Military Embedded Systems

Virtual training and simulation: trends and observations


August 18, 2014

Clarence Pape

Intelligent Decisions

The U.S. military has embraced virtual simulation as a way to train its soldiers effectively, but at a lower cost. With no relief from spending cuts in sight, the Army and other government organizations are increasingly looking to industry for cost-effective, more advanced virtual simulation solutions that immerse trainees in highly realistic environments that prepare them to meet the challenges they will face on the battlefield.

Despite the fact that the U.S. military is facing $487 billion in budget cuts as a result of the Budget Control Act, on top of $500 billion in sequestration cuts planned for the next 10 years, training remains critical to keeping our troops safe. Virtual training technologies create a life-like environment for soldiers to prepare for a variety of scenarios they are likely to encounter on the battlefield at a more reasonable cost than traditional training approaches.

For example, travel represents a significant cost of training, as squads from across the country traditionally need to physically be in the same location to train together.

Simulation programs eliminate travel costs associated with training, as troops from across the country can interact and train together virtually. Virtual simulation provides a collective training environment where participants are jointly immersed in virtual scenarios that challenge them to move and act as individuals, yet maintain the communication and coordination necessary to function effectively as a team. Systems can be networked to larger scale exercises to support combined arms and joint forces training. In 2013, Intelligent Decisions (ID) used our Dismounted Soldier Training System to virtually train more than 37,000 soldiers using this method.

Full fidelity virtual simulation

As the military begins to rely more and more heavily on simulation to train its soldiers, the defense industry is constantly being pushed to develop virtual simulation and training techniques that are increasingly realistic and advanced. As technology continues to progress, companies in the private sector serving the Department of Defense (DoD) are enhancing the fidelity, look, feel, and functionality of man-worn virtual training platforms systems in order to design products that meet customer needs for wider, more flexible, highly compact and increasingly powerful capabilities.

Beyond infantry training for the U.S. Army, industry is also under pressure to rapidly expand field solutions tailored to other military branches and law enforcement agencies, as well as meet the demands of a global market that requires man-wearable systems to be compact, maneuverable, and fully integrated. In order to cater to this diverse, expanding market, there is a significant demand for platforms and sensors that are not only smaller and more maneuverable, but also fully integrated and easy to deploy.

What’s next?

The application of simulation and training technologies in the military is not limited to the infantry – full-fidelity virtual simulators can improve the quality of instruction and preparedness and reduce expenses associated with traditional approaches to medical training, too. Doctors, especially in theater, operate in a high stress environment where there is no room for error. Simulating real life surgical situations helps military surgeons practice rare and tricky procedures long before they treat their actual patients. For newer procedures, just knowing that surgeons have had the opportunity to perfect these challenging surgical procedures also helps put patients at ease.

Repeatable scenarios can allow medics to practice until the work becomes second nature. What’s more, surgeons at all levels can benefit from sharpening their skills through virtual training, and constant advances in the healthcare space make specific simulations useful tools for doctors of all disciplines who need to stay up to date with the latest surgical developments.

It’s clear that the market for virtual simulation and training technologies within the military is growing larger, especially as technology allows for the creation of more realistic environments. These advancements, coupled with the increased costs of traditional training, make it imperative that the government continue to invest in virtual simulation and training solutions.


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