Defense Department Wants Customizable Virtual Training

By Valerie Insinna
A screenshot of the Close Combat: First to Fight video game.
ORLANDO — The services are looking for video game training where scenarios can be easily and rapidly customized by commanders, squad leaders and troops, said the Defense Department official in charge of military training readiness.
Too many of the available games are built on proprietary software that takes years to alter, said Frank C. DiGiovanni, Defense Department director of training, readiness and strategy.
“You've got to have agility, to be able to give the end user the ability to use the system the way they want,” he said in a keynote speech April 17 at the Defense GameTech Users' Conference in Orlando.
Often times, simulations are fielded for a specific purpose, DiGiovanni said.  But if they can be modified easily, operators and trainers can find new ways to incorporate the product into their training.
“If you don't allow the end user to play with it, you won't get that information,” he told the largely industry crowd. “So I really encourage you all to think about the business models you are using.”
Calling the military's fiscal outlook “pretty bleak,” DiGiovanni urged the gaming and simulation community to expand their businesses to non-defense sectors.
Robotics and automation, energy, telecommunications, health care and new production technologies such as 3D printing are all areas where gaming and simulation companies could increase their market while waiting out the spending downturn, he said.
Game developers could also find an opportunity working with the government on cybersecurity issues. DiGiovanni said that defense organizations have been tasked to increase their network security workforce by 6,000 in three years. That would require intense training.
“The services want to do it in four. The Cyber Command commander wants to do it in two. I think we could actually start something in six months if we put out minds to it” he said. “And I'm not talking about cyber Jedis, I'm talking about cyber-engineers.”
Both the military's newest recruits and the younger veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are comfortable with video games, DiGiovanni said. The military could use that technology to chronicle the decade's worth of experiences and share it with the new generation.
“What if I had a virtual framework where I could build a vignette that allowed me to describe in a virtual environment what I learned in those 11 years?” he said. “What was that one thing that I saw in combat that I think everybody else needs to know?”
The overall budget downturn is not necessarily bad news for the military gaming industry, as simulations are often cheaper than doing live training, said Tom Baptiste, executive director for the National Center of Simulation. An Air Force pilot for over 30 years, he said the service will likely increase the time spent on simulations to reduce expensive flight hours.
“There's an opportunity, I think, for new and innovative ways of training at home,” he said. “What can we do in an immersive environment that doesn't require 10,000 acres of rainforest?”
Photo Credit: Defense Dept.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, Videogames

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