Video Game Studio makes the B-52’s virtual reality training simulator

A small video game studio has been selected to produce a virtual reality (VR) simulator for U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber pilots. The company, King Crow Studios, has been responsible for realistically recreating the B-52 in VR, so that new pilots can train in this type of aircraft without the high costs involved in the actual flight, such as fuel and maintenance. This will allow the Air Force to train pilots at a fraction of the cost and not take valuable aircraft out of service for training.

King Crow Studios sent a member of his team, Daniel Norman, to replicate the cockpit of this huge plane. “I sat in that narrow cabin, overwhelmed by the complexity of this 60-year-old plane and all its functions,” Norman said. “Now, I know all these buttons and indicators back and forth.”

King Crow Studies

Cody Louviere started his development company in 2015 and originally created video games free from the heavy influence of publishers. King Crow Studios has developed Hive Slayer, a virtual reality first person shooter, and Galactic Chef, a space cooking game, also in virtual reality. It was this virtual cooking game that caught the attention of the American military.

A view of the lower deck of the B-52, called the battle station. (Photo credit: US Air Force / Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

They implemented a system that informs the player whether or not he has successfully completed a game task. If the player is trapped, the required object will glow and highlight the next step to the player. It was this feedback system that the military liked.

“We’ve included all of these user experience features to produce a good quality video game,” Louviere said. “We didn’t know we were building the backbone of a military training program.”

The Air Force is willing to put RV at the forefront of training, as it actually helps improve information retention for a new student. Louviere said, “People retain more than 70% of the information presented in RV training compared to 50% of retention in the classroom.”

Several companies alongside King Crow Studios offered their ideas to the Air Force. Some of these, including King Crow Studios, received funding from the first stage of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR). SBIR is a program that funds and encourages upcoming small businesses to help them expand into government and commercial industries.

The study received funding of $ 50,000 in the first stage of SBIR in August 2019 and an additional $ 1 million in the second phase, in January 2020, to enable them to produce a prototype work. They have since entered Stage 3, where they were given $ 6.5 million. They are the only company to reach this stage.

Work with the Air Force

Despite the daunting prospect of working for the military, Louviere explained that it is not as terrifying as it sounds. “People expect it to be difficult to work with the military, but the Air Force knows what they want,” he said. “They are organized, supportive, understanding and easy to communicate.”

A pilot student assigned to the 87th Flight Training Squadron is immersed in a prototype virtual reality training solution at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, on January 16, 2019.
Photo credit: US Air Force / Senior Airman Benjamin Valmoja

In many ways, this is much easier than working with conventional video game publishers, who constantly move goals based on customer demand, feedback, and cost reduction.

The studio’s producer, Sarah Kent, holds weekly meetings with Air Force staff who provide information about the project. “That’s a kind of life or death,” Kent said. “So when a student reports that a button or a button doesn’t work in training like he does in the actual plane, we can fix that problem with a quick change.”

Developers have even implemented memes and Easter eggs from Air Force culture in the program. When members of the studio meet at an Air Force base, they will often take note of general Air Force memes, jokes, and jokes they see and hear. Then work on the program. For example, when a service member makes a mistake, he will often blame Mike Brogan, a fictional person.

The studio put Mike Brogan’s name on the virtual label.

This fun joy may seem like it could distort the purpose of the program, but Louviere said it actually helps participants: “We keep everything as serious as it needs to be, but we’ve seen these Easter eggs make participants more engaged immersed really in the experience ”.

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The Air Force has already reported fewer errors from users of the program and Louviere believes it will help the branch in several ways: “The most experienced veterinarians are wary of this type of technology until the headphones are put on. Younger soldiers want to train and explore, and this kind of intergenerational attraction means good things for military recruiters. ”

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