(This article was written for and posted originally on ST Engineering's AGIL Blog.)
In conjunction with Virtual I/ITSEC 2020, ST Engineering is exhibiting in MAK’s Virtual Showroom and hosting live sharing sessions of our iconic simulation training solutions – the Air Distributed Mission Trainer, Integrated Ship Bridge Simulator, and Driver Training Simulation System for the air, sea, and land domains.
MAK Technologies, a subsidiary of ST Engineering, has developed MAK ONE, an open and modular product suite that can be used in two ways; together to form an integrated training environment, or independently to provide networking, simulation, visualisation, and terrain components that fit into any simulation system architecture.
This article was originally written and posted for publication in ST Engineering's Agile Blog.
At the dawn of the new millennium, two of the biggest aircraft manufacturers were vying for a $200 billion contract to build America’s next-generation fighter jet – the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Air Force demanded a fighter jet that would be faster and more maneuverable, while the Navy needed a version with longer wings to land on its aircraft carriers. But among the biggest challenges was to build a third variation which would be a world-first – one that could land vertically on shortened runways for the Marine Corps.
MAK is a global company, based in Cambridge, MA and Orlando, FL, and supported on five continents by a diverse worldwide team of partners. No matter where you are in the world, or what language you speak, you’re never far from someone connected to MAK.
Greetings from Singapore!
We just wrapped up the 2014 Asian Reseller Conference with our partner DISTi. It was a great event and I want to acknowledge all of our partners and resellers for helping make MÄK products so successful. Events like this one really reinforce that! We had resellers join us in Singapore from all over the world, including South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Egypt, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia. We even had a special guest appearance from Russ Moulton of JRM Technologies, who presented the latest SensorFx developments.
With our recent addition of DI-Guy’s full product suite to the MÄK portfolio, there was a lot of interest in understanding all the products’ capabilities and markets. And now that WebLVC is making headway in the VisSim market, there was a great deal to demonstrate in that area as well. (Want a demo? I can make that happen.)
Thanks to all of those who came and made this event a real success. A big shout out of appreciation goes to Jeff Bail for making his technical sessions interesting and compelling and Chris Giordarno, VP of Sales and Business Development at DISTi, for his endless organizing efforts. (And for having the ability to hobble around on one foot.)
Simulation and training exercises are often developed in distinct phases: planning, execution, and analysis. The goal of the Window Layouts feature in VR-Forces is to make it easy to create the phase-appropriate interfaces and then switch between the layouts as an exercise progresses.
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 MAK 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.
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.
Here’s more about our Command Staff Training approach.
John Schlott has been in the simulation and training industry since 1992. He currently serves as MAK’s Vice President of Orlando Operations with overall responsibility for programs and business activities in our Orlando facility.
Varjo makes human-eye resolution virtual and mixed reality devices that help companies in the most demanding industries push the limits of what’s ever been possible. Our vision is clear: We’re revolutionizing reality with hardware and software that let professionals seamlessly merge virtual, mixed and traditional realities.
Update as of 1/27/2021: MAK Legion won the DisTec People's Choice Award! We are so grateful for your votes and can't wait to see how Legion disrupts technology!
We're proud that MAK has been shortlisted in ITEC's Disruptive Technology (DisTec) Challenge, a competition showcasing solutions that have the potential to disrupt training and simulation as we know it. Our submission highlights our next-generation scalability and communications framework, MAK Legion, to manage and deliver millions of entities. Take a look at our submission video on the DisTec Challenge site or check out the transcript of my interview below with Len Granowetter, MAK's CTO, as he outlines the how's, why's and, so what's about our new Legion technology. (And while you're learning about MAK Legion, vote for us to win the DisTec People's Choice Award!)
Dan: Len, tell us about the Legion Scalability framework. Is it a disruptive technology?
After 30 years in the modeling and simulation industry, we’ve made a name for ourselves as a trusted supplier of COTS simulation technology. For three decades, we’ve built an open, modular systems architecture that empowers our customers to choose which parts of the MAK ONE product line-up best fit their solution, in harmony with the other technology elements in their design.
MAK is now taking that same trusted, problem-solving approach into the development and delivery of training solutions.
To kick off the new year, we'd like to introduce you to Bill Kamer, MAK's simulation specialist on our Sales and Business Development team. Based in MAK’s Orlando office, he's the go-to subject matter expert for putting together specialized demos and training scenarios for specific customer needs, and he's responsible for the management of our new Integration, Test, and Demonstration lab in Orlando.
