“Gentlemen, we are out of money. It is time to think,” goes the quote from Winston Churchill (or, perhaps, physicist Ernest Rutherford). With military budgets shrinking and an emphasis on home-station training, James Robb expects the training and simulation industry to answer the call.
“I think you’re going to see not only a lot of innovation with regard to training systems themselves, but I think you’re going to see quite a bit of thinking about how you can take the old-school educational concepts and bring them into the new millennium,” said Robb, president of the National Training and Simulation Association.
Still, tighter budgets may also mean customers will look for incremental improvements, not dramatic leaps in technology.
“I think that things will tend to go more toward the lower-end market — with people using more [commercial off-the-shelf products] and cheaper, faster abilities,” said LeAnn Ridgeway, vice president of Rockwell Collins simulation group.
And budget uncertainties and attendant restrictions on military travel could find this year’s I/ITSEC, to be held Dec. 3 to Dec. 6 in Orlando, Fla., with fewer attendees than usual, as seen at other conferences such as the Association of the United States Army’s annual exposition in October. Last year’s I/ITSEC drew about 20,000 registrants, roughly half of them from the government.
Those who do attend this year will find more than 500 exhibitors, along with presentations and special programs. Program chair Ronald Smits said that this year’s show “bridges the concepts of innovation and change,” since recent years have focused on changing training, the way war fighters function, and the way both militaries and companies think about modeling and simulation.
A new panel this year on better buying power will bring together all of the services’ top purchasers.
“That shows very high-level support, at least up into the acquisition executives,” Robb said. “I’m very encouraged by all that.”
This year’s show also has some 23 tutorials that address some of the favorite tech concepts, including serious games, virtual characters and live, virtual and constructive environments. In addition, there will also be a cybersecurity training event, something many remarked was missing from the ITEC event in May.
“We’re looking at cybersecurity. It’s not only a buzzword,” Robb said. “There’s a lot of modeling and simulation that goes into it. It’s a virtual world unto itself.”
Members of the military will also use the conference to tell industry about their needs. A general and flag officer panel will feature members of the Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force and Department of Defense, who plan to discuss their services’ initiatives in the wake of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
In addition, the tradition of “Warfighters’ Corner” will continue, giving recently returned service members a chance to discuss their personal experiences and share insight on what has — and hasn’t — worked in training, tactics and techniques.
While the show and the exhibits will naturally emphasize preparing active troops for duty, there will also be a panel on using medical modeling and simulation to support health training and treat veterans. This includes finding ways to train health care providers for the increase in female patients and develop recovery tools.
Other prominent themes by presenters will include mobile technology, immersive systems, human terrain, augmented reality and physical tracking systems, visual displays and leadership training.
On the Floor
Virtual characters, which play an increasingly prominent role in training, will appear in booths around the floor. SIMmersion will introduce its interactive conversational training systems, which allow users to engage with various avatars that have changing emotions and reactions. The simulations are designed to run between five and 20 times, each one creating a different scenario. The conversational practice can include performance counseling for leadership training, suicide intervention for those who need call center training, and job interviews for vocational rehabilitation training.
MetaVR will also include 3-D character animations and “cultural feature assets” from its 3-D libraries while showing the Virtual Reality Scene Generator. This will include a joint terminal attack controller simulation which was recently given accreditation for JTAC training by the Joint Fire Support Executive Committee. The company will also preview the VRSG Scenario Editor, a beta project used to create and edit scenes.
3-D imagery is another hot area. Third Dimension Technologies will show its Angular Slice 3-D Display, whose synthetic holography promises three-dimensional imagery without requiring the user to don glasses or headgear. The displays can be configured for desktops all the way up to theater-sized applications.
Ngrain, a Canadian company focused on 3-D maintenance training, is announcing new virtual task trainer projects with military customers in both Canada and the U.S. DiSTI will demo its new Replic8 software, developed to create 3-D virtual task-training content.
Virtual Heroes, a division of Applied Research Associates, will showcase its immersive 3-D in a browser. The platform allows government customers to use the latest in immersive 3-D real-time game engine technology by installing a browser plug-in. The company will also have software that processes terrain data and models, developed for rapid generation of urban databases.
Exhibitors will also reflect the switch from counterinsurgency operations back to more force-on-force training. For example Sandia, a Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration lab, will have on hand the new version of a war-gaming force-on-force constructive tool known as Dante 2.1. This “incorporates a new behavior engine that allows more complex behaviors such as close-quarters combat,” according to Michael Skroch, the lab’s manager of interactive systems simulation and analysis. The lab will also display serious games for national security.
