Specular Theory Wins $4.5M Defense Contract Delivering Virtual Reality Training to Air Force
Specular Theory Inc. has received a multimillion-dollar Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III contract with the Department of Defenseto expand its immersive training products supporting U.S. Air Force 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 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 their SBIR Direct-to-Phase II contract with the Air Force in 2020, where they delivered an immersive training solution to teach Airmen how to perform Air Refueling at the Formal Training Unit (FTU).
“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,” says Maj. Robert Buckley, USAF, 97 Operations Group, Chief of Innovation and 97 Training Squadron Operations Officer
This new contract will fund the expansion of Specular Theory’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 (AAR), allowing them to learn and practice AAR anytime, anywhere. The EARL™ AI instructor tracks how a student is performing then guides the student on what to do next, assessing their level of proficiency at Air Refueling. Built with AI Instruction, Adaptive Learning, Multiplayer functionality, Force Feedback controls and a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) plug in, EARL punches above its weight class for delivering a lightweight sim that’s highly interactive, adaptable, and more realistic than any other VR simulator. Future expansion includes the ability to load any aircraft and create any type of training scenario.
“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,” says Specular Theory CEO Morris May.
Specular Theory was one of the first companies to team up with AFWERX, as a part of the Air Force Team’s ongoing initiative to partner with innovative small businesses to source revolutionary defense solutions. With award-winning expertise at the intersection of technology, entertainment and data science, the company has successfully built immersive training experiences that produce measurable results.
“As a result of Specular Theory’s training systems and courseware products, the 97th OG VERTIGO office predicts this will lower the number of flights required to become proficient. It costs the Air Force approx $80,000 per flight to learn air refueling and typically takes six flights per pilot to show competency. The potential impact of this training can reduce the average number of flights it takes a pilot to pass AR from six flights down to four, which would save the Air Force $160,000 per student,” notes TSgt Melissa Michels 97 OG/VERTIGO, Wg SABC Monitor, 97 AMW.
Since founding the company in 2013, Specular Theory has an eight-year track record delivering commercially successful and critically acclaimed VR/AR work across the consumer and enterprise markets, winning more awards across categories than any other company in the space, including winning the Walmart V-commerce Competition, the first-ever Streamy Award for Best VR, Best XR Game at Barcelona Games World and Top 10 Finalist in Richard Branson’sExtreme Tech Challenge.
Based in Los Angeles, CA, Specular Theory was one of the first companies to win the Air Force SBIR Direct to Phase II Award and one of the only companies to receive four consecutive Phase III contracts immediately following delivery of their Phase II contract.
“We are honored to partner with the Air Force to develop next-gen training products for our warfighters. This Phase III contract allows us to train thousands of students at the FTU level and will demonstrate a multitude of next-gen capabilities for aircrew training for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command and Global Strike Command, and has the potential to revolutionize training across the entire Air Force and DOD over the next few decades,” says Specular Theory Co-founder Ryan Pulliam. “The SBIR and AFWERX programs have been amazing partners for us to help scale our technology and tools within the DOD.”