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Dan Brockway

Dan Brockway

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A US soldier is trapped under rubble from a damaged building in hostile territory. As a Pararescuer, your team must get in, stabilize the situation, and get out – skins intact.

The rescue mission begins with a helicopter ride over to the site - the ride is bumpy and loud as combat zones dot the geography below. The war worn building comes into view and when you arrive, you fast rope out of the helo and into the rubble. You navigate to the trapped soldier and as you begin to address the situation and tend to the rock pinning him down, there’s an explosion. Even more smoke, debris, and confusion fill the area; when the dust settles, you learn that more soldiers are injured, even a civilian is hurt. 

What do you do? How do you react? 

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Your squad has been tasked with a convoy mission through a town with suspected insurgent activity. As a surveillance operator, you need to spot the threats and alert your team before it’s too late.

You peer down from a UAV through an infrared camera analyzing and scrutinizing the happenings of a seemingly ordinary town. You see farmers in fields, children coming from and going to school, families en route to and from the marketplace, and religious services – everything seems normal but your training tells you that you need to look ahead. That’s when you notice signs of suspicious behavior: people moving to rooftops looking to the sky for incoming aircraft, armed civilians lurking behind corners, and most dangerous of all, a child wearing a heavily laden vest. You use your comms channels and report the potential threat to your squad leader. 

 

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At MÄK, we help our customers simulate unmanned vehicles in a lot of ways, depending on what part of the system architecture the customer is addressing. Some use VR-Forces to simulate the UAV’s mission plans and flight dynamics. Some use VR-Vantage to simulate the EO/IR sensor video. Of those, some use VR-Vantage as the basis of their payload simulation and others stream video into their ground control station (GCS) from a VR-Vantage streaming video server. 

All of our customers now have the opportunity to add a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to their UAV simulations — and here’s how to do it. SensorFx SAR Server comes as two parts: a client and a server. The server runs on a machine on your network and connects to one or more clients. Whenever a client requests a SAR image, it sends a message to the server, providing the flight information of the UAV and the target location where to take a SAR image. The server, built with VR-Vantage, then uses the JRM Technologies radar simulation technology to generate a synthetic radar image and return it to the client.  

The SAR Server renders SAR images taking into account the specified radar properties, the terrain database, and knowledge of all the simulated entities. The radar parameters are configured on the server in advance of the simulation. The terrain database uses the same material classification data that is used by SensorFX for rendering infrared camera video so your sensor package will have the best possible correlation. The server connects to the simulation exercise network using DIS or HLA so that it has knowledge of all the entities. It uses this knowledge to include targets in the SAR scenes and so that you can use a simulated entity to host the SAR sensor. 

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At MÄK, we are constantly seeking ways to improve our products by diligently researching the latest technologies that will elevate our fidelity and performance. In this blog, we’ll tell you how we’re doing exactly that by integrating the photogrammetry process into our human content pipeline.

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Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs "” we’re using it to make a high-resolution 3D mesh. We expertly capture photos of a subject, use specialized processing software and post-processing by our team of 3D artists to make hyper-realistic, high-performing humans for DI-Guy, our Human Simulation software. DI-Guy’s ability to support multi-texturing via albedo, bump, specular, gloss, and ambient occlusion allows us to retain the minute detail of these captures while delivering them in low-polygonal, high-performing models. The DI-Guy artists use industry-leading tools such as ZBrush, 3D Studio Max, Maya, and Photoshop to translate these models from reality to virtual reality. As you can see from the photos and videos, the results are impressive. 

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In version 4.3, VR-Forces introduces the notion of aggregate-level simulation. Okay. What exactly is the difference between aggregate-level simulation (ALS) and entity-level simulation (ELS)?

At the core, aggregate-level simulation is a more abstract level of modeling and therefore is more suitable for representing higher echelons of a force structure "” units like companies, battalions, and brigades. Entity-level modeling has the fidelity appropriate for individual entities, like vehicles and human characters. 

Lets look at maneuver modeling as an example. In ALS, units have to slow down to move through a forested area, whereas entities in ELS have to maneuver around individual trees. This higher level of abstraction happens for all the types of models. Combat in ELS happens when an entity has line of sight with another entity. When one entity fires, a hit/miss calculation is performed between the detonated ordinance and the nearby entities. Damage is assessed only for the entities that are actually hit. In ALS, units, which cover an area, must have line of sight to the "˜area’ of the other unit. Combat then proceeds as rates of change in the resources and status of the units. For example, a large, well-equipped unit will more quickly deplete the resources and status of a smaller less equipped unit.  

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Simulation has become an accepted, routine, and critical method of training militaries worldwide. Many nations have invested heavily in large simulations for wargaming, however there is no "one size fits all" training simulation. Software that may be appropriate for one nation may be too cumbersome, resource intensive, and unmanageable for others. A low-overhead simulation system will address a nation’s wargaming and constructive simulation requirements, while also being much more economical in terms of procurement, training, and sustainment. 

