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State of the Art Simulator Gives Virtual Look into Navy Life

For more than a decade, the Navy, along with other branches of the military, has employed VR for training purposes. It was only in October, however, that the Navy began using VR for recruitment. The tractor trailer, called the Nimitz, is driven around the country to schools, Fleet Weeks, and special events, including the air show that took place this past weekend at Jones Beach.

The Navy says the VR efforts are indeed generating “leads” among potential recruits. At the Winter X Games in Aspen, CO., where the Nimitz was stationed, the Navy saw a 48% increase in leads; at the Army/Navy football game in Baltimore, the Navy saw a 126% increase in leads.

In the first two months after the Navy’s VR efforts began, leads of potential recruits have more than doubled compared to the previous two years combined.

“People come up and just want to know—`what’s it really like to be in the Navy,” said Travis Simmons, the Naval Public Affairs Officer who led me through my experience.

While VR recruiting is a first for the Navy, other arms of the military have ventured into the space. The U.S. Air Force, for example, has sent out free VR viewers that lets people get immersed inside 360-degree Special Ops experiences. Over in the U.K. the British Army has also used an Oculus Rift during recruiting efforts.

As part of my Jones Beach experience, I first had to register at a kiosk set up in a tent. I entered my first name, first initial of my last name, Zip code, age group and so on. I then was asked to check off boxes to indicate my interest in joining the Navy, either for full-time active duty or as a part-time reserve. If you click yes (and are of the right age), you’ll potentially be contacted by a recruiter. If you click no as I did, you can still go through the VR exercise, which start to finish lasts about 15 minutes.

In fact, the Navy says that 20% of all VR participants who originally check the box expressing they are not interested in the Navy, change their minds to “interested” after going through the experience.

The trailer has eight VR pods, allowing the Navy to accommodate about 60 people per hour. Since its launch more than 25,000 people have taken the mission.

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