War has always been a key focus for video games. From the old Atari 2600 game Combat released in 1977 to the latest releases in series like Call of Duty, Total War, Company of Heroes and dozens more, gamers can't get enough.
That's why it seems appropriate that one of the latest and hottest video game accessories meant for virtual combat could be making its way to actual combat. I'm talking about the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Click here to see it in action.
Launched as a Kickstarter project in 2012, it quickly become one of the most-funded projects ever, and started a new round of the gaming industry's longstanding - but so far fruitless - interest in virtual reality. The Oculus made such a splash that Facebook recently bought it for $2 billion.
The Norwegian military, however, taking the Oculus Rift out of the living room and seeing how it works in real tanks. With just $2,000 in cameras, $350 for the Oculus headset and a standard PC, a tank driver can now "see" through the tank just by turning their head for a full look at the battlefield. Plus, the driver can get "video game"-like information, including "an overview map, spatial (geographical) orientation, tilt and speed," according to Daniel Mestervick of Making View, which put together the system.
This type of "augmented reality" greatly improves on the current system for tank drivers, which leaves drivers' heads exposed outside the tank or looking through narrow prisms from inside the tank. It's also less expensive than similar proprietary systems, which can cost up to 100 times more.
Of course, Oculus isn't ready for the field just yet.
"We see that the glasses don't yet have the necessary screen resolution to see well at a distance, and they may cause some dizziness for the driver. But this, we believe, will be improved quickly," said Major Ola Petter Odden of the Norwegian army's combat laboratory.
Given the growing competition as Sony and other companies enter the virtual reality headset market, I suspect Maj. Odden is right.
Want to improve your own life with augmented reality? Find out how to make it happen right now with your smartphone.