Traditional teaching methods continue to evolve to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. New and innovative pedagogies are creating a shift within the education landscape, reshaping how NATO trains its military and civilian workforce. This new landscape pays greater attention to student-centred learning, collaborative problem-solving and the integration of technology in the classroom. A teaching tool that is gaining prominence within the quickly changing technological landscape is Extended Reality (XR), an overarching term that includes Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MX). All of these realities can be mixed to fully immerse the student into a new blended reality, combining the real and digital worlds to create new kinds of interactivity and perception.

Desiring to use these innovative technologies to help augment our existing training portfolio, the JCBRN Defence COE became a member of the “Study, Design, Building and Deployment of a CBRN XR Training Platform”, a project of the NATO Science and Technology Organisation.

The CBRN XR Training Platform project aims to provide a standardized XR training module for CBRN defence; it enables the expansion of the training audience and enhances standardization and reinforcement of NATO interoperability and resilience. This project began in February 2022, with the stated objective of successfully integrating virtual reality goggles into a CBRN protective mask, something they hope to achieve by February 2025.

To evaluate the effectiveness of incorporating XR into CBRN training, the design team considered various scenarios that addressed the full spectrum of CBRN defence operations. In the end, the team decided to focus on a nuclear incident scenario as it is the least likely to be trained-on the real world.

Let us say an observer must measure the distance from their location to a nuclear detonation. In XR, you can begin the training by placing the observer into a virtual bunker, equipped with both virtual and real tools, including paper and pen to write down his observations. The fact that the trainee is wearing an actual CBRN mask with VR goggles further adds to the augmented realism of the training.

The JCBRN Defence COE is proud to be a part of this exciting study. As a NATO Education and Training Facility, the JCBRN Defence COE will continue to monitor the emerging trends within VR training technologies, as well as other innovative pedagogies for future use in our training. The development of these technologies is fast evolving, and their potential use as a training tool is only growing. Twenty years ago, we were making phone calls from a phone stand in the street, nowadays we carry cell phones equipped with cameras and broadcasting applications in our pockets, advancements few dreamed of. One day, XR will be commonplace within our pedagogies. The JCBRN Defence COE is open to innovation and eager to participate in the advancement of these new and emerging teaching technologies.

Girl in a jacket

Author: LTC Veronika Dočkalová (CZE-A)
Photos: JCBRN Defence COE Archive