Oculus Rift headset trialled by Norwegian army

Virtual reality headgear to provide video game views for drivers and crews

Challenger Tank

The Norwegian army is conducting trials with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset as a way to operate its tanks without revealing the crew.

Using multiple cameras each with an 185 degree view on the sides of the battletanks, data is fed back to a computer within the armoured vehicle. The driver, wearing the Oculus, uses the feedback from the cameras to orientate the tank.

Daniel Mestervik, development manager at the firm which built the Oculus, told local TV station TU: "Those playing Battlefield' do indeed have a better view than in an actual vehicle."

"However, with our software you can add information and views you are used to from video games: an overhead map, spatial orientation, tilt and speed."

Norway's army is only testing prototypes of the system, but reportedly drivers were able to parallel park the tank with an accuracy of centimetres, all while their main hatch was closed.

"I can foresee the system will be technologically mature in maybe 2-3 years." Major Ola Odden continued.

"[However] the glasses don't yet have the necessary screen resolution to see well at a distance, and they may cause some dizziness for the driver."

The cost-effectiveness of the Oculus certainly gives it an edge over other pieces of military hardware. The cameras used on the tank cost around $2,000 (1,180), while military versions would cost $100,000 (58,950). The Oculus itself is $350 (206), while the Norwegian army is charged around $35,000 (20,360) for its military-grade headgear.

Major Odden said that he was optimistic that an Oculus system or something similar would be ready to deploy in five years, especially with Facebook's takeover helping to fund development.

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