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Oculus Rift Gives Norway’s Tank Drivers Virtual Vision

oculus-tank-1Whether it’s built using ZeniMax code or not, there’s no question that the Oculus Rift VR headset holds plenty of promise for the way we’ll interact with technology in the future. And Norway’s Army is already thinking ahead, using Rift to help tank drivers see better while on the battlefield.

According to Norwegian television network TU, the project involves attaching cameras to the front and back of the tank’s exterior and piping that live video to a PC set up inside the tank’s cockpit. Those visuals are then funneled to the Rift headset, giving the driver a full 360 degree view of the environment around the tank.

Major Ola Petter Odden of the Norwegian Army’s Combat Lab explained the way the Rift-vision prototype will help protect tank occupants in combat.

“It’s very useful when you have to close all your hatches. Normally you would be more or less blind because there is armor all around you. With this system you can see just as well as if you were seeing out the hatch. It’s more strenuous for the eyes since it’s a synthetic picture, so it will be used when you think you could be shot at. Over longer transports you might want to drive looking out the hatch because it’s more natural for your head and you won’t get tired that soon.”

So far, the prototype only utilizes consumer-grade technology in terms of the cameras and computer used to create it. And Odden added that Facebook’s forthcoming acquisition of the company could only mean that the already-advanced Rift will get even better at a faster pace:

“We think it is very beneficial because they will now have the necessary funding needed to take this further. At the same time we see that competing systems are surfacing, which makes us very optimistic about getting glasses that are good enough.”

oculus-tank-2Daniel Mestervik, a development manager involved in the project, cited a popular video game as inspiration:

“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 orientation, tilt and speed.”

Usually, video games provide simulations of real-life combat. It’s interesting, then, that games like Battlefield and Call of Duty are now providing inspiration for how actual war may be waged in the not-so-distant future. Moreover, this project seems to be something of an advance look at the ways our everyday experiences with reality might be augmented as wearables like smart glasses become more prominent.

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