Thales will offer Combat Staff Training Systems, a tactical training system for combined land forces that incorporates geospecific terrain databases. Its Synthetic Environments for Mission Training will also be on hand, showing a way to make 3-D behavioral animation platforms for urban crisis management. And the company will feature its small-arms training, which has adaptable basic scenarios or special advanced modules.
To help with combat training, Bluedrop will be exhibiting its tactical airlift crew training simulator, which trains aircrew tasks for aircraft such as the C-130J and the C-17. It will also have the Mounted Arms Simulator, a weapons trainer that teaches and assesses gunnery in simulated air, land and sea scenarios.
MESH Solutions will have the Combat Hunter Computer Based Trainer, a program created with the University of Central Florida and developed under funding from the Office of Naval Research. The course is designed to improve Marine Corps students’ combat awareness, tracking skills and human behavior pattern-recognition.
For vehicle aficionados, Design Interactive will show off its vehicle extraction trainer (V-Xtract) and medical mannequin suite. Scheduled for release in late 2013, the extraction trainer was developed for the U.S. Army and medical personnel, and aims to provide more frequent training on removing casualties from damaged or rolled vehicles. The company will also focus on the human factor with ways to measure “emotional readiness” in troops.
AVT Simulation’s reconfigurable Recurring Skills Trainer, developed for the Apache helicopter, is an attempt to provide “complex gunnery training in a distributed environment.” Aero Simulation offers reconfigurable flight training devices capable of simulating fixed and rotary-wing aircraft and configured to match Coast Guard and Army platforms.
To improve virtual pilot training, Barco will debut its newest SIM 7 projector series, which uses Sony’s liquid crystal technology. Of note, the contrast ratio is said to be four times better, promising more realistic immersive simulator training, particularly for nighttime scenarios. Digital Projection will also have a new projector, the Titan LED, which claims additional brightness without extra smearing artifacts.
The Army’s recent tests of live, virtual and constructive training systems for deployment at various posts highlights the surge in interest in LVC technologies in recent years. Rockwell Collins will have an LVC demonstration combining live aircraft interoperating with virtual and constructive entities, one of which will be in its main theater. The company will also show its EP-8000 Image Generator, which creates synthetic environments for virtual players, and its latest changes to head-mounted display technology.
Lockheed Martin will also have LVC training tools for both the flight and ground domains. In addition, the company will show 2-D and 3-D equipment simulations for maintenance training.
MASA Group will continue to focus on the constructive element of LVC by unveiling the latest advances in its constructive simulation, SWORD, version 5.1. The program can interoperate with C2 systems, and both MASA and Systematic will present the C2 Classroom, a constructive sim that provides course of action analyses, war gaming and support for doctrine development. Raytheon will also display its direct interface development capabilities for multiple C2 systems, such as the Joint Automated Deep Operations Coordination System.
Among the companies with new data- and database-related technologies, TerraSim will show off its newest database and source data generation products. The BatchMode Monitor is an interface developed to reduce database development times, while MaterialMAP makes consistent surface material maps from satellite images. The products can feed into models used by constructive simulations such as OneSAF or serious games running on platforms such as Virtual Battlespace 2.
In the mission-planning field, Adapx is attempting to speed up data entry for mission planning by using a speech-and-sketch program that converts spoken military jargon or written symbols into part of a digital mission plan. The company says the interface has been integrated with the Command Post of the Future, DARPA’s Sketch-Thru-Plan, LG RAID and Google Earth. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group has developed SMARTPlanner, which allows a soldier to make a 2-D mission plan that can be turned into a 3-D VBS2 virtual version. Users can view and explore the mission on a desktop or using virtual headgear.
Simthetiq’s geo-specific Surobi Afghanistan Database will combine with COTS hardware in a Driving Tactical Training Simulator. There will also be stations displaying hundreds of 3-D entity models available from Simthetiq, in addition to R&D programs that include putting virtual task trainers on mobile devices.
Envitia will show the new release of Envitia Discovery 2.5, a way to manage synthetic environment production and catalog a variety of data sources. These can range from geospatial content like vector, imagery or terrain data sets to synthetic data sets such as OpenFlight.
And if cost control is the new must-have feature, customers may find their way to BNH Expert Software, which plans to announce the release of Advisor Enterprise 10, a web-based decision support tool used to optimize training resources and generate an audit trail. The company says it has already implemented Advisor in several military projects, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.