Troops learn to free fall, pull rip cord with virtual reality simulation
Airmen at the 182nd Airlift Wing, Peoria, IL, are learning to free fall the safe way, rather than actually dropping out of a plane thousands of feet above the earth in what might or might not turn out to be friendly skies – or a friendly parachute. Prepping soldiers for parachute jumps is the new PARASIM Virtual Reality Parachute Simulator, designed by Systems Technology, Inc.
The hardware-and-software-driven contraption features tethers, wires, and metal, configured to, when activated, first move the airman into a horizontal free-falling-like position a few feet above the ground. Then flight-helmet-mounted virtual reality goggles are activated, giving the airman the perceived-realistic sensation and visual experience of plummeting thousands of feet to the Earth.
Once it’s time to pull the D-ring in the simulation, the parachute might deploy, or it might not, depending on whether the simulation master has decided to program in a malfunction. For a malfunction simulation, the airman must keep pulling various of the “parachute’s” cords until the right one is pulled – or risk a virtual death fall.
Once the cord is successfully pulled and the parachute “deploys,” the simulator swings the user into an upright position and lets the user virtually navigate the skies for a while via toggle cords, as the airman slowly seems to head toward the ground, in an attempt to land on the planned target. When the ground is perceived as underfoot, the simulator releases the airman on the ground, giving an experience mimicking a foot landing.
Meanwhile, virtual reality jumping from a parachute in various daylight scenarios and terrains is a possibility with the simulator, and other troops at other locales can also connect via the Internet and join in with their simulation units, to learn group jumping dynamics, similar to the way an online networked video game would work.