Support: May 9, 2004

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Military engineers in Iraq are responsible for designing and building bases for the troops. This includes coming up with layout of structures needed to defend the bases from attack. One reason the bases have gone up so quickly, and been generally invulnerable to attack, is the widespread use of computer based design tools. One combination that has been particularly useful is a program called SketchUp. Basically, this is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program that was, without meaning to, perfect for military use. The most important feature of SketchUp is its very intuitive user interface. In other words, its easy to use. Very similar to the intuitive interfaces many computer games have. 

Army engineer units have a lot of bright people, including some that know how to use the more difficult to learn CAD programs. But SketchUp can be quickly learned by all the design and planning people in an engineer unit. In addition, SketchUp easily makes use of aerial photographs, which the engineers make use of more than conventional maps (because they often operate in places that have not been well mapped, but can be quickly scrutinized by aerial photography.) The aerial photos, once in SketchUp, can rapidly be turned into 3-D images and buildings and defenses (wire, trenches, blockhouses, towers) quickly added. SketchUp also has a shadow feature, making it easy to design structures so they give maximum shade to troops who are outside working in the 140 degree heat of Iraqi Summers. 

Software like SketchUp is another example of the many recently developed technologies that have been quickly adopted by the military and rapidly translated into military power. The designers of SketchUp probably didnt think that their creation would save the lives of many American soldiers. But thats how it turned out.

 


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