It turns out there's more you can do with an Oculus Rift than just play games in virtual reality; you can also drive a tank. A real tank.
That's what the Norwegian Army's Battle Lab and Experimentation group has been doing recently. They've outfitted an M113 armored personnel carrier with four cameras, an off-the-shelf PC, and an Oculus Rift headset. Doing so gives the driver a 360-degree view around the vehicle, even with the armored hatches closed.
By using spherical lenses on the cameras they've been able to achieve a full view around the personnel carrier, allowing the driver to even see down along the sides and front of the vehicle — something that drivers sitting in the opened top hatch can't even get.
The Norwegian Army partnered with local firm Making View to build the system. All of the components — from the cameras, to the computer that processes their input, to the Oculus Rift headset itself, are all off-the-shelf components. Whereas a similarly-capable system sold by a military contractor might cost upwards of a hundred thousand dollars, the hardware attached to this M113 totaled only a few thousand (and much of that was invested in the specialty lenses needed for the cameras).
While the Oculus Rift-driven tank isn't yet ready for battlefield deployment (those lenses are awfully sensitive, for example), that they were able to accomplish such a task without a massive investment is impressive, and bodes well for the future of real-world applications of virtual reality.
So if we can use an Oculus Rift to drive a tank, what else would you like to see VR headsets used to control?