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Dan Brockway

Dan Brockway

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Some wargaming simulations are so large that setting them up requires the organizational skills of a multi-echelon military structure. The’re too big to stop and restart when something goes wrong. So how do you handle it? How do you make sure that all the training participants learn what they are supposed to learn? This is where the Gamemakers come in.

Maybe you’ve seen the movie "The Hunger Games". The Gamemakers control the contest, adding distractions, challenges, even new opponents to steer contestants toward the conflict. Military officers acting as instructors do something similar for large wargames. They steer the conflict by adding supporting elements and opponents "“ changing entities’ behavior and capabilities. They set up situations so that learners must use the tactics, techniques, and procedures in their curriculum.

You, too, can be a Gamemaker. To be successful, you’ll need simulation tools that can be used while the simulation is running. Tools so easy to manage that you can detect problems and effect changes immediately. For this, you should try VR-Forces and DI-Guy Scenario, tools that enable you, the instructor, to dynamically inject events to stimulate trainee responses or guide a trainee’s actions during a training exercise. You can make your game a winning simulation and MÄK can help. The odds will always be in your favor.

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Why simulate? Because you can learn and gain insight into problems that are too difficult, expensive, or risky to explore any other way. In the case of unmanned vehicle systems (UVS), there has never been a better time to invest in simulation tools to help bring your UVS goals to life. Whether you want to demonstrate new vehicle concepts within a synthetic environment, prove and refine new Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), or provide a way for pilots, sensor/payload operators, and mission commanders to practice and analyze decision-making and communication processes, VT MÄK has the tools to make it happen.

MÄK is proud to help system integrators experiment and research entire UAS environments from the ground up - from ground control stations, to the unmanned vehicle, to sensors on the UAV, and to the human-in-the-loop. VR-Forces, MÄK’s scenario generation software, models everything going on in the (virtual) world and provides an intuitive 2D/3D user interface to create dynamic, interactive scenarios for military and civilian applications. With VR-Forces, you can build scenarios to include both the sensor platforms and the target entities and their semi-automated interactions. Experience the view from your virtual unmanned vehicle by attaching simulated electro-optic (EO), infrared (IR), night vision (NVG) sensors to VR-Forces sensor platforms.

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During live missions, soldiers and marines interact with the rich complexity of human behavior. Fellow blue forces and command structures behave, or at least are supposed to behave, according to doctrine. Civilians are busy going about their business, which can be as simple as hanging around, or as complex as searching for and gathering with friends, avoiding traffic, playing games, shopping, or engaging in religious or civic causes. Opposing forces may also be following doctrine or, all too often these days, be very unorthodox in their behavior. It’s hard to tell the normal, peaceful activities from the malicious ones. 

Here’s a suggestion on how to model such a complex environment "“ use artificial intelligence (AI) for the simulated entities, then group them together and add AI to the groups. There, we made it sound easy. But seriously, The U.S. Marine Corps Tactical Operations Group (MCTOG) had exactly this issue. They needed to train captains to learn their role as commanders through realistic search, patrol, and intelligence gathering exercises. And to do that they needed a way to model a complex network of human behavior. Working together with our DI-Guy team, we developed a new level of interactive scenario generation capability. We call it Enhanced Company Operation Simulation, ECO Sim for short.

ECO Sim builds upon DI-Guy AI, which provides "Lua-brains" to individual characters, by applying Lua intelligence to collections of characters to form sophisticated human networks. Opposing forces intent on deploying improvised explosive devices (IED) are modeled with financiers, bomb makers, safe houses, leaders, and emplacers. These IED networks operate within a larger backdrop of ambient civilian behavioral patterns of life: farmers in fields, children attending school, families going to marketplaces, and religious services.

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Imagine that you are responsible for modernizing a large and complex simulation system; you must bring its training capabilities up-to-date and leverage new technological innovations. Do you think it’s possible to manage this transformation while maintaining interoperability with existing systems? It’s entirely possible "“ and it’s been done with MÄK.

