I love a good immersive flight sim or dome. The rumbling seat of a tank simulator is good fun, if a bit nauseating after a while. And Humvee extraction trainers have their place, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
But the economic reality is that military organizations worldwide are looking for cheaper sims, and that usually means smaller. Smaller trainers need less space, require less maintenance and fewer operators, are more portable and typically incorporate
Tablets, laptops and phones are components that users are already familiar with. For today’s troops, learning through apps and the Web is natural. So moving training to these spaces is a natural, even necessary progression. It would be foolhardy not to take advantage.
The research and science behind the way we teach and how students learn is also advancing. We’re finding that more and more of these skills can now be targeted using advanced games, programs and sims that run on desktops or laptops and can be reinforced tablets and smartphones.
So what are the next steps?
If governments are scaling back and want more on the cheaper side — the desktop sims and mobile apps — then let’s capitalize on it. It is time for developers to dive into technologies that will render those sims even more valuable.
Now is the time to deepen the artificial intelligences that drive human behavior and sims, making them more realistic than ever and increasing their predictive power, accuracy and training ability. It’s an opportunity to find creative ways to use games to teach tactics, techniques and procedures. It’s a chance to advance language and cultural skills training. It’s a space to capture lessons and store them in virtual worlds, collect and connect knowledge and streamline sharing.
If the government is going to shy away from the big, flashy sims, we can improve and hone the networks, graphics, training tools, teaching techniques and a whole lot more — on a smaller scale. These many small improvements would aid smaller sims immensely and speed the inexorable turn to mobile that the militaries have been trying to make happen for years. In fact, the downturn may be just the kick in the pants needed to get military app stores up and running and spur mobile development.
These improvements will likely be scalable, so when bigger sims are back on the table, they’ll be even more valuable thanks to advances already made.
Success in this new world means being open to that change and not overly focused on protecting what’s familiar now at the expense of cheaper, better solutions down the road. Yes, there will always be a place for full-scale sims. But greater computing power in smaller packages is opening up new ways to train more people at lower cost. Failing to embrace that is a good way to turn your company into a modern-day technological dinosaur.
I believe that sims are about to see their glory days. But only those who embrace the virtual world like never before will get to enjoy the ride.