Mike Macedonia, VP and GM, Forterra Federal Systems, attended the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) last week. With all the recent government moves in Second Life, many aided by Forterra, I was interested in hearing how that played out at the conference. Macedonia was kind enough to provide his notes on the show, which he says was a milestone event for virtual worlds:
The annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) conference and expo was held last week with a dramatic shift in size, direction and vision that made headlines. I/ITSEC is sponsored by the military services and attracted over 17,000 attendees and 570 exhibits the Orlando Convention Center — a record turnout. Yet the real milestone was not the attendance — it was the first time senior military leaders talked to the group about virtual worlds and their impact on training and education.
GEN Wallace, USA, the commander of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) announced that the Army has a established a presence in Second Life for recruiting. The US Air Force also presented in its booth its work in using Second Life as a prototype environment for its MyBase effort. Led by Major General, USAF, Irv Lessel, the MyBase program envisions the use of virtual worlds for the development of cyberspace education centers to replace or supplement the existing Air Force brick-and-mortar schools.
This acknowledgment by the Air Force and Army of virtual worlds — as opposed to games — as the basis for future training and education of the military was the cause of lots of buzz by the attendees. It became obvious by the end of the week that the tipping point for all this interest in virtual worlds was the realization that very few of the training systems used by the military exploit the global Internet.
Most of the 3D sims on the floor of the show were either stand-alone or LAN-based "games." In an age where nearly 2 billion people have access to the Internet and nearly 90% of the world's population has GSM-cell phone coverage, virtual worlds offer the promise of persistent, 24/7 training and collaboration spaces for a military enterprise that is deployed all over the world.
In addition to the MyBase prototype demo in the USAF exhibit, Lockheed Martin was showing a number of virtual world platforms that it's experimenting with in its Virtual Worlds Lab. The VWL showed technology from Qwaq, PowerU and Forterra. The Virtual Worlds Lab used Forterra's Olive platform to demonstrate work they are presenting the to United States Marine Corps for counter-insurgency operations. They project explores the use of virtual worlds to train Marines in "non-kinetic" skills such as negotiation and cultural awareness.
* Culturally specific avatars were also being demonstrated by Vcom3D. They have developed avatars with hundreds of culturally specific gestures for language training. Vcom3D has shipped over 700 iPods to Iraq for testing by US forces.
* Christie Digital showed Forterra's Olive on their gorgeous Matrix projectors. The projection system brought virtual worlds to a new level of immersion.
* Mymic showed their GaMeTT virtual world being used to training National Guard DMAT teams. They showed a scenario involving a mass casualty exercise where a hospital is set up near a football stadium.
* Forterra's booth was jammed throughout the show and provided demonstrations to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN Peter Chiarelli, and to the new head of the US Marine Corps Reserves, Major General Stone. They saw several different scenarios including a missile launch off a US Navy DDG 51 destroyer, medical triage at a virtual hospital, and a hostage rescue in a bank. Forterra was also showing some of the mirror world capacities they have developed with geo-specific datasets.
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