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Army recruits with virtual reality


The Army is using the Oculus Rift headset

The Army is using the Oculus Rift headset

The Army is using the Oculus Rift headset

The Army has launched a new recruitment campaign for the reserves that involves an immersive experience involving the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

The wraparound headset will enable wearers to experience some of the tasks carried out by reservists, and is being used for the first time at recruitment events in London and Manchester today.

The first "experience" being launched by the Army will drop the wearer into a live fire exercise with the Army Reserve on Salisbury Plain.

As a crewman in a Challenger 2 tank, the wearer will be surrounded by other tanks that are engaging enemy positions using laser sights, as well as communicating with other soldiers in armoured vehicles driving alongside them. The Army says it will add further experiences in the future.

One event is taking place at Waterloo station in London, the other at Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens.

The Rift headset is made by Oculus, a virtual reality specialist firm which initially received funding for the device through crowd-sourced funding site Kickstarter.

The Oculus Rift gained more than two million US dollars (£1.3 million) in backing when it was first unveiled in 2012, and last year Oculus was bought by Facebook for 2 billion US dollars (£1.3 billion).

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said at the time of the acquisition: "With Oculus, it's that they're the clear leader in something that has the potential to be the next important, or one of the next most important, computing platforms."

The headset is yet to go on consumer sale, though it is available online as a development kit for around £230.

The Army's new recruitment campaign, which involves a new TV advert that will be on show at the drives, comes as new research reveals that one in four people said they felt challenge and excitement was missing from their day job.

According to the Army, a One Poll survey revealed that around seven in 10 people would consider volunteering or a part-time job alongside their normal work. One in four said they would consider joining the Army Reserves to find that challenge and excitement.

Major General Chris Tickell, director-general of the Army recruiting and training division, said: "This research tells us that people feel their day jobs are lacking challenge, excitement and the opportunity to travel - all of which are available at a world-class standard with the Army Reserve.

"By using the virtual headsets, people will be able to step straight into an exciting real-world scenario of volunteering with the Army Reserve and the huge variety of challenging roles there are to choose from.

"Introducing virtual reality technology is just one of the ways that the Army is transforming the way it recruits. We have also recently introduced a simplified, flexible, online web application form for mobile, tablet or desktop; a new 100% Army Fit app which helps new recruits build their fitness to the level of a soldier in training; and new mobile recruitment offices, enabling us to cover larger geographical areas and making it easier for potential recruits to find out more."