When we think of the future of the military, we think of bigger and better weapons. Laser canons and the like. But what about the people operating those lasers? How can a behemoth like the Navy ready its future sailors for the high-tech combat of tomorrow? Believe it or not, with an Oculus Rift.
At the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, a mix of real life, augmented reality, and virtual worlds come together to form a project known as BlueShark. It's an experiment to discover not only how the Navy of the future could work, but how it should work. I went there to train the way midshipmen will a decade from now.
What Is BlueShark?
BlueShark is the sexy codename given to the Enhanced Environment for Communication and Collaboration (aka E2C2). As the true name suggests, despite being largely funded by the U.S. military (a division of the Office of Naval Research known as SwampWorks), the work done here has much broader implications. The project is essentially a collection of technologies and environments (both physical and virtual) that examine how we humans may collaborate in the future, whether we're in the same room or on the other side of the planet.
As for its Naval involvement, BlueShark's focus is to ensure that ships with 50-year lifespans and the generations of sailors manning them can work in harmony far into the future. A control room full of dusty analog switches and knobs may be perfectly functional, but will they be intuitive five decades from now? Or would it be like handing a rotary phone to a seven-year old?