DARPA Is Using Oculus Rift To Build The ‘Mega Man Battle Network’ Of Cyberwarfare

In a surprising amount of futuristic visions of how hacking will work in the future, the experience is immersive, rather than something done hunched over a computer looking at lines of code scroll by. DARPA appears to agree with the full-body submersion vision of hacking’s future, as it’s working on an Oculus Rift-based interface for use by U.S. military hackers, one part of its Plan X project for making digital warfare easier to train for and operate.

The project was on display this past Wednesday at the Pentagon, and WIRED was there to take an inside look. You can see the demo in action in the video below. But note that the demo itself is more movie magic than real code combat; it was created by SF-based creative firm Frog Design and Austin-based software simulation co. Infific. But DARPA is building a real version that’s designed to make both cyberdefense and attacks using computer technologies more immersive, giving military hackers a way to look around the data and go “swimming in the Internet,” as DARPA Plan X program manager Frank Pound explained to WIRED.

Oculus Rift software is currently in development, with the DK2 version to enter testing with DARPA later this summer. Part of the logic behind building for the platform is that DARPA’s senior staff sees this as the type of interface the young, fresh-out-of-school tech-savvy cybersecurity recruits they want to hire will be using and familiar with. Plan X is set to run for the next few years, through 2017, and it could take a very different form before it’s ready for actual use by soldiers. In fact, Pound told WIRED he’s already been informed of new features on future versions of Oculus the rest of us can only dream about. I guess that’s one of the perks of preparing for tomorrow’s virtual cyberwars, but the rest of us can probably safely assume it’ll Megan Man Battle Network and its sequels were 100 percent accurate in their depiction of entering a virtual world to fight off incoming cyberattacks.

Gaze into my crystal ball: