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Army 'gaming' simulation training Soldiers, coalition partners

Jul 17, 2008
BY Lindy Kyzer

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 16, 2008) - British and U.S. Soldiers are participating this week in Exercise Safe Passage, via a distributed game environment.

In the four-day exercise, U.S. troops will work with researchers and soldiers in the United Kingdom, using virtual training and gaming technology. The Soldiers, geographically separated by thousands of miles, will work together in a coalition operation to rescue embassy personnel.

Today's U.S. Army gaming technology is about more than guns - it is teaching cultural awareness and improving the decision-making skills that save lives on the battlefield.

Dr. Stephen Goldberg, a psychologist with the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, and Robert Sottilare, deputy director of the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Center, spoke about Army gaming and simulation, also known as "immersive technology," in a conference call July 10 with on-line journalists.

"In recent months, we've been collaborating on the kind of extension of virtual reality and virtual training, which is use of game technologies for Army training," said Goldberg. "And in particular, we're interested in how to design, develop and utilize those technologies within a distributed setting."

Gaming technology allows Soldiers in various locations, across nations or oceans, to complete exercises and conduct operations together in a virtual environment, said Goldberg.

"These games are essentially meant to provide Soldiers with a myriad of experiences in developing situational awareness - where they are, where their buddies are - and potentially where the enemy might be," said Goldberg.

Goldberg and Sottilare emphasized that the realism of the engagement is focused primarily on the cultural and cooperative pieces, rather than on physical engagement or violence.

What's represented in the environment is cultural dress, building and structural elements and the urban environment perspective, said Sottilare. The simulation technology allows uses artificial intelligence to add community leaders, policemen, and cultural figures to build the interaction element of the game.

Sottilare described the current exercise with the United Kingdom as the crawl phase of a crawl, walk, run series. Eventually, they'd like to work with the Air Force Research Lab and other aviation coalition partners to develop exercises involving air and ground teaming.
(Army gaming will be the focus of the September issue of Soldiers magazine. The issue - with half a dozen major feature articles on gaming -- will hit newsstands in late August.)

Cut: A Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course student uses radio communication to relay information to the platoon sergeant to get to the next level of a simulation training exercise at the Battle Simulation Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. (Staff Sgt. Roy Cruz)

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