Tanks a Lot: Norway to Leverage Facebook's Oculus VR to Drive Armor
May 5, 2014 12:00 PM
The new system is currently in use with a M113
Lockheed Martin Corp. (
) and subcontractor Rockwell Collins, Inc. (
over $50M USD
[PDF] in U.S. taxpayer money making a heads up display which was supposed to display video feeds from camera around the F-35 fighter jet. The display
never quite worked properly
. After many delays, exasperated U.S. Air Force (USAF) commanders finally wrote of the cost of the VSI-HMC program,
signing a new contract to pay BAE
Systems plc (
) millions more to produce a replacement augmented reality helmet.
Perhaps the USAF should have looked to Kickstarter funded,
John Carmack brainchild Oculus VR
Hot off its
recent acquisition by Facebook
, Inc. (
) Oculus VR already has an interesting application in the works courtesy of the Norwegian Armed Forces. The Norwegian Army's Panserbataljonen ("panzer battalion") unit is testing out using Oculus VR as a heads up display for its tanks and armored personnel vehicles.
Norwegian soldiers pilot an M113 with Oculus VR [Image Source: TuJobs]
The project is co-produced by Norway's Making View, a small startup contractor in Hamar, Norway. It has modified a special M113 with cameras on the outside to give a 360 view.
Comments development manager, Daniel Mestervik:
Those who play "Battlefield" do indeed have a better view than in an actual vehicle. However, with our software you can add the information and views you are used to from games: an overview map, spatial (geographical) orientation, tilt and speed.
Versus the millions that the failed Lockheed HUD project cost the USAF, the Norwegian Army paid under $10,000 USD for several $2,000 USD Oculus dev kits. As the software is open to developers, they were quickly able to write software to display the exterior of the vehicle to their drivers.
Norway currently has around 300 M113 armored vehicles (made in the U.S.), which form the backbone of its troop carrying. Assuming success, the project could be rolled out to the fleet and could also begin testing with the rest of Norway's armored battalions, which include Leopard 2 tanks (German-made) and CV9030N (made by a Swedish subsidiary of BAE Systems) armored fighting vehicles.
And the project is indeed showing strong signs of success.
The entire project is now basically finished, with drivers literally driving around a test course in Rena, Norway with the armored personnel carrier (APC). Using Oculus VR, the drivers could pull of the feat of parallel parking the APC with centimeter precision.
Oculus VR driving the M113 [Image Source: TuJobs]
The drivers enthuse that the results are great, akin to playing a videogame. The best part is that it probably cost less than $100,000 USD for all the hardware involved.
While that's a lot better than paying $50M+ USD and getting nothing in return, don't expect that kind of cost-effective spending anytime soon in the U.S. After all, as
Elon Musk's SpaceX
recently learned the hard way
, exclusive government contracts are a tough nut to crack.
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