Virtual reality helping mold elite soldiers on and off the battle field

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Booz Allen Hamilton is a U.S. Department of Defense contractor and they just got a 561 million dollar contract that includes a project based out of Huntsville.

The U.S. Army now has the ability to use a program called Digital Soldier which uses virtual reality to train soldiers for battle as well as other tactical missions.

"What we are looking at is the full mission life-cycle for soldiers on the ground. Our goal is to make sure they are as effective as they possibly can. We want to make sure they all return home safely," said Joel Dillon, the Vice President of Global Defense for Booz Allen Hamilton's Army Account.

Booz Allen Hamilton is able to use over-the-counter hardware (VR goggles etc) but it's their software that makes the program special. Digital Soldier is able to insert the latest, best possible software advances to their program. For example, as it stands the VR system reads movement from sensors in a room. Coming soon, all movement will be tracked from the headset and not standalone senors.

Many of the VR instruments like weapons and bomb scanning equipment feel like the real thing and it is reflected in the virtual reality experience. Weight and movement are precise.

To be clear, this VR technology is nothing like what you get from a video game console.

Through Digital Soldier the Army is able to track eye movement, body temperature, heart rate, reflexes. Anything, you name it.

"Data analytics help drive decisions and give decision-makers objective data points that can help them save money, save time and save lives," said Dillon.

Digital Solider saves money too. In the past,  Army Jumpmasters would do almost all of their training, even the little things up in the air. Which could be costly and potentially risky. Now, they can feel the movement they would feel up in the air, but now in virtual reality.

Entire battlefields can be mapped out in VR to reflect current tactical responses so decision-makers can pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.

Huntsville is considered a STEM hub and companies like Booz Allen Hamilton stay on top of their respective industry by hiring some of the brightest minds.

"So science, technology, engineering, and math, that's our bread and butter. We are very dedicated to STEM education for children not only here in Huntsville but also across the nation," said Dillon.

Roughly 27,000 people around the world work for Booz Allen Hamilton. Still, the company has its eyes on North Alabama.

"Digital Soldier is very important to this region and to Huntsville. I want to go back to the fact that how we hire and recruit is very diverse and it is done purposefully," said Stephanie Boone-Shaw, Principal of Global Defense, for Booz Allen Hamilton's Army Account.

The Digital Soldier platform allows the Army to help train their soldiers like athletes competing for Olympic gold.

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