R6 has recently announced a $1.5 million development grant from AFWERX (the US Air Force Tech Incubator) to solve one of the military’s biggest problems by introducing USAF Combat Training Via AR technology. The Californian based company’s co-founder and CEO, Dan Robinson, calls it the solution to the “military’s multi-billion dollar pain point”. He refers to the fact that the US Air Force is over 2,000 pilots short and they are spending billions of dollars each year to provide the same type of air-to-air training that was used in WWI in mock dogfights.
The training of combat pilots is dangerous and expensive, and the previous simulators have become too limited to provide effective training. These simulators also leave out the most important feature of air combat which is cognitive load. Elements like G-force, speed, and the telemetry of real fighter aircraft induce cognitive stress on the pilots. According to Robinson, these simulators cannot accurately represent real-world conditions thus it fails in fully preparing the pilots. His solution is arranging USAF Combat Training Via AR technology in the aircraft that are filled with rudimentary AR solutions for targeting. It will revolutionize the way pilots are trained.
In order for the system to be effective, it must mimic the actual environment of the pilot, not leaving the pilot feeling like they are in a virtual reality that does not exist. The system needs to present a much wider field of view than AR systems that are currently on the market. Robinson, who was a former Royal Air Force Tornado Pilot, proposed a two-part, eighteen-month sprint to the USAF’s AFWERX accelerator. The goal was to complete two milestones: firstly, they have to demonstrate that their technology could work on the ground and simulate air-to-air combat, and secondly, they had to prove that it could present a fixed-in-space AR entity that was visible by other planes in real-time. Both these milestones were successfully reached.
Colonel Randall “Laz” Gordon of AFWERX stated that the cutting-edge technology from R6 is exciting and it gives them a solution at maintaining their competitive advantage. This is the first time there has been an outdoor AR solution and it marks the start of a new style of training. Robinson is just as positive about the future and stated that they will be able to further develop the technology, which only gives a 105-degree view of the environment, into something bigger.
Robinson met his co-founders, Nick Bicanic and Glenn Snyder in 2017. Bicanic stated that he was tired of the monotonous way in which AR was being portrayed. Snyder said that what Robinson presented to them was exactly the breath of fresh air they had been waiting for. Together they developed AR technology into something that can be used in challenging circumstances. Robinson further stated that the technology’s purpose is to prepare fighters for real-life war but also to compel consumers to invest in AR technology. He mentions that as soon as it hits the broader consumer market, they will be ready for it.