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Army Using Virtual Reality Technology for Network Influence Analysis

Virtual reality technology has many applications across industries and new developments are always on the horizon. Now the U.S. Army is putting efforts into harnessing this technology for analysing group dynamics.

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command or DEVCOM teamed up with scientists from the Electrophysiological Neuroscience Laboratory of Kent State University who are funded by Army Research Laboratory, to develop a virtual reality (VR) laboratory. It will be utilised with the different biophysiological technologies that already exist, to enhance the analysis of group dynamics.

Immersive reality is a combination of VR with sounds, images and other content types that help to create an engaging environment.

Senior scientist Dr. Bruce West remarked that the U.S. Army relies on small teams for its operations but highlighted that there is not much clarity about how those teams function in extreme conditions. The team makes use of state-of-the-art physiological and electrophysiological machinery to explore the aspects of teamwork and decision-making in extreme conditions.

According to Dr. Lisa Troyer, program manager, social and behavioral sciences, ARL, explained that soldiers can benefit from immersive VR based training and feel like they are part of experiences. She said that this can be achieved by making effective recommendations for special ops teams in the military and other extreme circumstances. According to her, the Kent State University VR system being developed can deliver knowledge regarding how teams can perform the best under dangerous circumstances.

The VR lab comes with state-of-the-art headsets that are equipped with 3D tracking and treadmills. These can be enhanced with the addition of EEG and several other types of biometric technologies.

According to Troyer, the lab will enable ENLoK to create revolutionary discoveries in the domain of social sciences. She elaborated further, saying that the efforts of the research team can make it possible to use immersive VR for pinpointing neurological signals among influencers in Army mission support groups, by enhancing the understanding of influence networks and their opponents.

Previous research conducted with ARL funding, published in the Social Psychology Quarterly, has highlighted the findings of many experiments tweaking status and implementing brain activity analysis to identify signals during interactions.

Dr. Will Kalkhoff, ENLoK director, and professor of Sociology, Kent State University, spoke about the research project, saying that analysing and understanding the effects of status-driven behaviour in multiple settings involving small teams can be vital for the U.S. Army to arrange adequate training measures for modern operations. He stated that the Army can utilise the knowledge being developed to gain a better understanding of how allied group influencers can provide support for its missions via social media, and help to learn about the behaviour trends of adversary groups.

The Kent State researchers are joining forces with MILO, the Michigan ancillary of the Training and Simulation Division of Arotech, to provide advanced training solutions for law enforcement and military organisations across the globe. The key goal is to enhance the level of readiness for military and police organisations through the incorporation of social science and immersive technologies.

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