Ville Piispanen, September 8 2019

VR Gun Fu - Virtual Reality and tactical training, revamped version

Hello readers, "VR Gun Fu #1" blog post was originally published in October 2017. For a few weeks I've been drafting part #2, but I ended up deciding that I'll just redo the whole thing after 2 years.

Firearms can be quite a difficult topic. There's so much wrongdoing involving guns around the World and they sure are dangerous in the wrong hands. I'm not in a position to take part in any political debate or regulation matters. In this post I will focus on writing about the use and possibilities Virtual Reality brings for tactical infantry training.

I'm Ville Piispanen, founder and director of Evacrity VR. Army officer and competitive fighter turned Virtual Reality entrepreneur with certain very specific fields in my mind. As I approach Extended Reality (XR) from users' point of view and rely on my experience and background training to innovate new things, all in all my approach is quite much different from most projects. Identifying what's important right now and where are we headed are the matters I wrestle with every single day in my work. 

Please do take into consideration that I cannot show the most cutting edge simulations and other tools I'm fortunate enough to work with. I'll reinforce my message with commercially available solutions that I can showcase in public.

As I mentioned in my introduction post in 2017, I have spent major part of my adult life working for the Finnish Defence Forces. I served under both the Finnish Army and Navy, traveled quite a bit and received training in multiple countries. Good thing about military training that is always present and seems to apply to every force and training session, is that you always start with the basics and advance gradually, step by step.

Real professional knows the basic stuff like their own pockets and very often we see the baddest of all pros just being very, very good at doing the basic things, whatever the field of expertise.

As far as an army job goes, tactical firearms training of course plays a big part if you serve in a combat role. Repetition after repetition you learn how to change magazines faster and better, to hit targets at longer distances, scan for targets faster, switch from rifle to sidearm in a flash and so forth. Very often you have 1 or 2 instructors teaching and providing assistance if there's a problem and there's always a lot of reps to be done. A lot. First individual skills, then working as a squad, then moving on to platoon exercises. Just about always.

Many things you will drill almost endlessly are very simple. You will want to master them. If not for yourself, then for the familiar faces charging forward at your side. Your squadmates count on you and sheer screaming won't unjam your rifle when it's full of sand and it's pitch black.

Current simulators compared to VR

I have seen some simulators being used for military training purposes, but honestly they haven't been very impressive. Usually expensive systems that require 1-3 trained professionals to run them. While they might be good for training reporting and target identification, I would say the ones that I have seen have been far from efficient.

                                     Finnish conscripts in virtual training environment. Source: varusmies.fi

Somewhat new trend in the FDF that seems to be getting more popular are these so called virtual training environments. If you ask me, that's a computer class with tailored software. It's a step towards the right direction I guess, but this has been around for at least 15 years. Without a doubt it's fun compared to some of the things you will be put through during your training and undoubtedly you are bound to learn something. Still, without stepping on anyone's toes, it's a computer class and my elementary school had one. You run with keyboard, you aim with mouse and you're sitting comfortably in a chair.

So - computer class compared to this? It's a no-brainer isn't it?

My personal rifle training session utilizing Mixed Reality (MR). Improvised shooting position exercise with moving targets in infantry combat gear. Full video at the end.

VR training is safe and easy

As mentioned, vast majority of the things you will train and repeat are very simple and you aim to master them. Under stressful conditions, bad weather, wounded, heartbroken, whatever the situation, empty mag will need to make way for the full one. Speed is important, but hitting the target is essential, friendly fire unacceptable.

Reloading M249 SAW, Onward

The prepared always come out on top. Virtual Reality provides easy access to train the basic tactical skills with zero to none danger to anybody. Combined with an AI or a training program I see it as a very effective way to train basic firearm and tactical skills. Military firearms are often stored away from the barracks for increased safety and your access might be restricted. It doesn't matter, with a suitable training simulation and equipment you can still enhance your skills.On top of training your motor skills and having fun, you also get some physical exercise. It's rarely a minus. 

Rifle double taps, Onward

Certain elite units around the world have been using VR for training purposes for years, at least I've read so. Personally I'm unable to name anyone who has had such an opportunity.

Okayokay, hold on...what does something like this cost?

The content you see here has been recorded mostly in my living room. I live in a small studio apartment and I built a training space in there, because I can. All from my own pocket.

Building a VR training space costs money, but it is not  that expensive really and it doesn't necessarily require staff to operate it.

Finnish conscripts using an indoors shooting simulator manufactured by Saab supervised by a non-commissioned officer. Source: www.aamulehti.fi


Improvised shooting positions exercise with Space Pirate Trainer, full Mixed Reality video. 

Reinforcing positive learning, avoiding negative learning

Gamification is trendy and often a good thing. Adding a spoonful of fun into things might generate entirely fresh appeal in certain contexts. Matters like firearm handling, tactical training and marksmanship are quite delicate, and you have to be veeeery careful. Learning to do things in an inefficient or unreliable manner can lead up to horrifying things out in the field. No simulation is 1:1 with reality and it requires a lot of insight and study when it comes to controlling the negative learning aspects. You will very often do things a little differently in a simulation, just because you're able to do so and get away with it. Every time I personally step into a training simulation, I make sure that I'm wearing my standard infantry combat gear and unique riflestock designed for the purpose, anything else would feel plain wrong.

This video is a game montage of The Last Player VR battle royale. 30 individuals enter and one player or duo will be left standing in the end. Tactical matters are present, but it's a game in the end. Games still provide me with valuable training grounds to test my ability against gamers and to monitor negative learning habits and reactions. 

In The Last Player VR I like to go and pick fights, otherwise it might get a bit boring. This kind of thinking can not be present in simulated training or in a real combat situation and that is the primary reason why negative learning needs to be controlled as much as possible.

Virtual Reality TCCC training simulation created by Zaibatsu Interactive and performed by Ville Piispanen of Evacrity VR.

Shoutout and salute to military forces around the World! Already using VR/XR? You should. No? Need expertise? 

At your service, contact me: info@evacrity.com

Thank you for reading, that would be all this time.

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Ville Piispanen

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