The United States military constantly wants to outmaneuver its enemies, and with the battle moving into the more advanced technology realm, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for answers. It may have found a partner, as reports suggest the Oculus Rift virtual reality headgear could be heading to a soldier near you.
The idea is to help soldiers prepare for cyberattacks by giving them the chance to feel as if they were actually inside the Internet. DARPA believes that the new tech could advance understanding of how hackers function inside the Internet as a means to helping to prevent future attacks from being successful.
Many media reports suggest DARPA's role is similar to the role of the fictional Q in the James Bond series, with DARPA continually looking to and developing advanced military technology that is largely unknown about by the public.
Reports indicate that DARPA is already developing its own 3D visualization of the Internet dubbed Plan X, and by using Oculus Rift, soldiers and trainees will be able move themselves, at least virtually, through the maze of coding that is the Internet.
The headset would interface with the user's psyche and would allow military personnel and others to have the sensation that they are in the midst of an online hack and security breach. This would allow wearers to develop a keener sense of how the Internet functions, ultimately with the goal of developing weapons or systems to help prevent cyberattacks.
"You can look around the data. You look to your left, look to your right, and see different subnets of information," said Frank Pound, Plan X program manager. "With the Oculus, you have that immersive environment. It's like you're swimming in the Internet."
Not only is the concept and implementation of Oculus for the digital world, DARPA also appears ready to use the technology on the front lines in battle.
"Say we want to turn out the lights in some place where we have boots on the ground, but it's on a subnet connected to a hospital," Pound said. "We want to war-game that kind of situation with high assurance."
Oculus VR was recently purchased by Facebook, and attracting a government contract this soon after the deal is being seen as a positive for its attempts to expand into new areas.