will beat the limited vision available on a closed tank. The field of view on a closed tank is so poor that threats to the side may well not be detected. Add a rotatable camera with an adjustable zoom on the top of the turret that the tank commander can switch to and the distant viewing might well be better than that obtained in a open tank using a pair of binoculars but without the risk,

      1. JetSetJim

        Re: Bad, just bad

        Better yet, have it as Picture-in-Picture and it auto-points to where the driver/commander is looking.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Everything is low res to begin with

    Then it gets better, they add in magnifying optics or a "Squint" camera (stands for Suplimentary Quick Unit Identifier ....or something). There will be little need for carbon forms on the tanks themselves.

    If we can be doing aerial dogfights right now with off the shelf kit (link below) using fleshy things that need air in metal boxes seems so crazy.

    ( - Skip to about 11:00 then see the scene at 12:20 where one guy only is still using his eyes in meatspace)

    1. John Gamble
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Everything is low res to begin with

      There will be little need for carbon forms on the tanks themselves.

      Ah. A drone then.

    2. Charlie van Becelaere

      Re: Everything is low res to begin with

      Ah, but Keith Laumer would want his Bolo royalties.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A long way behind reality

    Having supplied simulators etc. to the military for many years I can assure you that this is well behind where we were 10 years ago!

    Proper hi-res video is available in modern land vehicles (you don't want to be sticking a Mk1 eyeball out of the armour), aircraft (they are mostly blindspots) and ships/boats (where the real controllers sit in the bowels). All round visibility is available as though the transport medium is not present. 360 degree dome overhead, and even underneath if integrating sonar. Yes, that is a lot of processing power, to not only stitch all the camera images together, but also to get the correct optical effects so that it appears as a single, all encompassing image. Also you can augment with infra-red, sound location or other specialty effects.

    The sum total of this is that everything seen by the meatbags is on displays and swapping from real combat to simultated combat is as simple as flicking a (well protected!) switch. In fact, only the controller of the switch really knows what mode you are in!

  6. The Man Himself Silver badge

    "The cameras on the vehicle cost about $2,000, Odden said, whereas military cameras would set the army back $100,000"

    in other words, the camera kit is rugged enough to be able to describe it a such in marketing literature, but likely to fail or fall to bits when subjected to the rigors of the battlefield

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To get it up to the $100,000 mark you would need to add a BAE logo to the side, but then again it wouldn't be available to fit to the tank for another 2 years.

  7. KjetilS

    TU a local TV station?

    "local TV station", actually, no.

    TU stands for Teknisk Ukeblad which can be loosely translated to "Technical Weekly" and is a weekly magazine for engineers.

  8. Dave Bell

    This is just a test

    Consumer products are made down to a price, and the tech being used here is likely not tough enough to rely on in a battle. But showing what it can do is a good way to justify the development of the mil-spec hardware. I don't know how the Norwegians get on with cost control, things sometimes seem insane in British and American equipment procurement, but they might have made a good start.

    The article mentions a standard PC. It's worth thinking about the cost difference between the machine on your office desk and a similar-performance Panasonic Toughbook (You can Google for that, it's not secret). You think an iPad is expensive? $2800 for a tablet computer?

    But this shows you don't have to spend silly money to test the idea and see how much better visibility can be. What can Google Glass be used for? I've seen some very expensive trials for the future infantryman, and suddenly most of the tech to try things out is off the shelf. (or will be, next year)

    Remember the parachute jump? Google Glass and GPS and you don't need to mark the drop zone. And you could test it pretty easily.

    The big bucks are in the integrated systems, but this sort of work can tell you what the bad ideas are.

  9. harmjschoonhoven

    Return of the Mololov-cocktail

    Surround vision is most useful in urban warefare. A shotgun or petrol bomb can easily disable an armored vehicle which relies on Oculus Rift goggles. In a 'real' war it will be knocked down by the first shell landing near the tank.

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

      Re: Return of the Mololov-cocktail

      That's why they'll probably retain the redundancy of periscopes etc.

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge

        Re: Return of the Mololov-cocktail

        Periscopes are being rapidly replaced by photonics systems.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


  11. proud2bgrumpy

    If the tank crew are interacting with the outside world digitally, why do they even need to be in the tank at all? Bring back 'Robot Wars'

  12. Clive Galway


    So the tank driver has to put on a headset mid-engagement?

    Seems to induce motion sickness - quite possibly due to the lag and the lack of proper 6DoF tracking in the OR.

    Lack of resolution a problem at distances.

    All problems that would be sorted by using an optical head tracker instead?

    They already wear head-gear, no problem adding tracking dots or IR sources to their helmets.

    Would give full 6DoF with much lower latency.

    Could use whatever screen you wanted, resolution would not be a problem.

    But fine, go ahead and use the tech owned by a US megacorp who are probably not in bed with the NSA, I am sure that is way smarter than just using a couple of IR LEDs, an IR camera, a bit of open source software and a screen of your choosing.

  13. Rick Brasche

    I've read of similar ideas in sci fi

    take your 360 camera/sensor view. compress the image horizontally, more so at the edges than center of view. Now with some training and practice, your gunner can see movement behind him and head track to ascertain threat. If targetting is handled by computer, all the gunner needs to do is be aware of targets and give fire or ignore orders to those targets, handling multiple threats simultaneously.

    I'm thinking Pournelle's Hammer's Slammers series did it first/best.

  14. Persona non grata

    Eventually a use case for 4k

    As small screens like those used in the Oculus Rift based on phone technology seem to be increasing in DPI at a faster rate than any others and 4K cameras are beginning to become ubiquitous, we'll pretty shortly see consumer systems like this far outstripping the .mil systems for resolution and performance. I'd also add a bit of passive and active IR and you've got a good, cheap sensor system.

    That will get rid of the current issues they identify (range and lag) and offer advantages including improved field of view and built in light amplification.

    And eventually they'll all be replaced by drone vehicles anyway...

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