Specular Theory awarded $4.5 million SBIR Phase III contract to deliver Virtual Reality training to US Air Force

In Virtual Reality News

June 2, 2021 – Immersive software technology company Specular Theory Inc. has recently announced that it has been awarded a USD $4.5 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III contract with the Department of Defense (DoD) to expand its immersive training products supporting US Air Force (USAF) B-52, C-17 and KC-135 aircrew training over the next three years. This expansion includes adding more airframes and functionality to the company’s Air to Air Refueling real-time virtual reality (VR) simulator including multiplayer capability which allows teams to train together remotely.

This Phase III marks the fourth consecutive Phase III contract to be awarded to Specular Theory following the successful delivery of its SBIR Direct-to-Phase II contract with the Air Force in 2020, where the company delivered an immersive training solution to teach Airmen how to perform air refueling.

“The air refueling training Specular Theory produced has proven so successful that Air Mobility Command has asked to expand to multiple other aircraft. The project was also observed by Global Strike Command and they have asked for the project to be expanded to the B-52. The expansion of this training will absolutely transform the way the USAF trains it’s aircrew members and the feedback from students and instructors alike has been exceptional so far,” said Maj. Robert Buckley, USAF, 97 Operations Group, Chief of Innovation and 97 Training Squadron Operations Officer.

According to Specular Theory, the new contract will fund the expansion of the company’s ‘Experiential Air Refueling Lightweight Simulator’ (EARL), a lightweight VR sim that runs on commercial-grade COTS and provides high fidelity and accurate training to teach Airmen how to do Air to Air Refueling, allowing them to learn and practice anytime, anywhere. The EARL simulator also features an AI instructor that tracks how a student is performing, then guides the student on what to do next, assessing their level of proficiency at air refueling tasks.

The EARL system also features adaptive learning, multiplayer functionality, force feedback controls and a computational fluid dynamics plug-in. Future expansion will also include the ability to load any aircraft and create any type of training scenario.

TSgt Melissa Michels 97 OG/VERTIGO, Wg SABC Monitor, 97 AMW, noted that it costs the Air Force approx USD $80,000 per flight to train air refueling and typically takes six flights per pilot to show competency. This means that the potential impact of the training could reduce the average number of flights it takes a pilot to pass air refueling from six flights down to four, which would save the Air Force USD $160,000 per student.

“Flight training has typically been managed by the aircraft manufacturer. But in reality, you wouldn’t learn to play golf from a golf club manufacturer. Using the latest in AI-driven immersive technologies, combined with an understanding of the way individuals learn, we are disrupting aircraft training at every level in every crew position. EARL provides many advantages to the Air Force, including massive cost and resource savings and the ability to train a greater volume of aircrew with increased speed and efficiency. We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership,” commented Specular Theory CEO, Morris May.

For more information on Specular Theory and its virtual reality simulation solutions, please visit the company’s website.

Image credit: Specular Theory, Inc.

About the author

Sam Sprigg

Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has been covering XR industry news for the past seven years.