Support: Up Close And Personal Combat Simulation

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October 22, 2011: In the last few years, a new type of combat simulator has appeared. This was a side-effect of attempts to create accurate combat simulations for infantry troops. This has always been a challenge. But then sims like VirtuSphere showed up, using technology and techniques right out of video games. These came a lot closer than any previous attempt to provide infantry with a realistic computer training simulation.

Think of VirtuSphere as the ultimate FPS (First Person Shooter) video game. It works like this. The player (trainee) uses a goggles display, which makes it appear that a huge computer display is right in front of him. The player then enters a ten foot diameter plastic sphere that rotates, in all directions, on a stationary track mechanism. The motion of the sphere is linked electronically to the game software, and the trainee sees the movement he makes, walking or running inside the sphere, reflected in his display of the photo-realistic battlefield. His weapons are similarly wired into the game. A similar system, VIRTSIM, has up to twelve soldiers moving around in a 50 by 100 foot area that is wired to record their movements in a video game (seen through the goggles type display.)

Both systems have found customers (like the U.S. Army, the FBI and other police organizations), at least for evaluation. There are twenty VirtuSphere systems in use now, with two of the latest ones bought by the U.S. Air Force. These were installed at the Air University, which trains officers to handle command and staff jobs. VirtuSphere is used to expose these officers to past, and future, ground combat situations in a very realistic manner. The air force got VirtuSphere because their officer students are very much into technology, and would quickly get into VirtuSphere, and benefit from the more realistic and immersive simulation experience. The Air University also uses their VirtuSphere systems to network and train with other schools that also have the equipment (West Point, Harrisburg University and Stanford University). While VirtuSphere was designed with infantry training in mind, it has attracted more interest from schools that train officers, not troops. The air force has found that its commanders and staff officers are more effective if they have a good understanding of ground combat, and how troops on the ground operate. VirtuSphere gives officer students some exposure to all that, quickly and effectively.

 


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