The concept of using video games to train troops isn’t a new one-after all, getting battlefield experience without actually having to be in the line of fire can easily save lives. War simulations are part of a regular training regimen, in addition to all the physical conditioning that soldiers receive. This latest technology, however, differentiates itself in a key way; instead of simulated weapons fire, or battlefield simulation, it has soldiers instead playing with balls.
To be more precise, the Neurotracker system has the player tracking 4 different balls in a 3-dimensional environment, while simultaneously ignoring 4 more decoys. A game lasts for about 8 minutes, and plays a bit like a cross between Brain Age and Pong. While this may sound simple, it is apparently a grueling mental task that requires a high level spacial awareness. It tests the user’s ability to not only track multiple targets but also to predict trajectories around them in order to keep track of where the balls are headed. Not only does the system help measure a person’s abilities, but when used repeatedly, it can be used to rewire the brain to reduce their reaction time and help with keeping track of a complex 3D environment around them.
What’s surprising about the technology is where it was originally developed; the training system was originally employed by athletes to help them track everything going on around them and stay focused. In the same way an athlete would exercise their physical muscles to train their bodies, they train their brain using these exercises. In addition to training, the system can be used to help weed out those whose skills in these areas are simply not adequate for the job. Both through training and assessment, the game saves lives in the field.
Want to see it in action? Check out the video below.