The video shows a dozen soldiers moving through a large, empty gymnasium, weapons raised, seeming to turn around invisible corners, engaging unseen targets. The video was part of Raytheon’s display at the AUSA convention in Washington this week, showcasing a new 3-D training simulation that it has developed with Oscar-winning 3-D simulation company Motion Reality, Inc., and in consultation with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to create a virtual IED and small unit tactic computer simulation trainer.
The soldiers moving through the empty room were busily engaged in a virtual combat environment they viewed through goggles they each wore, placing them in a maze-like city, where they were busily and methodically clearing rooms in house after house, looking for insurgents and IEDs.
The aim of the project is “to create the ultimate immersive training environment,” according to Dr. Thomas Mclaughlin of Motion Reality. The team has been able to create a virtual world where up to twelve soldiers, unencumbered by cables or wire, can move through a virtual environment for hours at a time, crawling, running and ducking in a world so intricately mapped out that if they reach out to touch the virtual man in front of them, they’re actually touching the guy in front of them in the real world. The biggest difference between this program and other simulated trainers, Mclaughlin said, is that the trainees “are physically stressed along with the cognitive and tactical stresses” programmed into the game. “For the first time they can train like they fight.”
Being a fully interactive simulation, the adversaries programmed into the game react to what the trainees do, according to their mission goal, including reacting when one of the trainees trains their rifle on them. The sims “choose movements to reach their goals, including responding to voice commands,” Mclaughlin said as we watched two company representatives go though a room on the floor of the AUSA show on Wednesday.
While the simulated characters can go through a variety of motions and responses, feeding off what the trainees do, trainers can also enter the simulation to make tasks harder for their pupils, including fighting them in a free-play version of the system. The training NCO is always on the floor with a squad, and can access a series of buttons in his field of vision allowing him to control the whole system, even freezing it so he can instruct his students and give them immediate feedback. He can also fly over the battlefield and fly in any direction to overwatch the entire scenario, or look though the eyes of whoever he wants. “He’s in their head,” Mclaughlin explained.
So far there are about 100 different training scenarios, ranging from small unit ambushes and tactics to IED identification, and company representatives said that more can be added as time goes on to cover a variety of missions. Reps reclined to share the cost of the system, or the cost of actually deploying them to training centers, but did share that they're currently in "discussions" with JIEDDO about using it as a trainer.