When the US Air Force needed to modernize their Air Warfare Simulation (AWSIM) system, they needed to improve interoperability among their own applications and maintain interoperability with the broader joint forces’ war gaming systems. They chose HLA Evolved as the interoperability architecture in part because of its more flexible approach to managing federation object model (FOM) extensions. HLA Evolved enables federation designers to agree on the common core of a FOM for broad interoperability, and use FOM modules to address specific communication needs within the Air Force systems. (continued...)

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To ensure successful training of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), the simulation scenario must be believable; to deliver that training scenario to many students, it must be repeatable. To be believable, the scenario needs accurate background activity to clutter the scene and make it difficult to identify and track the suspected high valued individual (HVI). The HVI needs to have subtle behavioral clues that expose the HVI. To be reproducible, the HVI must perform his predetermined task regardless of what the background entities are doing - any unpredictable actions lead to inconsistencies that detract from the training. (continued...)

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If you stopped by the MÄK booth at I/ITSEC 2013, it’s likely that you walked away with some bright red stress balls, one-of-a-kind red and white chocolate mints, and ideas about how MÄK can be your partner in all things simulation. This is because we’ve refreshed our branding to focus on our core technologies.

We had a great time at the show this year and a successful week of demonstrating our re-energized simulation behaviors, amped up visualization capabilities, interactive training system demo, and our low-overhead command staff trainer. And we were happy to showcase all of these incredible demos in our brand new booth. (continued...)

booth-front

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In case you missed it, here’s a recent customer win highlighting the Air Force’s choice to go with MÄK’s interoperability tools - enjoy!

The US Air Force chose several MÄK interoperability products for the Air Force Modeling and Simulation Training Toolkit (AFMSTT) program, including the new MÄK WebLVC Server, VR-Exchange, and MÄK Data Logger.

Based on the Air Force’s Air Warfare Simulation (AWSIM) model, the AFMSTT system enables training of senior commanders and staff for joint air warfare and operations. MÄK’s tools will be used to help migrate the AFMSTT system to a service-oriented architecture based on High Level Architecture (HLA) interoperability and web technologies. The program uses MÄK’s WebLVC Server to help monitor, control, and interact with core AWSIM and AFMSTT components through lightweight, thin clients running in a browser.

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We’re here at the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) annual conference in Washington D.C. with transportation professionals from around the world; we’ve seen members of federal, state, and local governments, along with plenty of researchers from universities.

In this exposition of very robust and specific traffic simulations, MÄK’s web-based traffic simulation, TurboTraffic, is making quite a splash. The ability to quickly define traffic flows on the road network (provided in the cloud from OpenStreetMap), assign a volume of traffic, and then immediately see cars flowing into intersections is causing people to think of new applications. This "quick sketch" style lets non-experts create traffic where they previously would have hired a traffic consultant or simply gone without.

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Recently the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2012 Air show was held in the South African Waterkloof Air Force Base in Centurion City of Tshwane, South Africa. The Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), a MAK customer, exhibited and presented VR-Vantage and the Hawaiian database provided by VR-TheWorld Server as part of their helicopter simulator in the CSIR booth exhibits.

Steve Haselum, CSIR, Systems Engineering Manager, commented on the event: "Back in the office now but after a successful Africa Aerospace and Defence 2012. The helicopter simulator system was certainly a crowd puller...there was quite a lot of interest in both the visual and database."

The helicopter visual system was spanning across three 65 LCD Panels providing a 150 degree field of view display. General exhibitor and visitor responses were"¦"the visuals and Hawaiian database looked really good."

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Help spread the word about modeling and simulation!

 
As co-chair of the National Modeling and Simulation Coalition (NMSC) Communications, Outreach and Public Affairs Committee I’d like to invite you all to attend the business meeting being held at VMASC in Suffolk, VA on Wednesday 26th September. The meeting is being held as part of the NTSA M&S Multi-Con(continued...)
 
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This week, MÄK is in sunny Las Vegas for the AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2012 show. Sitting in the middle of one of the largest unmanned vehicle trade shows is a like sitting on the set of Wall-E, but with more robots. We’re showing our simulated video solutions and how we can support experimentation and training for these systems. We teamed up with DiSTI this week to develop a ground control station that interacts with the simulation, controls the UAV, and receives data streams from the simulated UAV over MISB standards compliant protocols just like a real UAV would. 

If you’re looking for a winning bet, come by the VT MÄK booth (#2911) and see how we can help you produce reliable training and experimentation platforms for your unmanned systems.

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Esri, the biggest player in the Geographic Information System market, held its international users conference last week in San Diego. As usual, it was a very impressive event.

Many of us in the Modeling, Simulation & Training industries use, or have used, Esri’s ArcGIS tools to prepare geographic information for use as source data in our terrain database generation workflows. Well, this year Esri stepped into the 3D site model generation business by acquiring Procedural and their City Engine technology for building 3D urban environments.  Those of you who know me, know I’ve been a proponent of procedural terrain generation for years, I even authored an I/ITSEC paper on the subject in 2004.   So, on the flight to San Diego, I took the opportunity to give City Engine a try.

I found the design approach to be just what you expect from a procedural tool: fast and creative. The product comes with several sample projects that let you experience the scope of the rule-driven approach. After playing with the sample projects for a while, I felt like I understood the approach and wanted to try it out with my own data. So, I loaded a shapefile of road centerlines and was pleased to find that it automatically found all my intersections, buffered the road, created sidewalks, blocks between the roads, and lots within the blocks. All this because of default rules. I then tweaked the parameters to make lots the sizes I wanted and I’m off. There’s lots more gems to be found in the rules they have set up in the sample projects.

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The next major release of VR-Vantage (1.5 coming out Q3 2012) will let users visualize radio communications. Users of VR-Vantage Stealth, VR-Vantage PVD and VR-Vantage XR (and eventually VR-Forces and SimMetrics) can tell who’s sending radio messages by their“Squawks”. You’ll also be able to see who they’re communicating with via &ldquoRadio Communication Lines”. 

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You have to hand it to Singapore. They sure do know how to put on an Air Show. There’s nothing like holding a pleasant conversation with customers or colleagues only to be interrupted by the roar of an F15 jet passing right in front of the door then ascending like a rocket straight into the clouds. Very impressive. 

MÄK is presenting in two locations at the Singapore Airshow. Our COTS products are on display at the TME Systems booth and our Battle Lab (a.k.a. ISR Lab) is in the Ideas section of the ST Engineering booth. 

The Battle Lab is getting a lot of attention. Some are attracted by the analysis graphics shown in the AGI SimMetrics display and others by the Simulated Video streaming from the UAV’s sensor IG through the comms model to the Ground Control Station. 

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Having released VR-Vantage 1.4 it’s time to move on to the next version. We showed several technology demonstations at IITSEC this year and we are in the process of productizing them for VR-Vanatage 1.5. 

Effects based sensors let users visualize NVG, FLIR and other sensor views without materially classifying data. While these sensor visualizations are not physically accurate, they are pretty good and since they don’t require any changes to models or databases they are super easy to use. They still utilize JRM’s world class technology for sensor visualization, just without the high fidelity physics based stuff (which can be enabled via a drop-in add-on module).

Video streaming is also being added. You can stream simulated video from a VR-Vantage channel to a client application in real time. This is usefull for applications like UAS ground operator stations where the simulated video is streamed from the UAS to the operator station.

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It’s great to be back at I/ITSEC for another year"”seeing those familiar faces, a few that I haven’t seen in over 10 years, is a wonderful thing that makes being here a fun and special time.

As far as what’s happening on the show floor, I’ve seen some really innovative visual technologies around. Something that I’m sure fellow MÄK bloggers have commented on is how well our streaming terrain is being received. It seems like every time I turn around there’s a new crowd asking for a terrain demo.  I haven’t seen anything yet that is comparable to our streaming terrain"¦perhaps this explains our popularity.