Bill brings experience from an impressive and honorable career. Bill served 23 years in the United States Army, and is a retired infantryman and Bradley Master Gunner with field experience from deployments all over the world. One of his proudest moments and biggest achievements was when he was awarded the Bronze Star for Bravery and Valor in Iraq. After his time in the Army, Bill spent 5 years at Raydon and 5 years at Kellogg's in business development and training roles. He is proud to now be part of the MAK team and chose to work with us because he is dedicated to helping soldiers train better. According to Bill, if we can help train for combat and save just one soldier's life, it's all worth it. We agree wholeheartedly. Keep reading...
I'm excited to introduce the latest innovative technology our team has been developing: MAK Legion — a next-generation scalability and communication framework that can manage and deliver millions of entities in both local and cloud deployment environments.
As you know, MAK has been a trusted and leading provider of simulation interoperability products since our inception 30 years ago. But about two years ago, we asked ourselves an important question, inspired by the needs of the US Army Synthetic Training Environment program: "If we had the chance to re-design DIS or HLA today — to meet tomorrow's most aggressive scalability requirements, and to better leverage modern technology such as multi-core machines, high-bandwidth networks, massively-multiplayer gaming paradigms, and cloud services — what would it look like?" Legion represents the answer to that question.
Legion's modern data-oriented implementation, client-server approach to mirroring of state, whole-earth geographic interest management, thread-safe API, simplified ownership transfer, reuse of SISO Enumerations and DIS/RPR data types, and powerful code-generation tools all contribute to Legion's ability to make large numbers of entities easy to manage from any engine or application.
2020 transformed us. The way we did business came to a halt, and we were all forced to navigate a world under lockdown – we experienced an immediate shift to all things virtual, and there was a steep learning curve. (See below for a roundup of our articles that outline our approach to make virtual events and meetings more engaging, more personal, and more human.)
This year, we’re taking advantage of our lessons learned to bring you a richer, better MAK experience. We’ve heard from many customers and friends that they’re ready to re-engage personally with us - we are excited for this, though we understand that the definition of “personal” will be unique to every company. As we expect to see the world start to emerge from complete lockdowns, we are modulating our approach to meetings so that we can connect more deeply and personally with you where you are, both physically and virtually, through a hybrid seminar session approach.
Here’s how it works...
I/ITSEC season is upon us! It's that time of year when, usually, most of us in the Modeling and Simulation industry would be getting ready to head down to Orlando to network, meet with old friends, and explore the latest innovations at the largest modeling, simulation, and training event in the world.
This year is obviously very different since everything has gone virtual, but we're excited about vIITSEC and can't wait to connect with you - face-to-face - this I/ITSEC season! Whatever your goals for the week, the MAK team has you covered and we plan to be right by your side. Here's an easy flowchart to help you plan your week of vIITSEC...
I/ITSEC is that time of year when we all expect to come together, talk shop, do business, learn about trends in technology, and catch up as a community. Although we can’t come together in person this year, the whole MAK team is still looking forward to connecting face-to-face with you and celebrating the I/ITSEC season together. Just like in years past, you’ll have access to more than 30 MAK people - technical experts, business development specialists, and the MAK leadership team – who can’t wait to reconnect.
We’re all entering into the 8th month of our new pandemic-reality. It’s tedious, it’s different, it’s changed how everyone does business — and who knows when the world will get back to normal. Dan Brockway, MAK’s VP of Marketing and my colleague, recently wrote a LinkedIn article about how, since the pandemic started, our shift to all-virtual everything has created a sense of “virtual event fatigue”. I get it, and I feel it, and... well, I agree with Dan that we can do better. But what does doing better *actually* look like?
We are excited to officially announce that MAK Technologies (MAK), a company of ST Engineering North America, is now a reseller for Varjo, the leader in industrial-grade virtual reality/extended reality (VR/XR) headsets. This collaboration will see Varjo head-mounted displays (HMDs) offered as an extension of MAK’s suite of products to its North American customers seeking the highest-fidelity training and simulation solutions. Download the full press release through our News site.
VR-Forces and VR-Vantage customers often want to add additional features to the terrains provided by MAK or want to understand how to add features to the terrains that they have developed. One type of feature that is often requested is fencing, for example around an aerodrome.
Recording streaming video from VR-Vantage with the MAK Data Logger is quick and easy. Here are some tips for getting the best video quality out of your recordings.
Resize the VR-Vantage Window
Cloud architecture is becoming an increasingly viable and effective strategy for the Modeling and Simulation world. To help our customers get connected we’ve introduced our own on-premises cloud in Cambridge, called MAK ONE EASY. (To get a closer look at our cloud approach, check out the article from our September newsletter, “Head in the Clouds: Learnings from Deploying MAK ONE in the Cloud” by Dan Brockway.)
