So here’s a story that brings the use of virtual reality that bit closer to the Hollywood fantasies of l33t computer hackers. DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) have apparently been working for the last 2 years on a user interface to visualise the complexities of modern data networks to help humans detect, investigate and react to cyber terrorism threats.

At a recent DARPA Demo day (how can I get an invite to that!?), they demo’d the system to WIRED magazine which uses the Oculus Rift and the Razer Hydra to enable the processing and navigation of this data more intuitive for operatives tasked with fighting these threats. The interface is just one part of a software platform codenamed ‘PlanX’ (yes, really).

Visually, the interface bear a passing resemblance to 2013’s VR Jam Winner and soon to be full game Ciess. The demo (as seen in the above video) was structured much like a video game, requiring you to select missions, carry out network scans and so on with your target networks represented as a sphere of nodes, navigated using the Hydras.

It’s interesting to see such ‘left at the traffic lights’ thinking from a government body, but then I guess that’s precisely DARPA’s remit. Just how useful the system might be in reality is another question. A UI is one thing, but ultimately actions on a network require low level navigation through switches, routers and firewalls—requiring a serious amount of homogeneous thinking from network sysadmins to bring to life.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • sponge101

    We spend over $600 billion (with a “b”) in defense and the best that DARPA can conjure up is a network interface that’s compatible with a $300 oculus? Now if they hook up the oculus to that new experimental laser gun their testing in the gulf this summer or that advanced rail gun then I’ll be really impress. Imagine the FUN!!!

  • Psuedonymous

    OK, now we’ve got a better look at it it is 100% the Cyberspace visualisation from Stand Alone Complex, tinted blue instead of orange.

  • Faxvoice Romulator

    Resembles very strongly the game defcon with the added ability to switch between nodes/spheres, This looks really nice, built on that premise but without the clear stages, and operates from multiple planets and orbits. IMO this looks way more fun the ciess but a very diff game. also looks really hard with the time attack mode with all the multimanagment of abstract occurences going on, the demo of ciess looked more like you do something and random stuff happens. (remember Life?) i suppose that’s the point of it. Pretty amazing game. I would like to try and play it if there is an easy mode.