Last night was a fun night for MÄK as well: instead of putting on the ChowdahFest as we do every year, MÄK decided to put on a series of events - the MÄK Fest. Last night’s event included lots of fun at “Howl at the Moon”, a renowned dueling piano bar in Orlando. It was fun to see all of our MÄK staff, customers, and I/ITSEC friends hanging out, wearing cowboy hats (the funny hat trend continues), and having a great time.  I’m looking forward to seeing fireworks tonight at Epcot and doing some karaoke tomorrow night at Orlando CityWalk! Fun times ahead.

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Well, folks, it’s here again. That long awaited and long prepared for season that comes only once a year: I/ITSEC season. MÄK is busy building and preparing our booth for the show, which starts this Monday at 2:00 pm sharp.

If you’re planning to attend the tradeshow, we invite you to stop by our booth (#2549) and introduce yourself! We’d love to meet you and answer any questions you may have about our product capabilities or customer-oriented solutions. If you can’t make it to the show, we hope you’ll follow our blog. We plan on posting several entries a day about the happenings at I/ITSEC, all written by our attending MÄK staff.

Whether you’re here in Orlando or joining us virtually on the blog, we look forward to sharing our I/ITSEC experience with you!

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I recently attended the Fall 2011 Simulation Interoperability Workshop in Orlando (with Aaron Dubois -- check out his account of SIW here), which I have been attending since 1990 or so. One of the focus areas for this meeting was the NASA Smackdown, which is a lunar lander and rover simulation event that took place at the Spring 2011 SIW and will again be shown at the Spring 2012 SIW. It is organized by NASA with participation from a dozen colleges and universities around the world. A few more universities plan to attend next year, including Arizona State University. We are providing the RTI and technical support for this event again next year. It is really a great way for future engineers and scientists get familiar with distributed simulation and MÄK is pleased to continue to support it. I also spent some time in the MSDL and CBML product development group meetings. Phase II of MSDL is getting started and the CBML group is just finishing up their Trial Use period for Phase I. We are keeping our eye on these developing standards and may support them in future product versions. If you are at all interested in using these standards in MÄK products, please let us know.

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This week MÄK is presenting at the Air Traffic Control Association Conference Exhibition in National Harbor (across the river from Washington DC)

We’re demonstrating the simulation technologies that are helping our customers at the FAA Tech Center study system concepts to improve pilot’s abilities to make decisions in bad weather.

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By Aaron DuBois - The MAK RTI version 4.0 was released on the same day that IEEE officially released the IEEE 1516-2010 standard, otherwise known as HLA Evolved. We were very excited to be able to fully support the new version of HLA from the very first day the standard was out. The down side, however, is that we did all of our development for RTI 4.0 before the standard was finalized, and even at the very end there were minor tweaks happening. Unfortunately we failed to capture the very last change made to the C++ API. As a result, versions 4.0-4.0.3 of the MAK RTI were built against a nearly-final version of the C++ headers, which means that those versions are not quite compatible with the final version of the specification. The new release of RTI 4.0.4 fixes this, and is now built against the final version of the header files.

The final change that was not included in the previous RTI versions was related to a defect in one of the final draft versions of the specification. We actually wrote about this defect in a previous blog post. The problem was with the createFederationExecution RTIambassador methods. There were three variations of this method, each with different input parameters. Some of these parameters contained default values, and as a result there was an ambiguity between two of the variations. We mistakenly thought that there hadn’t been time to get a fix for this ambiguity into the spec, but apparently it did make it in after all. The third variation was renamed to createFederationExecutionWithMIM.

So what does this mean? If you are an RTI customer, but are currently using HLA 1.3 or 1516-2000, this doesn’t affect you at all. The new version of the RTI contains a few bug fixes, so you may want to upgrade anyway, but the HLA Evolved API change won’t be a problem unless you decide to move to the new standard. If you are using HLA Evolved, however, we strongly recommend that you upgrade to the new release and recompile your federate against the new header files. If you were using the third variation of createFederationExecution you will also need to edit your code to use the renamed method. Otherwise, no code changes are necessary. Once you recompile your federate, it will then be truly compatible with the final version of the HLA Evolved specification.

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