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The debate about whether or not video games improve your cognitive abilities is over. It turns out they can make you quicker and more decisive. And as a result, the military has begun testing and using virtual reality programs to train soldiers. And while you may think that video games or simulations don’t compare to actual field training, experts within the military community suggest that you’d be wrong.
“We have somewhat solid data to support the notion that playing video games in fact actually improves your cognitive processes and your visual processes,” said Dr. Ray Perez, program manager at the Office of Naval Research’s Cognitive Science of Learning Program, in an interview with Task & Purpose.
“Video game players are far superior to non-video game players in the ability to process things like field of vision, being able to hold digital objects in your memory. They can process information faster,” he added.
And that’s where virtual and augmented reality come into play.
Perez said that his team is working on simulations of virtual military environments. Soon he hopes to better understanding of exactly how video games in virtual realities affect the brain and how they increase soldier’s abilities
“The modern naval force has grown up with computers at home, video games, arcades and head-mounted displays in their personal life,” said Dr. Lawrence Schuette, director of research at ONR in a statement. “Coming to float and seeing it on board ship is just a logical extension.”
Noting that games can help increase capacity for speed and efficiency, the next question for ONR, according to Perez, was, can we train that capacity and that skill?
Usually in the event that a person can do something faster, he or she often has the trade-off in quality, meaning that faster activities result in more errors — a phenomenon called “speed-accuracy trade-off.”
However, video game players typically are not susceptible to this occurrence.
“They increase their speed but they don’t commit more errors,” Perez said.
And although ONR still has a great deal of analysis and development ahead, its scientists are already turning video games into learning tools for today's military personnel.
“When people think of virtual reality, many imagine Tony Stark from the ‘Iron Man’ movies, hands raised and moving virtual displays projected in front of him. While that might be fanciful now, Navy engineers are working hard to develop such capabilities,” according to an ONR statement.
ONR right now is employing several games for practical application in its training processes, including one that teaches damage control, and another for improving field surgical skills.
“One of the things we think that simulators are very good at is because they’re computer based… you can sit before a computer screen and play through multiple scenarios,” Perez added.
But there are more benefits to using simulators than just variable practice. They save money, are much less dangerous to trainees, and allow specific cognitive skills to be targeted. What’s more, real field equipment is fragile and harder to replace than simulators.
“When we talk about simulation, we talk about degrees of immersion. It’s the feeling of being in a simulation, and you suspend your disbelief that you’re in an artificial world. If it’s designed properly ... the trainees really feel as if they are in combat, in a real-life situation,” Perez said.
Still, there are downsides.
“Unfortunately, we have not been able for the most part to demonstrate the effectiveness of virtual reality. And furthermore, we haven’t figured out the magic sauce,” Perez said. “There’s always this belief that the more real it is, the more powerful it will be as a trainer. Not so. We know the more complex and real you make something, it is harder for novices to learn from those environments.”
Because of how complex and distracting a realistic simulation can be, new recruits are not often able to discern how to complete their missions, because they are trying to observe everything at once. Instead of watching for small but apparent relevant clues, they miss cues because they are simply overstimulated. Trainees could spend hours in a simulation like this and learn absolutely nothing.
“If you plot an expert into a very complicated, rich environment, he knows what to look for from experience. He is not distracted by irrelevant cues or irrelevant information,” Perez said. “Not so with the novices. He’s overloading his cognitive processes. So he’s trying to take it all in.”
According to Perez, training needs to be a process of building upon small fundamentals, even in the world of virtual reality. And striking a balance between rich environments and one that can help trainees learn is what ONR hopes to accomplish over the next several years.
“Virtual reality is really cool,” Perez said. “What we don’t know is what really facilitates the learning. Is more less, or is less more depending the domain?”
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?