MAK ONE EASY can be used by up to nine customers at any time to access and evaluate MAK ONE products. It’s a simple process to set up, and you’ll have on-demand remote access to simulation tools from the comfort of your own home.
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!
Recently MAK, along with our long term reseller KCEI, hosted the 5th annual Modeling and Simulation Seminar in Daejeon, South Korea.
When VR-Forces added ‘scenario events’ back in release 4.3, the intent was to support a Master Scenario Events List (MSEL). In operations-based or discussion-based exercises, a MSEL provides a timeline and location for expected exercise events and injects -- actions that push the scenario forward.
One of the features of VR-Forces Lua scripting that makes it so easy to create useful tasks and sets is automatic generation of dialog boxes. This feature makes it so easy to create dialog boxes that our developers often use it to create the dialog boxes for new C++ tasks, instead of using the Qt API. (VT MAK uses Qt, a cross-platform API to create the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for its products.) Unfortunately, other than providing some support for indenting, the automatically generated dialog boxes are very generic in their layout. Prior to VR-Forces 4.6, if you wanted a dialog box that supported the user with a UI design that was more than utilitarian, you were out of luck. However, in VR-Forces 4.6 we added the ability to use Qt Designer to create custom dialog boxes for Lua scripted tasks and sets.
The MAK RTI has many configuration parameters that control how it connects federates to federations and how it implements the various RTI services. You can use these parameters to tune the performance of your federates and federations. In MAK RTI 4.4.2 and previous releases, these parameters were set in the following ways:
The Windows versions of MAK products are built using the Microsoft Visual C++ (MSVC++) compiler. Because application and library compatibility is usually broken between different versions of the compiler, applications that interoperate must be built using compatible compilers. To help customers choose the correct version of an application to install, each MAK application installer includes the compiler version it was built with in the installer filename. Additionally, the About box for each application includes the compiler used to build it.
When you are creating a scenario in VR-Forces, you usually have complete access to all of the simulation objects in a simulation model set (SMS) and can create as many as you want. However, in the real world, commanders do not have unlimited resources. They are constrained by their Order of Battle (OOB), which specifies the men and material available in a hierarchical structure. VR-Forces now supports the creation of OOBs. You create an Order of Battle in the context of a scenario. However, once you create an OOB, you can export it and then import it into other scenarios. This lets you quickly create new scenarios that use the same OOB for training or scenario development.
Last week MAK held a Modeling and Simulation seminar in Bogota, Colombia.
Many of the web sites that most of us read regularly are not composed of static pages. They pull content from a variety of sources to customize the pages for the reader. You might see the same news article show up on the sites for multiple different news outlets. This is called content reuse. The goal is to get maximum use out of each content component. Similarly, VR-Forces supports many strategies for reusing scenario components. Using the same terrains for many different scenarios is an obvious case, but for this tech tip we will focus on ways to reuse scenario content – simulation objects and tactical graphics.
Simulation objects in VR-Forces have many state properties, such as speed, heading, altitude, force, and so on. You can set many of these properties using set data requests. In past releases, if you wanted to add a new type of state property, you had to use the VR-Forces Toolkit to write a plug-in or update the application. VR-Forces 4.6 lets you add new state properties without writing code.
We are happy to introduce California and Emerald City (Seattle), two new terrains that come free with VR-Forces 4.6 and are available via our VR-The World online server.
With VR-Forces, we’re always looking for ways to create scenarios that more accurately represent the experience of battle and give instructors as many real-world features for training as possible. In VR-Forces 4.6, we take a step forward in our capacity to simulate electronic warfare, with improved radar system and jammer functions:
During the time between VR-Forces releases, as we work with development versions that have all the new features, we get used to the usability improvements that we’ve added. When we have to go back and use a prior release, the usual reaction to the old version of whatever function has been updated is, “Darn, the old way of doing things is so annoying (by comparison)!”
One of the new usability features in VR-Forces 4.6 is a revision to filtering the object creation palettes. In VR-Forces 4.5 and prior releases, you could filter the object list by selecting the force and category in drop-down lists. Lists are OK if there aren’t too many options, but if you have to scroll, they can be annoying. And even short lists take longer to use than icon bars. In VR-Forces 4.6 we have replaced the drop-down lists with quickly accessible icons.
Pilots rely on visual inputs the most to orient themselves in flight. Because vision is so important, night flying can introduce new challenges – limited eyesight, night illusions and light blindness. To combat these issues, pilots train to use a consistent, regulated set of lights (to indicate approach, threshold, etc) to help guide them through darkness, identify where they are, and assess how fast they are moving.
