Embracing VR – the digital classroom of the future
As part of its Training Strategy, the Royal Navy and their partner QinetiQ see an operational benefit in moving training for sea to shore. The Navy, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL) have funded research to derisk the safe transfer of selected live training ashore using synthetic training, that could then be validated at sea. By embracing new technology they hoped to reduce learning length, provide operational surge flexibility and attract the next generation of recruits.
The solution had to include the individual generic platform fundamentals that all trainees must undertake, plus individual role-specific training and familiarisation with real equipment. The technology had to facilitate team training for those who had reached a certain level of role specific competence, plus allow those teams to practice working together effectively and safely.
QinetiQ reached out to award winning technology provider Immerse to provide an alternative to their current training practices. They wanted to use QinetiQ internal investment funds to meet the needs of the Defence user. Immerse’s unique multi-voice VR solution provided a 3D submarine control room, complete with working displays, VR boat operators and multiple interaction points.
Immerse’s solution helps trainees to learn and practise skills in a realistic environment, with the instructor appearing in the scenario as an additional head and pair of hands to point or guide them – all participants are also linked by voice as well as visually.
While there will never be a substitute for real hands on at-sea training, the VR solution is a cost-effective starting point covering essential basics while saving money.
The Immerse solution was chosen as it had a novel disruptive edge from outside of traditional training technologies and individual training environments, enabling VR training to be delivered remotely so blending training anytime, anywhere Defence Training. It provided QinetiQ with an agile and rapid solution built on open sources and underpinned by an open architecture.
Less reliance on live equipment – less time needs to be spent at sea using highly in-demand live equipment
Training Safely – Challenging and potentially life-threatening scenarios can be repeatedly rehearsed safely through virtual exploration
Increased Retention – Trainees’ retention rates are vastly improved when learning in an immersive and interesting environment as opposed to the classroom
Teamwork encouraged – Trainees can work together with their teammates to ensure a smooth and efficient working relationship which can be repeated until seamless
Cost Savings – Expedited learning, reduced need for at sea training,
plus relatively inexpensive equipment means costs are reduced
Scalable – Layers of ‘synthetic training’ can be combined to create an effective, flexible and engaging programme for both new and experienced submariners. Progress can potentially be accelerated for those who learn faster than others.
Reportable – Instructors have real-time access to students’ progress in the form of charts and graphs, and can intervene to lend support. Both VR users and trainers’ interactions are also recorded for later analysis to monitor progress and maintain high teaching standards.
Global – Trainees around the world can link up electronically with their fellow trainees without needing to travel
Adaptive – Learning is driven by the needs of the trainee and available 24/7 rather than being tied to a group timetable. The exact length of the course would vary according to the individual.
“As technology drives social and cultural change, training provision must keep up with shifting generational attitudes and expectations. Rigid training in fixed workspaces will make way for courses that offer the flexibility to learn wherever and whenever is convenient. Most importantly, technology can vastly improve the quality of learning by tailoring courses to students’ individual competencies and circumstances. Employers can reap the rewards of a highly skilled workforce at lower risk, and be confident of an excellent return on their investment in their people.”
Helen Dudfield, Chief Scientist for Training & Human Performance, QinetiQ,
“Using VR is brilliant – it’s intuitive and really immersive. I think the biggest selling point was when we reached the stage where we started to behave like we would at sea – concentrating on the task but having a laugh with colleagues as well. It is not real and we know it – but it is real enough to get totally immersed in it. You could take a couple of headsets and a computer and rehearse basic drills, for example, bringing people on much faster rather than having to wait for time in a simulator or on a submarine. It’s fun – and that must be a big selling point for younger generations.”
Paddy, a coxswain in Trafalgar-class boats and a submariner for 30 years