In April 2019, the US Army announced the launch of its new recruitment effort, “In Our Boots,” which uses virtual reality (VR) to allow potential recruits to “see, hear and feel what it is like to be a U.S. Army Soldier and witness their drive, determination and teamwork.” The Army produced its program—which features first-person storytelling via an immersive 360° VR experience—in partnership with McCann Worldgroup, a digital marketing agency, and OmniVirt, which specializes in VR advertising.
As Simon Chandler reported for Truthout, VR is poised to become “the globe’s propaganda medium par excellence.” Virtual reality allows content creators to present a “world” that appears to be real, in which real memories are formed. VR’s ability to create real memories, has “powerful implications for affecting the mind’s association with certain concepts and situations,” Don Ludden, a VR and augmented reality expert who works for the Bose Corporation, told Truthout.
Nowhere is this more evident than in military recruiters’ use of VR. The “In Our Boots” program presents potential recruits with four “high intensity missions,” including defusing a bomb, commanding a tank, gathering intelligence as a sniper, and operators a drone in support of a Special Forces team.
An associate creative director at McCann, Jonathan Springer, said in a press release that “immersion” the key element. “We wanted to create an experience where users can naturally engage with the soldiers around them and hear stories that trigger immersive missions, allowing them to see, hear, and feel what it’s like to be a U.S. Army soldier.”
As Truthout reported, the Army’s recruitment-oriented game presents “a partial view of life in the Army,” failing, for example, to “delve into the experience of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder” and other, less glamorous and exciting aspects of military service.
In addition to the military’s use of VR as a recruitment tool, Chandler’s Truthout article also covers how a diverse range of businesses, from the travel industry, to fast food, auto sales, and insurance companies are turning to VR to promote their products and services. “At a time when social media is being vilified for opening up the floodgates to ‘post-truth’ content and ‘fake news,’” Chandler wrote, “the all-but inevitable emergence of large-scale, open platforms for VR content is something that individuals, groups and society more generally should be preparing for even now.”
Source: Simon Chandler, “Western Militaries Are Using Virtual Reality for Propaganda and Recruitment,” Truthout, August 23, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/western-militaries-are-using-virtual-reality-for-propaganda-and-recruitment/.
Student Researcher: Yolanda Meza (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: James Dean (Sonoma State University)