Virtual and Augmented Reality

FWD News: Defence and Emergency Training with Simulation Games

Demonstration of Virtual Tiny TownSimulation games are a popular tool in defence and other related sector, as demonstrated recently by NATO’s Allied Command Transformation. This innovation branch of NATO has developed Boarders Ahoy!, a virtual world game used to improve ship boarding skills for military operations.

As part of the game, users practice such drills as isolating the crew of the virtual ship, checking identification and searching some of the 250 searchable objects. “It’s based on requirements from the field that will help the people do the job they do every day, which is training sailors and airmen,” said Wayne Buck, modeling and simulation analyst with the Command and project manager for Boarders Ahoy! Read More...

The game was recently featured at the 2010 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, in Orlando, FL. There, the game was awarded the People’s Choice Award during the Fifth Annual Serious Games Showcase & Challenge. Other award winners included NASA’s Moonbase Alpha, which was recognized as Best Government Entry.

NATO’s Allied Command Transformation is partnering with Engineering and Computer Simulations Incorporated to develop a series of virtual worlds within the Nexus Virtual World platform.

Another example finds the United States Secret Service also using virtual worlds to prepare for national threats. For the past 40 years, the Service has used a small-scale model called “Tiny Town” to plan for emergencies ranging from chemical releases, suicide bombers or air and subsurface attacks. Today, the Secret Service has developed a computer-generated 3D model version referred to as Virtual Tiny Town.

This scenario-based training software allows users to train on virtual kiosks to do such things as illustrate a dignitary’s itinerary and accommodate unrelated, concurrent activities in a public venue. This dynamic tool allows for greater realism in training and preparing against chemical, biological or radiological attacks, armed assaults, suicide bombers and other threats.

Planned updates will include “modeling the resulting health effects and crowd behaviors of a chemical, radiological or biological attack, to better prepare personnel for a more comprehensive array of scenarios and the necessary life-saving actions required to protect dignitaries and the public alike,” explains the Department of Homeland Security.

Simulating worse-case scenarios is also the main goal of the recently launched Center for Advanced Modeling in the Social, Behavioral and Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Specializing in agent-based simulation, another way of describing a virtual model depicting how individuals would react, the Center is working with experts in public safety, social behaviour, economics and supercomputing to advance this field.

These models simulate the actions and interactions of individuals in specific situations—which are often driven by fear, poor judgment and imperfect information—in order to help predict how complex societies and health systems will respond and how these scenario might unfold. The simulation models are “highly visual and spatially realistic,” explains Joshua M. Epstein, the Center’s Director, with agents moving between virtual places such as work, school, home and even places far away.

Last but not least, front-line emergency respondents are also turning to simulation software to help them better do their job. The Fire Department in Allen, TX, is using simulation game technology to train multiple firefighters simultaneously on everything from putting out grass fires in swirling winds to mass rescues in multi-story buildings.

"The training isn't going to help you do the physical job of a firefighter," said Allen Fire Battalion Chief Don Bailey. "It's going to help you on the decision making, it's going to help you on the communications, the incident management."

In addition to improving firefighters’ decision-making skills, the software allows them to learn from their mistakes without getting hurt. Experts report that such practice can be critical in real-life situations, allowing firefighters to think faster to solve problems. Other neighbouring fire departments are also planning to introduce similar training simulators.