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MÄK CST fills the Command & Staff training capability gap. It combines the user-friendly features of a game with capabilities of the larger, more complex simulations to help trainees learn how to make stronger battlefield decisions. Because of its flexibility and ease-of-use, MÄK CST can be used in the classroom, in the simulation center, on deployment, and at home stations.

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VR-Vantage IG delivers game-like visual quality in a high-performance image generator "” designed with the flexibility, scalability, and deliverability required for simulation and training.

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With VR-Vantage IG, immerse your trainees in stunning virtual environments. Experience 60 Hz frame rates for smooth motion, engaging action to stimulate trainees, and beautiful effects for immersive realism; all this, inside world-wide geo-specific databases.

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Many IGs are targeted to one environment. IGs designed specifically to provide the correct cues to high-flying-fast-jets don’t do so well in first-person-shootouts. Truck driving simulators don’t generally render the water well enough for maritime operations. Part of this is due to the choices in the content and part is the tuning of the IG and the graphics processing unit (GPU).

We’ve designed VR-Vantage IG to render beautiful scenes in any domain "“ air, land, and sea "“ and to fit into your simulation architectures. Version 2.0 has concentrated on both beauty and performance so you can get the most out of the graphics card.

Graphics cards these days are awesome. They take a steady stream of data and turn it into beautiful pictures rendered at upwards of 60 times each second (60Hz). To pull it off, the GPU computes color values for each pixel on your display. A 1920x1200 desktop monitor has over 2 million pixels and at 60Hz, thats 120 million color values. A lot of processing goes into each pixel so that collectively they form a beautiful picture. AAA game development houses do the work to configure the graphics card for all their target platforms; you, as a system integrator, have to do the same thing for your training customer. 

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We’ve been demonstrating our new VR-Vantage IG image generation capability by building five first-person player stations "“ each representing a different type of player. One of these stations was a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) player where we collaborated with Simthetiq for the terrain database, with CM Labs for the vehicle physics, and with MAK’s own DI-Guy human character simulation to populate the environment. Watch the video below as Bob Holcomb explains (with the help of Gedalia as the driver) one of our most popular I/ITSEC 2014 demos.

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WebLVC is an architecture for developing and deploying interoperable web and mobile applications in simulation environments, and for connecting these applications with existing, native modeling and simulation federations (which may use HLA, DIS, or other native interoperability protocols). Watch Matt Figueroa, one of our highly esteemed Link team engineers here at MÄK, explain the basics about WebLVC and how you can use it to see and interact with your simulation over the web in the video below.

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Our goal is always to make it easier for our customers to create and use simulations. At both I/ITSEC 2013 and 2014, we showcased the MÄK Training System Demonstrator to show how to reduce operator workload and increase development productivity.

In the short demo below, Dan walks you through how the TSD uses the advantages of MÄK’s entire product line to create both a student and instructor maritime training environment. Watch as air, land, and sea entities start off behaving according to their plans; through our training interfaces, CGF, and web-apps, users can manipulate the simulation to achieve training in their techniques, tactics, and procedures.

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Enhanced Company Operations Simulation (ECOSim) is known for its ease-of-use, rapid scenario generation, runtime operator control, and realistic & reactive human simulation. The short video below explains how easy it is to set up a scenario with DI-Guy humans in ECOSim, MÄK’s company-level training simulation that teaches leaders how best to deploy troops, UAVs, convoys, and other assets. Watch how easy it is to place a hostile or friendly squads into the scenario and see how the civilians and townspeople react through the Small Unit Leader Interface (SULI) and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) feed.

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Whether you’re wargaming or managing a local crisis, simulation plays an important role in command staff training. Its job is to model the situation to provide learning opportunities for the trainees and to stimulate the command and control (C2), or Mission Command systems, they use. Simulation helps trainees and instructors plan the battle, fight the battle, and review the battle.

Brian Spaulding spent his days at I/ITSEC 2014 showing our visitors how MÄK tools are specialized for Command Staff Training. He explains how our most recent version of VR-Forces highlights aggregate-level simulation (with a new "thunder run" demonstration) and how our WebLVC-based web app helps decision-makers accomplish specific training objectives in a light-weight, interoperable way. Check out our demos with Brian below.

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At I/ITSEC 2014, I demonstrated another integration of VR-Vantage with the Oculus Rift. My demonstration has come a long way since the one I showed at I/ITSEC 2013. Most importantly it’s been updated to use the Development Kit 2 (DK2) Oculus Rift prototype and the latest OVR SDK. I also incorporated VR-Forces in order to turn it into an F-35 flight simulator which can be controlled via a gamepad. In this post I’ve included a complete description of how the demo was put together, a system diagram, and also a photo of the demo at our booth.

I also have some exciting news for VR-Vantage users; this isn’t something you’ll only see at trade shows - I’m currently working on integrating the Oculus with the core product and you’ll be able to use it with the upcoming VR-Vantage 2.0 release! (Stay tuned to this blog for more info!)

