Military technology doesn't necessarily have to be expensive -- as the Norwegian army has proven by experimenting with off-the-shelf PCs and Oculus Rift gaming headsets in its tanks.
The country's military recently demonstrated a prototype virtual reality (VR) system which gives a full 360-degree view around an armored vehicle, created by using standard PCs and the gaming gear.
A research and development unit of the Norwegian army's Land Warfare Centre, Combat Lab, is responsible for the prototype. A tank is equipped with cameras on all sides, each of which has a 185-degree field of view. Video streams are then combined and processed before delivery to the driver's Oculus Rift goggles, which then allow for tilt and pan of the virtual landscape to be controlled by the driver's head movements.
Major Ola Odden of Combat Lab told ZDNet:
"The basic idea was that the driver should be able to drive in all directions, and be independent of any detailed instructions from the tank commander. To do that, the driver must be able to see everything around the vehicle, and that's not possible today. Conventional solutions for this switch between cameras around the tank, and it is very hard to avoid blind spots that way."
According to the organization, using such technology frees up tank commander resources, allows for more focus on battle management and makes warfare safer -- and enables tank drivers to be more independent.
There are several hurdles to cross before the prototype can be taken in to battle. Three-dimensional images beyond the five meter range become fuzzy and cameras have been known to crash unexpectedly, but Odden expects progress within the next few years.