person in vr headset

VR is increasingly being used as an effective training solution for military and police organisations.

Virtual reality (VR) has come a long way since its inception. Originally focused largely on entertainment and gaming, VR solutions have since expanded to the enterprise market — and beyond. Emerging VR technology is increasingly focused on commercial applications and business challenges.

One of the more promising use cases involves operational training simulations for law enforcement and the military. Faced with shrinking budgets and growing logistical challenges, many police agencies and defence forces now regard VR technology as a compelling training solution. While this use case is still in its early adoption stage, the application of VR to defence and law enforcement offers investors inroads into the enterprise VR market.

However, to understand the opportunity VR represents, one must first understand the technology itself.

The long history of VR technology

Although some may treat VR as a completely modern innovation, the reality is that VR as a concept has arguably existed for over a century. According to the Virtual Reality Society, the first true VR device, Charles Wheatstone's stereoscope, was invented in 1838. Wheatstone discovered that by positioning two specially edited images side by side and viewing them through a stereoscope, he could cause the human brain to 'fill in the blanks,' constructing a three-dimensional object that provided the viewer with a sense of depth and immersion.

At the time, stereoscopes were primarily used for a sort of virtual tourism. Their design has remained relatively unchanged over the years, save for the invention of the lenticular stereoscope in 1849 and the Viewmaster in 1939. Interestingly, Google Cardboard and many other low-cost VR headsets apply the same design principles as Wheatstone's century-old invention.

The next major step in VR technology would not occur until 1929, with Edward Link's development of the Link Trainer. Widely regarded as the world's first commercial flight simulator, the Link Trainer simulated real-world flying conditions through a combination of motors and rudders. Recognising that training new pilots on the device was far safer than bringing them onto working aircraft, the United States military purchased six; additionally, over 10,000 Link Trainers were used in the training and development of more than 500,000 pilots during World War II.

Simulations such as the Link Trainer represented the primary use case of VR for much of the 20th century, though some limited inroads were made into other sectors. In 1950, for instance, Morton Heilig created a device known as the Sensorama, a viewing cabinet that featured a stereoscopic display, fans, haptic seating and even scent generators. In many ways, Heilig's invention was a precursor to modern VR entertainment.

In 1960, Heilig also invented the world's first head-mounted VR display. Known as the Telesphere Mask, it was primarily intended for film and lacked features such as motion tracking — that was invented in 1961 by a pair of Philco engineers.

Headsight, as the technology was known, was developed to allow the military to remotely view situations deemed too hazardous for human personnel.

The following two decades would see a flurry of development and advancement in user interface design, motion tracking and haptic feedback. However, VR still struggled to gain widespread acceptance outside of niche use cases. The fate of the now-defunct VPL Research exemplified this.

Founded by Jaron Lanier and Thomas Zimmerman in 1985, VPL was the first company to sell VR goggles and motion-based input devices commercially. VPL also coined the term virtual reality to describe their technology and field. Unfortunately, the company failed to drum up interest in its technology, filing for bankruptcy in 1990 — just one year after NASA worked with Crystal River Engineering to develop a VR simulation for astronaut training.

During the 90s, VR largely faded into obscurity in the consumer market, with multiple game developers and film studios trying and failing to sell their own VR devices. It wasn't until 2010, with the release of the Oculus Rift, that people began expressing interest in the technology again.

Since then, VR has gradually gained popularity in both the consumer and enterprise markets. As technology continues to advance, VR headsets and associated devices have become progressively more affordable.

As people increasingly explored the technology for entertainment purposes, they also began to recognise its potential elsewhere.

Virtual opportunity

Defence training represented one of virtual reality's earliest use cases — what we see now is arguably a resurgence of those early days.

Military and law enforcement personnel have a dangerous job. A single mistake or oversight has the potential for catastrophic consequences. But how does one convey this through training?

More importantly, how does one provide trainees with the necessary tools and knowledge to successfully navigate the wide array of dangerously complicated situations they will face in the line of duty?

Unfortunately, in many jurisdictions, current training methods leave much to be desired. Most law enforcement personnel, for instance, aren't sufficiently trained on how to respond to individuals with mental health issues. The quality and effectiveness of military training also varies wildly. In a 2014 research paper, the RAND explored multiple areas where the United States fell short in its approach to training soldiers.

Interestingly, the nonprofit specifically mentioned the potential for simulators to improve weapons training. Live training exercises can only go so far and it's infeasible to risk potentially expensive equipment by putting it in the hands of inexperienced trainees.

Just as the military turned to flight simulators for pilot training in the early 20th century, modern agencies are once again exploring virtual reality. Consequently, the global police and military simulation training market is expected to grow roughly $4.87 billion by 2027.

Vendors redefining simulation training

Several vendors currently provide simulation training solutions to both law enforcement and the military. Below, you'll find three of the most promising.

Based in Australia, xReality Group (ASX:XRG) not only specialises in VR, but also augmented reality and physical simulations. In 2023, the company sold its OP-1 Tactical Rehearsal System to the Australian Department of Defence, which will deploy the technology to help units of the armed forces maintain and refine their military skills. The four person system allows users to train and rehearse with their own weapons in a simulated environment, which xReality claims offers "unparallelled realism."

In addition to working with defence and law enforcement agencies, XRG's portfolio includes products aimed at both the enterprise and consumer markets.

VirTra (NASDAQ:VTSI) produces immersive training to more adequately prepare law enforcement officials for real-world incidents. The vendor's judgemental use of force simulators features numerous meticulously designed scenarios that account not just for hard skills but also for human physiology and psychology. VirTra's simulations are also highly flexible, capable of adapting to an instructor, trainee or team's actions, according to the company.

As one of the world's largest defence and aerospace contractors, it should come as little surprise that Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) has also dipped its toes into the simulation market. The corporation provides a multitude of immersive simulators that provide training for everything, from operating air and landcraft to managing cybersecurity incidents.

Investor takeaway

Virtual reality has an incredibly long history as a technology. Given that one of its first practical applications was in military training, the current growth of the defence and law enforcement simulation market represents something of a return to VR's roots.

What's more, given the majority of vendors that work with defence agencies and law enforcement also operate in the enterprise space, investing in one of these companies offers a perfect inroad to enterprise VR.

This INNSpired article is sponsored by xReality Group (ASX:XRG). This INNSpired article provides information which was sourced by the Investing News Network (INN) and approved by xReality Groupin order to help investors learn more about the company. xReality Groupis a client of INN. The company’s campaign fees pay for INN to create and update this INNSpired article.

This INNSpired article was written according to INN editorial standards to educate investors.

INN does not provide investment advice and the information on this profile should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security. INN does not endorse or recommend the business, products, services or securities of any company profiled.

The information contained here is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of securities. Readers should conduct their own research for all information publicly available concerning the company. Prior to making any investment decision, it is recommended that readers consult directly with xReality Group and seek advice from a qualified investment advisor.

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