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Modeling and Simulation
Hollywood Fulfills Military Needs
By Rich Handley
Computer game developers and movie studios are breathing new life into military training and recruiting efforts...
Becoming a soldier in the U.S. military requires more than just building and shooting a rifle. These days, it also involves playing games. In 2002, the Army released an Internet game called America's Army, intended to encourage teens to sign up for military duty by simulating training and combat in a variety of environments. Players handle weaponry on a rifle range, run obstacle courses, train as snipers and even learn how to parachute from a C-17 transport. America's Army illustrates the recent blurring of lines between Hollywood fantasy and real-world warfare, as it features sound effects created by George Lucas, Dolby Digital Sound and the team behind the sci-fi thriller Terminator II.
The use of entertainment-based media for the purpose of military training isn't new, as the Army modified the Atari tank game Battlezone in the 1980s to train gunners on Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, while in the mid-90s, the Marines created Marine Doom from the popular commercial game Doom in order to train four-man fire teams in urban combat. More recently, the Army's Soldier Systems Center commissioned games developer Novalogic to modify their Delta Force 2 package to familiarize soldiers with the experimental Land Warrior System.
Brent Smith, Vice-President of Engineering and Computer Simulations (Orlando, FL), told AI that although computer simulation and modeling are often perceived as the domain of theme parks or home entertainment systems, the nation's defenses have used such technology for quite some time. "The military and aviation communities have long enjoyed the benefits of high-quality, immersive training simulators," said Smith. "Dedicated equipment and high-end computing power create an experience that is so close to real-life that trainees can 'learn by doing' through experiential learning." The risks of injury or damage, he added, are greatly reduced, while minimizing the use of scarce or expensive resources.
Players assuming simulation technology originated as entertainment might be surprised to find the chicken and egg reversing positions. "Simulation for the purpose of training has its roots in military applications," explained Smith, "but crossed over into other sectors such as entertainment, medicine and vocational education."