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Dan Brockway

Dan Brockway

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Modeling, Simulation & Training systems have been interoperating in local and wide area networks long before there even was an ‘Internet’ - it's safe to say that we’re no strangers to complex information technology (IT) architectures. That said, the commercial world of IT has exploded over the years. We've already taken a deep dive into the pulse of modern IT in our MAK ONE Guide to Virtualization, and we've illustrated how MAK products are designed to play to the advantages of servers, virtualization, and public/private clouds. Today I'd like to share a few learnings from our cloud deployments on AWS (Amazon Web Services) and our private cloud to demonstrate the world of opportunities available with MAK ONE. Our heads are already in the cloud - join us!

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A great visual scene is a key aspect of virtual training systems. They provide the geographic context for the simulation and immerse the trainees in a virtual world where they can play out their training objectives.

Virtual training systems come in many shapes and sizes depending on the tasks being trained and the fidelity requirements. This blog outlines several architectures for integrating the visual sub-system into the training system architecture. Keep reading...

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This blog focuses on the benefits of using highly accurate and immersive training environments "” a critical part of making any simulation a success.

At I/ITSEC 2014, we demonstrated our new VR-Vantage IG image generation capabilities by building five first-person player stations "“ each representing a different type of player. One of these stations was a Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) player where we collaborated with Simthetiq for the terrain database, CM Labs for the vehicle physics, and with MÄK’s own DI-Guy human Character simulation to populate the environment. 

Typically when building a competitive simulation solution, the biggest proportion of investment is on the hardware and software at the detriment of the visual database. Everyone agrees that the IG features and hardware performance are vital for any virtual training exercise "“ but all that action happens in the context of the virtual terrain. A poor visual database will make any investment much less effective. Simthetiq specializes in building cost-effective, immersive training environments that reach the new level of realism wanted by today`s demanding customers.

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Instead of highlighting just one outstanding member of MÄK, we wanted to point out several MÄKers who have proven to be true MÄK stars.

IITSEC_2014_5k_finishline

From right to left, our stars include Pete Swan, Bob Holcomb, Jean Giglio, Deb Fullford, Danny Williams, Alessandro Raiteri, and Iván Andrés Díaz López.

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Our first virtual symposium was a success! We discussed current web & mobile trends happening in the Modeling & Simulation community and the challenges that lie ahead. To get a rundown on the specifics, check out our results.

Don’t worry if you missed it - we are continuing the conversation! Join us on November 5th at 12 pm EST for the Web & Mobile Virtual Symposium II. This time, we’re looking for three people to share their web & mobile use case with the group. If you’re interested, leave a comment below or head over to our landing page to get more info! Step up and help pave the way for widespread use of modern technology in M&S!

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We’ve been busy this year learning the how’s, what’s, and why’s behind web & mobile technology in the context of the Modeling & Simulation community. But we’re not finished - we want to open a conversation with you to hear your thoughts on how Web & Mobile technologies are affecting Modeling & Simulation.

On October 8, we’ll be hosting our very first Web & Mobile Virtual Symposium. What is a Virtual Symposium? Back in the day, the ancient Greeks hosted symposia to meet and discuss philosophy, politics, and matters of the heart. Back then, people had to physically attend the symposium to be face-to-face. On October 8th, we invite you to come virtually using Zoom "” a web-based video conferencing app.

We really want to meet face-to-face, so for this meeting you’ll have to have a video camera and access to the internet. I know that this is a challenge for many people in our industry, so we’ve scheduled the symposium for 12pm US Eastern time; we hope that you can take a break for lunch if you are on the East coast, go to work late if on the West coast, or join us after work if in Europe. If joining on your work laptop isn’t an option, consider downloading the Zoom App on your mobile phone and finding a quiet place outside your office to connect with us.

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MÄK provides the simulation technology and software architecture to build modern command staff training systems to teach decision-making and communication skills. 

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.

