The United States Space Force is using Oculus Quest 2 headsets to train operators with virtual replicas of space stations, satellites and control rooms.
Space Force is a military branch of the United States Armed Force, founded as an independent service in 2019. According to The Washington Post, Space Force is working with SAIC to create a virtual reality platform where the branch’s operators can train for tasks such as fixing a solar panel, repositioning a spacecraft or responding to missile warning scenarios while in space.
All of the training uses full scale virtual replicas of the relevant equipment and environments, which allows a high degree of accuracy without requiring the operators to be in space.
“Sometimes you go to these demos, and it’s just some nondescript room, but it doesn’t really look like your [real world] environment,” said John Lynch, program director for SAIC, speaking to The Washington Post. “We wanted the experience [to feel] like you were actually there.”
Typically, realistic simulators designed for training can be extremely costly to produce, however the Oculus Quest 2 presented an affordable training solution with a platform that can be easily deployed and updated en masse. Here’s an abridged description of the VR training experience from The Washington Post:
Space Force troops … can choose from predesigned avatars before being launched into a virtual lobby where they wait for up to seven others to join in … Instructors or field experts can digitally lead them into the satellite simulation to teleport around the satellite, chat with other troops, pull levers and press buttons as if they were on an actual worksite.
They can open the satellite’s front to examine its internal mechanics and press information icons for greater context. Up close, the digitized satellite is detailed, with 3-D solar panels, antennas and visible nuts and bolts.
SAIC says it purchased the headsets last spring, but not through a deal with Facebook. SAIC is also looking to expand the training program to include AR experiences, where “users can train using real-world screens wrapped in virtual environments.”