Norway Is Gamifying Warfare By Driving Tanks With Oculus Rift

From the country who brought you 'meatless Mondays' and the military selfie.

Meghan Neal

Meghan Neal

Image: tu.no

As it usually happens, video games are designed to mimic real-world fighting. Now it seems the model's being flipped on its head—the battlefield, for better or worse, is bearing an increasing resemblance to a game.

Look at Norway, where the Army has started using Oculus Rift to drive tanks with increased visibility, according to the Norwegian TV station tu.no. Four VR cameras are mounted on the sides of the tank to give the soldier inside donning the headset a full 360 degree view of what's going on outside, like X-ray vision.

Image: tu.no

Using cameras to "see through" a vehicle isn't a new concept; when the hatches are down tanks are notoriously hard to navigate. But the Oculus Rift dev kit is just a fraction of the price of traditional 360-degree camera equipment: Lockheed Martin's F-35 helmet for pilots can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Still there's something really unsettling about invoking virtual reality in combat. Do we really want the future of warfare to resemble a form of entertainment where you can kill people without consequence? One of the Norwegian soldiers who tested the prototype compared it to a vehicle view in a video game—and that's without using the technology to augment a soldier's field of vision with a map or data overlay on the virtual display, like you'd see in Call of Duty or Battlefield.

"With our software you can add elements we are used to from games," the soldier in the video said (captions in English). "You can have a map, you can show each orientation, how much you tilt, the speed…"

I wouldn't put it past Norway; this is the same military that implemented "meatless Mondays" to curb its carbon footprint and help fight climate change, and has been snapping selfies during drills. It’s the country where researchers recently hacked the Oculus Rift to use it to fly a drone just by moving your head.

But the Scandinavian country isn't the only one with a futurist bent. Here in the US the Navy has its own Oculus Rift, and has been experimenting with the gadget as part of its BlueShark project, in which military researchers basically play with the the latest tech toys to try and predict what warfare will look like 5, 10, 20 years from now.

You can glimpse that potential future here, via Gizmodo: