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New type of immersive training to begin at Fort Irwin


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New type of immersive training to begin at Fort Irwin
http://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/news/x132509506/New-type-of-immersive-training-to-begin-at-Fort-Irwin Gary Sheftick

Fort Meade, Md.
A new type of immersive full-spectrum training will be tested this month at Fort Irwin, Calif.

The “Decisive Action Training Environment” aims to link live-fire training with units immersed in virtual training, others experiencing constructive training at operation centers and still others involved in gaming. While Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, or HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division will be in the “box” at the National Training Center, known as NTC, they will be linked to support units participating at other locations.

A similar training environment was recently tested in Germany at the Joint Readiness Training Center, but not to the extent it will be put to the test in March at NTC, said Col. Robert “Pat” White, deputy commander of Combined Arms Center-Training at Fort Leavenworth. He spoke Feb. 22 during a blogger’s roundtable from the Association of the U.S. Army winter symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Combined Arms Center officials see the new NTC exercise as part of an Army “revolution” in training. It can save funding by linking virtual training and gaming to live-fire exercises. At the same time, it can simulate some of the complexities of the modern battlefield, White said.
“You can’t replicate bullets flying at you,” White said. “You cannot replicate the mortars and the rockets that are in combat itself. What we can replicate is the complexity of that.”

The first full-spectrum Decisive Action Training Environment, or DATE, at NTC will feature a scenario in the Caucasus mountain region, White said. The HBCT will face hybrid threats ranging from conventional forces to insurgents. For about 4,000 Soldiers from the HBCT, it will be their first full-spectrum, tank-on-tank, force-on-force training in 10 years, according to a 3rd Inf. Div. brigade spokesman.

Most rotations to NTC in the past decade have focused on counter-insurgency, or COIN operations to prepare troops for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This time Soldiers will bring with them their M1 tanks from Fort Benning, Ga., along with Bradley Fighting Vehicles and the brand new Assault Breacher Vehicle, or ABV. Company C of the Brigade’s Special Troops Battalion was the first unit in the Army to be fielded with the ABVs, and received them less than a month ago.

The ABV is based on the M1 tank chassis and is designed for conducting in-stride breaching of minefields and complex obstacles. It has a full-width mine plow, dual-line charges, lane-marking system, remote-control system, and protective weapons system.

While 3rd ID Soldiers fight the maneuver battle in the Mohave Desert, other units will be linked into the scenario from nodes at their home stations.
“I get so excited about this,” White said. “It opens up a whole new way to train.”

Soldiers home-stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, will test another multi-echelon training environment this summer. The “Immersive Training Environment” will also link virtual, constructive and live training with gaming, White said.

Both a government acceptance test and user acceptance test for the Immersive Training Environment is expected to take place later this year at Fort Hood. If successful, the equipment and software will be fielded at other posts, camps and stations, White said.

Enablers such as unmanned aerial systems and aircraft may support such exercises through simulations, White said, saving funding during a time of fiscal belt-tightening.
“Our checkbook is not as full as it used to be,” he said.

White said the “Training Brain” in Newport News, Va., can help commanders save funds by providing the “digital dirt” to recreate any region of the world for home-station exercises, using real-life data and bending it for training scenarios. Soldiers at home station would be able to immerse themselves into the “matrix” of the scenario.

Several brigades can be linked into an exercise from different locations, said Col. Maciotto Johnson, director of TCM Virtual for the Combined Arms Center-Training. For instance, he said one unit could be on a live-fire range at Fort Dix, N.J., another unit could be immersed in virtual training at Fort Hood, another in constructive training at tactical operations center on Fort Stewart, Ga., and a fourth unit could be involved in gaming.

All four of these units could be networked together for the exercise, training multiple echelons simultaneously.
In addition, a pilot program at Fort Benning is striving to create a virtual world where individual Soldiers can train on their own, any time of the day, to hone individual skills. White said the project is attempting to recreate a “World of Warcraft” type virtual domain where Soldiers will be able to train 24 hours, seven days a week.

“A lot of people, especially in the Army, would like to have a gaming solution that can immerse a Soldier,” Johnson said, but explained that it’s not always easy to create culturally correct avatars for one-on-one interaction in a complex environment.
“But we are working toward that in the gaming environment,” he added.
According to how well Wainwright validation exercises have worked with the WES gear; I can see this being a big leap forward that we should adapt into our army right away.

We have hard enough time running a JCATS scenario.
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Avatars Invade Military Training Systems
Eric Beidel, Feb 2012

A lot of virtual training happens in video game-like environments, where soldiers see combat through the eyes of a superhero character.

But if the Army is going to train its troops through gaming, officials say the characters in the virtual world should perform more like actual soldiers.

That is one part of the reasoning behind a new idea the Army has to create avatars for every soldier. These digital representations would accompany service members throughout their training and allow them to see, through simulation, how their skills, or lack thereof, would play in life and death situations.

The influence of video games on military training has been substantial, and the military’s interest in avatars — for soldiers and other actors in simulations — is growing. It was evident in the many products on display at the world’s largest military training and simulation conference in Orlando — in the graphics, the props and the apparent ease with which younger soldiers adapt to a virtual setting. And at the entrance to the showroom floor, greeting attendees to the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, was an avatar.

A pixilated character named “Information Jason” bantered with service members and industry executives. It engaged in small talk and told them jokes. The avatar was performing the motions and speaking the words of a man behind a curtain several yards away. It was the creation of Organic Motion, a company that also supplied technology for a Lockheed Martin Corp. system demonstrated at the conference.

The Avatar Target Insertion System had onlookers gathering around to watch a service member talking to a suspicious computerized character in a simulated Afghanistan village. The avatar on the screen was able to hold a conversation in real-time. It responded to specific questions and commands. It was being controlled by an actor in New York City.

A pixilated character named “Information Jason” bantered with service members and industry executives. It engaged in small talk and told them jokes. The avatar was performing the motions and speaking the words of a man behind a curtain several yards away. It was the creation of Organic Motion, a company that also supplied technology for a Lockheed Martin Corp. system demonstrated at the conference.

The Avatar Target Insertion System had onlookers gathering around to watch a service member talking to a suspicious computerized character in a simulated Afghanistan village. The avatar on the screen was able to hold a conversation in real-time. It responded to specific questions and commands. It was being controlled by an actor in New York City.

“Some things we have the capability to do very easily,” said Chester Kennedy, vice president of engineering, global training and logistics at Lockheed. “Some things we’re not quite there with. The step in between is what I’m calling a manned avatar. There is a person driving the characteristics of that avatar, they just don’t have to be in the same physical space.”

Avatars could be controlled by people in theater to imbue training with the most up-to-date information and scenarios on the ground. War is not static, Kennedy said. Threats are constantly changing. A trainee does not need to physically be in Afghanistan to benefit from a role-playing experience with someone who is, he said.

“With avatar technology, you can take somebody today who experienced a new threat and have him role-play for those going into theater in real time,” Kennedy said. “At some point in the future, we should be able to model those human behaviors and really create what the Army is trying to do. It is helping us to push that technology along. If you look at the training continuum, how many things can be satisfied by an [artificially intelligent] avatar today as opposed to two years ago or a year ago? We’re continually dramatically improving.”

The military eventually could have individualized systems available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Service members would be able to log on and interact with avatars in subjects specific to their training whenever they have time, Kennedy said.

Soldiers, themselves, would have avatar doubles under the Army’s nascent plan for virtual training.

“You design an avatar that has the individual facial features of a soldier,” said James Blake, the Army’s program executive officer for simulation, training and instrumentation. “Then you add more of what he looks like, physical attributes. If he’s a tall person, the avatar would be tall. If he’s a short person, the avatar would be short. When you’re in your game environment you’d like to have the physical and mental attributes of that individual reflected in that virtual world.”

The idea is to encode the soldier’s DNA, so to speak, within a digital representation. This means the computer character would run as fast or jump as high as a soldier did during a physical training test. The avatar’s marksmanship also would be tied to how effective a soldier has been in weapon drills.

“It’s very early in development. There is a lot of homework to be done here,” Blake said. “But you might think of it as actually being on a smartcard one day. You go to your post, you plug it in and we know everything about the soldier. And when a soldier behaves in a virtual environment with his squad members that representation is in there. So if the soldier is not a good marksman it will reflect in his contribution to the performance of that squad.”

The Army needs to determine how difficult it will be to accomplish this for every soldier. It may be that only three or four attributes really make a difference in virtual training, and avatars do not need to be so precise in their relationship to their human counterparts. Whatever the case, the Army wants to avoid the common pitfall of avatars in video games — the urge of the participant to create a superhuman character that in no way represents himself.

In most games, if you want to have a character, you want to be a superhero,” Blake said. “Most people don’t come into the [gaming] environment as themselves. They come into it to become someone else, because the goal is to become immortal, stronger, faster. What the Army is suggesting is maybe we need to develop a character that is representative of the individual so when we put that soldier’s character in simulation it performs the same way the individual would perform.”

Army training officials began mentioning their avatar concept at conferences this past year. It has been attracting interest and gaining support from industry, which along with the Army, has been putting more emphasis on developing training systems for individual soldiers.

“Where things have really failed have been with individual soldiers,” said Andrew Tschesnok, CEO of Organic Motion.

A flight simulator offers the pilot replicas of the tools he would use to fly the actual aircraft. A vehicle simulator does the same. “But with individuals, there are no buttons to push,” Tschesnok said.

So far, the solution has been to create tools for ground troops. There is a mish-mash of “unnatural” gadgets available, such as fake guns with joysticks on them, that in no way resemble what troops would use or encounter in real life, he said. The goal of Organic Motion’s technology is to allow a simulation to see the ground soldier the same way a flight system sees an airplane.

The most common way to digitize a person’s specific movements is to dress him in a black suit that is covered with white sensor balls. This method has been used for years to achieve accurate portrayals of professional athletes in video games. But Organic Motion has found a way to replicate the movements of humans without attaching any devices to the body. This computer vision system consists of a suite of cameras that can see exactly how a body moves.
“They can just jump into the simulator, jump back out and go into after action review,” Tschesnok said.

This allows a single actor to play multiple roles in a fluid simulation, which offers one way to shave costs. Some systems cost millions of dollars just to keep a dozen or so actors on stand-by for a year. Organic Motion has made it so a person in Afghanistan, for example, could play multiple characters in different rooms during a simulation, Tschesnok said.

The Army will have to be careful with its idea to create training avatars for soldiers, he said. If the service were just to create a “second life” digital representation that troops still predominately operated through the use of keyboards and game controllers, “how is that teaching anybody about the real world?” he said.

Officials say that the Army’s avatar concept would enhance the training experience for soldiers by gearing it toward individual needs. This will require better collection of data, said Keith Catanzano, vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.

“We’re starting to see performance records be captured in more detail,” he said. “And if there’s an avatar on the front of a database with the name and ID on the front, that would kind of be the next step. But first you have to make sure you have all the data that you’re going to need in a much richer way than we have collected now. I think that that’s feasible. I think that’s going to go in incremental steps — launch and learn, launch again and learn. But it really comes back down to the data. You have all the data collected, now let’s use it.”

Catanzano sees two different sets of data — the circumstances surrounding a soldier’s learning such as location and instructor, and specific information related to actual performance of a military operation. Collecting details inside each of these categories will allow the Army to constantly update soldier avatars.

The concept is catching on throughout the service, including with aviators and operators of unmanned aircraft systems.

It would be a big leap forward if “every soldier came in … and the bottom of their ground control station on their screen had an avatar and that avatar was them,” said Col. Robert Sova, who recently announced his retirement from his position as the Army Training and Doctrine Command capabilities manager for UAS.

Each time a soldier develops a skill, the avatar could receive some sort of badge and become more knowledgeable too, he suggested.

“[In gaming] they want to make that avatar better than they are, so they keep doing things in training and make them better,” Sova said. “So every soldier makes that avatar better than them and therefore makes the organization that they are a part of better and makes our fighting force better.”
57Chevy said:
Whatever the case, the Army wants to avoid the common pitfall of avatars in video games — the urge of the participant to create a superhuman character that in no way represents himself.

I guess you can rule out avatars that look like this guy  ;D
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The robot general
Implications of Watson on military operations

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”
— “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Released in 1968, the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” depicts a super-intelligent computer, HAL, performing autonomous deep-space missions in collaboration with humans.

Fast-forward to 2011: The IBM computer Watson handily defeats two previous champions of the “Jeopardy!” game show. It appears that a profound change has occurred in the way humans and computers interact. On its website, IBM claims that the power of Watson has applications to the fields of medicine, finance and customer service.

This new computing capability has potential for military applicability, as well. If we can move past the cultural biases of evil super-intelligent computers as depicted in science-fiction movies, today’s military robotic concepts don’t go far enough to include future capabilities derived from sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) converging with other technologies.

Current Army robotics strategy identifies only unmanned vehicles’ replacement of soldier tasks that are repetitive and/or dangerous in nature, based on technology of the near future. However, moon landings, PCs and lasers were examples of science fiction later to become reality. We are now at a crossroads where technological advances have moved beyond both concepts and policies regarding autonomous robots.

Given emerging technologies like a Watson, the intent of this article is to be a catalyst for discussion on the future implications of AI on operations across the war-fighting functions, and for the military to look again at policies on autonomous robots and its current robotics strategy.

Is the Army robotics strategy correct?

Because of rapid evolution in technology, the Army strategy toward robotics needs updating. While it was appropriate for technologies of the near term, computers like Watson were nonexistent at the time of concept development. Unquestionably, sophisticated AI converging with other potential technologies, such as non-silicon-based or nonbinary computing, will bring computers to another level, with significant ramifications for military operations.

Article continues at link...

Watson (computer)
In 2011, as a test of its abilities, Watson competed on the quiz show Jeopardy!, in the show's only human-versus-machine match-up to date. In a two-game, combined-point match, broadcast in three Jeopardy! episodes February 14–16, Watson beat Brad Rutter, the biggest all-time money winner on Jeopardy!, and Ken Jennings, the record holder for the longest championship streak (74 wins). Watson received the first prize of $1 million, while Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter received $300,000 and $200,000, respectively. Jennings and Rutter pledged to donate half their winnings to charity, while IBM divided Watson's winnings between two charities.

Watson had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage, including the full text of Wikipedia, but was not connected to the Internet during the game. For each clue, Watson's three most probable responses were displayed on the television screen. Watson consistently outperformed its human opponents on the game's signaling device, but had trouble responding to a few categories, notably those having short clues containing only a few words.

On site links:
Robots to lead the way in the first stage of engagement, in which there is usually a greater danger of casualties.

British Army Recruits to Train with 'Call of Duty' Games

Photo: Watson avatar