The Pentagon’s elite futuristic weapons research unit — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — announced Wednesday it’s turning to the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to build a prototype network tool for agents to wage the future of cyberwarfare.
Implementing virtual reality into the traditional flat user interface of a computer network gives users the ability to look around and explore different parts of a complex system in an interactive three-dimensional field.
“You’re not in a two-dimensional view, so you can look around the data. You look to your left, look to your right, and see different subnets of information,” DARPA program manager Frank Pound told Wired. “With the Oculus you have that immersive environment. It’s like you’re swimming in the Internet.”
Though currently just a proof of concept in prototype stage, DARPA representatives believe the technology’s endgame will let U.S. Cyber Command agents and other military branch hackers easily visualize and fluidly engage in cyberwarfare.
“Say we want to turn out the lights in some place where we have boots on the ground, but it’s on a subnet connected to a hospital,” Pound said. “We want to war-game that kind of situation with high assurance, to be able to tell a commander that you can use this capability in this manner and you’ll have a 99.99 percent chance of not failing… The Oculus works hand-in-hand with that war-gaming technology.”
The virtual reality endeavor has been in the works for two years and falls under DARPA’s Plan X to develop new, forward-thinking methods and tools specifically designed for cyberwarfare. The plan runs through 2017, which is the earliest DARPA’s Oculus tech can be expected for use in the field.
The Oculus Rift has consistently made headlines as the most-popular VR technology to date. The headset has been used in everything from video games, interactive horror experiences and drone piloting to clever advertising, social experiments, creating entire virtual environments and developing other military applications.