Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Army organization to harvest the best videogame graphics for computer simulation

Posted by John Keller

You may have seen accounts in the mainstream press of how the U.S. Army is creating a new office of videogames. It's a catchy theme, but it's not quite what's going on.

When you take a closer look, this is not so much a videogame story, but is actually a COTS story involving military simulation and training that has been unfolding for quite a long time.

The Army is trying to save money and speed computer-based simulation and training to a growing number of its personnel by using the most realistic graphics developed in the video gaming industry.

Better yet, the Army is trying to make the best videogame graphics available to its soldiers to create their own custom computer simulation training scenarios to get the most out of their training time.

The confusion -- and the cute news peg picked up by the popular press -- comes from the name of the organization that has taken this project up. The new group is the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Project Office for Gaming -- TPO Gaming for short -- at TRADOC’s National Simulation Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The folks at the Training and Simulation Journal's Website, TSJOnline.com, rightly point out that a better name for the organization might be “TPO Gaming Technology.” Let's face it, the military is often very good at what it does, but naming organizations is not its strong suit.

The Army is acknowledging the quality of videogame graphics developed in private industry and putting existing technology to military use. This is precisely the intent and spirit of commercial off-the-shelf technology, or COTS.

This has been going on in military training and simulation for many years. Here's a story on the subject that we published nearly a decade ago. Harvesting the best technology from commercial videogames has enabled the military to extend the benefits of computer-based simulation to many more people than used to have access to it.

A couple of decades ago, about the only people who had access to computer simulation training were aircraft pilots. Today it's available to vehicle drivers, medical personnel, mechanics, and many more.

It's the kind of COTS use that TPO Gaming is undertaking that has made this possible.

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