The Details about VR-Vantage and Oculus

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We know that budgets are tight and that many of you weren’t able to make it to I/ITSEC 2014 in December. Well, good news: MÄK is on your side. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be posting videos of our most popular demos at I/ITSEC to give you a taste of what you missed. If you see something that grips your curiosity, imagination, or interest, get in touch - we would love to pack up our demos and bring them to you in your facilities. Catch a sneak peek below of the videos to come!

 

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NADS miniSim driving simulator uses DI-Guy to inject realism into its driving environment

The recent holiday season marked the one-year anniversary of DI-Guy joining the MÄK team "“ and what a year it has been! From increasing DI-Guy performance and ease-of-use, to developing new ways to control characters, to building more realistic character simulations, and to creating much more content out-of-the-box, 2014 has been the year of DI-Guy.

With such a strong year in the records and such a strong product on the shelf, it makes sense that the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) trusts DI-Guy’s human character simulation in its NADS miniSim„¢ driving simulator.

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VT MÄK, Antycip Simulation, and Thales have entered into a multi-year corporate-wide agreement to provide the MÄK RTI to Thales. Using the MÄK RTI, Thales will provide High Level Architecture (HLA) Evolved and HLA 1.3 compatibility to their range of simulations for training, experimentation, and demonstration. 

The MÄK RTI is a proven solution that enables HLA federations to rapidly and efficiently communicate. It has been chosen for both large and small federations because of its support for a wide variety of network topologies and architectures, ease of configuration, high performance, and its range of supported platforms.

MÄK’s first HLA certification came in 1998 and since then, the company has been on the leading edge of developing and implementing the standard. MÄK’s tools and services have helped hundreds of organizations around the world comply with multiple standards including HLA, DIS, and DDS.

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Commanders, like all good leaders, are responsible for the people below them. But they can’t do it alone. A commander’s staff exists to support the commander, work as a team, and deliver information to help make good, informed decisions. Training and preparation enable the command staff to function efficiently and properly in challenging situations; training allows the commander and his team to assess the situation, make decisions, and communicate those decisions.

Simulation plays an important role in command staff training; it’s job is to stimulate those situations where learning takes place. The simulation content depends on the echelon (level) and the missions the staff is being trained for. Marine Captains need entity-level simulation to train look-ahead surveillance for convoy protection missions while General Officers need aggregate-level simulation to model wargames for course of action analysis. (And there’s countless more examples of both.)

Modeling all of the elements needed to stimulate a command staff "” all the activity in a training scenario "” is a huge endeavor. Especially when it includes the behavior of opposing forces, the background civilian population, the political and social environment as well as the friendly force operations. To make it happen, commanders either need role players acting out the parts of each unit/entity/vehicle/person or a very powerful, believable, and capable artificial intelligence (AI) solution. Since full scale operations are time consuming and expensive to setup and run, many training tasks use the divide-and-conquer approach of focusing lessons on tasks that are manageable subsets of a complete environment. 

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When a patient comes into a medical clinic or hospital, the nurses have to assess what’s wrong. The same thing is true when an EMT shows up to the scene of a car accident. Sometimes the patients are clear and correct with their complaints, but often the patient does not know what’s wrong, has multiple seemingly unrelated issues, or is just delirious. Medical professionals have to figure it out. They must poke, prompt, and gauge the expressions on the patient’s faces to determine the appropriate course of treatment. This is a skill that comes with exposure to many cases "“ a skill that benefits from experiential learning. This is where virtual patient simulations come in.

Virtual training made its debut into medical professions with the advent of the CD-ROM and other interactive programs. Technology has since matured and medical professionals are increasingly taking advantage of virtual patient simulations to create much more responsive, interactive, and intelligent training situations.

 

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Database correlation between different systems is a difficult issue, but sometimes we make it harder than it has to be. For example, imagine someone has a large terrain database built with TerraVista. You want that terrain and since your system can handle OpenFlight, you think, "Great! Let’s try it out. Send me that database." What you get is hundreds of openflight files and one master.flt file that references the hundreds of individual tiles of terrain. When you try to load the master.flt file, your system runs out of memory and crashes. Bummer, that didn’t work. It’s like trying to eat a bag of popcorn without opening the bag first.

To handle this problem, you could choose an approach that would be optimal for your system, but also the hardest and most time-consuming to implement; you would have to reprocess the terrain database into a structure that better suits your system architecture. But many times you don’t have the skills, time, or energy to do that. You just want to load the thing and see if it is a useful database before committing to optimizing it.

Here’s what I recommend: try MetaFlight. Lots of people think MetaFlight is a different kind of database but it’s not. It’s just an XML-based way to reference the many tiles of a terrain. MetaFlight describes the grid of tiles using your database’s coordinate system so that the simulation or visual system can fetch the tiles that it needs and ignore the ones that are not needed or in view. When you use MetaFlight, it’s like reaching into the bowl of popcorn and getting the handful that you want. 

If you’d like some help doing this, or even if you just want to understand it better, give us a call, leave us a comment, or email us at info@mak.com. We’re here to help.

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