How the Command Staff Sees the World
The way the command staff interacts with the world is based on the information sources they have available and the systems they use to organize and distribute that information. This includes intelligence reports from a C2 system, surveillance video feeds, command interfaces, and personnel giving status and logistics reports, as well as the non-military side of intelligence, like news reports from TV or radio broadcasts. Commanders and their staff are constantly flooded with stimuli "” it is a complicated world to train in. Using simulation in command staff training requires simulation technology powerful enough to stimulate all those systems.

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We’re not the only people using WebLVC. SILKAN, a French integrator of leading-edge, simulation-based solutions used worldwide for the design, optimization, testing, operation, and maintenance of complex systems, with assistance from Antycip Simulation, is reaping the benefits of web technology too. At Eurosatory 2014, an international land defense exhibition, SILKAN used the MÄK WebLVC Server to demonstrate the next-generation mobile instructor station for armored vehicle training systems. SILKAN’s prototype offers instructors a user-friendly and flexible way to control and monitor simulation sessions, thus opening new ways to leverage training.

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What’s the difference between a dull, old model and a bright shiny, new model?

Turns out, it’s just texture maps. Oh yeah, and the VR-Vantage rendering engine. With VR-Vantage 1.6 all you have to do to get bumpy, shiny, and shady effects in your models is add normal, specular, and occlusion maps. That might sound pretty complicated. But really these are all textures that you can create with tools like Crazybump, Blender, and Photoshop.

Crazybump will take your texture map and guess what shape it is and then use that shape to generate (bake) specular, normal, and occlusion maps. But it’s just guessing. If you have a high-polygon count 3D model, then you can use tools like Blender to bake specular, normal, and occlusion maps from that model. And in Photoshop, you can paint specular maps by highlighting the shiny spots of your original texture.

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MÄK customers validate the benefits of Web & Mobile technology by using WebLVC to bring simulation activity into light-weight applications.

Many of our customers operate large and complex systems. Web & Mobile technology enables them to help their customers understand the depth and value of these systems. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to bring prospective customers into the facilities of existing customers just to show how systems work together to solve problems. Even building a simulated mock-up of a typical end-customer’s system, with feature-rich and complex interfaces, might be too overwhelming. Where does this leave most business development pitches? With a powerpoint presentation.

There’s a better way.

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Last month I made a Hunger Games movie reference to the "Gamemakers", likening them to the "gamemaker-like" instructors that large wargaming simulations use to keep the game moving. If you’re dealing with huge US Air Force simulations, for example, it isn’t practical to stop and restart the simulation if something goes wrong.

It turns out that this "gamemaking" concept works on small scales, too, if your scenario generation tools are agile enough. The U.S. Marine Corps Tactical Operations Group (MCTOG) is a great example. They use company-level simulations where "gamemakers" use DI-Guy ECOSim to keep the action relevant. During missions, the training support staff add or reduce complexity of the simulation environment based on the experience level of the Combat Operations Center Staff being trained. Easy-to-use simulation tools allow the Marines to personalize the training and optimize the training effectiveness.

Even with the tables turned to a small-scale simulation environment, the odds are still ever in your favor with MÄK.

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When we released VR-TheWorld, we weren’t sure if the defense M&S community was ready for open streaming terrain - distributed interactive simulation has such a strong dependence on correlation. So making a terrain database that runs in all the systems and meets all the requirements is a big job. Not all systems are capable of on-the-fly terrain creation from terrain servers, like VR-Forces and VR-Vantage.

Lately, we are beginning to see more and more use cases for streaming terrain servers in the early stages of large projects. By hosting the GIS data, the foundational data layers (elevation, features, imagery), on a streaming terrain server, project teams are able to start simulating immediately. They can use the terrain agile VR-Forces to plan and execute scenarios months before the terrain databases are even built.  And because VR-Forces and VR-Vantage are terrain agile, they can switch to using the static terrain databases when they are finally delivered. Customers are finding that some simulation tasks are started and finished on the open streaming terrain without the need for a static database build.

Our VizForFree promotion makes it even easier for your project to get the jump on your project timeline. VizForFree makes it possible for you to start sharing your terrain data today, regardless of which simulation platforms you will be supporting tomorrow. If you haven’t seen our VizForFree video yet, have a look. 

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