The US Air Force has filed a patent application for a metaverse platform called Spaceverse with the US patents and trademark office. The US Air Force wants to use the metaverse for "synthetic and simulated extended reality (XR) training, testing and operations," the patent application said.
"The applicant has a bona fide intention, and is entitled, to use the mark in commerce on or in connection with the identified goods/services," the US Air Force said.
The use of emerging technologies such as XR and virtual reality (VR) is not new in the defence sector. In 2020, the US Army announced that it will use a Synthetic Training Environment (STE), where soldiers will be prepared and trained for combat on virtual battlefields filled with virtual enemies. The STE can simulate real-world terrain to make the training challenging and realistic. During the training, soldiers will wear virtual reality headsets called Squad Immersive Virtual Trainer (SIVT).
India too is experimenting with the application of AR and VR in defence. For instance, the Indian Army is in talks with some VR companies to deploy VR-based personal flight simulators for training pilots. Similarly, the Indian Army has been testing an AR-based head-mounted display and a 360-degree camera that will allow the crew inside a tank to have a 360-degree field of view of the battlefield from inside.
Metaverse combines both real and physical world experiences using AR and VR. People can interact with each other using virtual 3D avatars and can buy and own virtual assets or property as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Several companies including Samsung and banks such as JP Morgan have launched Metaverse to interact with customers. Facebook parent Meta is also building a metaverse and earmarked $10 billion to build it.
With the patent application, the US Air Force has joined the metaverse bandwagon. The need to explore Metaverse for military purposes also stems from the growing interest shown by the Chinese military to use it for warfare.
According to a March report by Air Force China Aerospace studies, China is preparing for cognitive warfare in the metaverse as it sees it as a future battlefield against key geopolitical rivals such as the US.
The report claims confrontation in the metaverse can take place in multiple ways. One can target the metaverse platform to affect an opponent's thinking, cognition, and decision-making. Similarly, by targeting the supply chain and systems, one can block the technical operation of the opponent's metaverse.