Hola a todos
Last week, Steve and I represented VT MAK at the Expodefensa 2017 event in Bogota. The event allowed us to share with different visitors from the Army, Navy and Air Force from the Colombian Military Forces and other countries.
Although there are many criteria for evaluating and comparing RTI implementations, one of the most important is performance. Choosing an RTI that maximizes throughput and minimizes latency, bandwidth, and CPU usage can mean the difference between success and failure for an HLA simulation program.
Performance, however, is a difficult thing to quantify. There is not just one number that defines an RTI. There are many types of HLA exercises with wildly varying requirements. High performance on one exercise does not necessarily mean high performance on a different exercise. How many federates are you using? How many updates per second? Are you using a WAN configuration? Are you using any of the services such as DDM or time management? Are you using a Java or a C++ federate? Are you using HLA 1.3 or HLA Evolved?
The answer to all of these questions can have significant effects on performance. In order to provide the flexibility that meets the needs of most users, an RTl’s configuration options must be robust. It should support the needs of most users out of the box. It must also provide the ability to reconfigure performance capabilities for the exceptional cases, if necessary.
A common question from people who are new to VR-Forces:“How easy is it to create new scenarios in VR-Forces?” It’s a good question to ask when you are evaluating CGFs. The answer is always: &ldquoIt depends.”
There are obviously some very complicated scenarios you could dream up that would make scripting them quite complicated and difficult. That said, most scenarios are very easy to script. At the end of this post, you’ll watch a scenario with a helicopter flying over some mountains - I whipped this one up in about three minutes. It runs a bit faster than real time, so you can enjoy it in about one minute or so.
After I create the scenario, I slow it down, play it, and show some of the new 3D/2D integrations that are making VR-Forces 4.0 so popular. As a bonus, I also demonstrate a new feature coming to VR-Forces 4.0.4 in June. We’ve overhauled our machine gun model and added chain guns to helicopters and other vehicle types, which is something customers have been asking about for a long time.
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.
While we don’t have firm dates picked for supporting Windows MSVC10 with all MAK products we are planning to roll out support for this new compiler across our product line throughout the year. Today I wanted to provide some details about our thinking, as well as describe how we want to handle the notorious issue regarding SCL and HID compiler flags
We've just launched RadarFX, our new Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) simulation and visualization product! We built it in conjunction with our partner, JRM Technologies.
In the real world, a SAR sensor is typically attached to an aircraft or satellite. A SAR system generates photograph-like still images of a target area by combining radar return data collected from multiple antenna locations along a path of flight. Requests from users on the ground define the target area to be scanned, and other parameters used to generate and return the image.
We are almost ready to release our beta version of VR-Link for Unity - an HLA/DIS Interoperability module for the Unity Engine! The official 1.0 release is scheduled for late February. Meanwhile, you can see a quick demo video here.
On the right, you’ll see a helicopter flying a route in VR-Forces. And on the left, you’ll see that same helicopter being reflected in real-time into a Unity-based sample application - over HLA through the new VR-Link for Unity asset. For this demo, we used Unity’s well-known "bootcamp" sample terrain, which we also loaded into VR-Forces by exporting it as a height field and image. And through VR-Link for Unity’s model-mapping GUI, we mapped the HLA entity type to a pre-existing Unity helicopter asset.
This is part 5 in my series of blog posts on RTI RID configuration tips. Check out the previous posts in this series, and stay tuned for more to come.
Part 1: RID Consistency Checking
Part 2: The Advantages of MTL
This is part 3 in my series of blog posts on RTI RID configuration tips. Each of these tips, unless otherwise noted, works in HLA 1.3, HLA 1516-2000, or HLA Evolved. Check out the previous posts in this series, and stay tuned for more to come.
This is part 4 in my series of blog posts on RTI RID configuration tips. Each of these tips, unless otherwise noted, works in HLA 1.3, HLA 1516-2000, or HLA Evolved. Check out the previous posts in this series, and stay tuned for more to come.
Part 1: RID Consistency Checking
This is the 6th and final part in my series of blog posts on RTI RID configuration tips. Each of these tips, unless otherwise noted, works in HLA 1.3, HLA 1516-2000, or HLA Evolved. If you’re interested in learning how to make better use of your RID file, check out the previous posts in this series as well.
Part 1: RID Consistency Checking
By Brett Wiesner - We know we needed to get a linux build of VR-Vantage out to customers ASAP but we felt like sneaking in a few more features along the way was a good idea. We will release VR-Vantage 1.3.1 around the end of July with support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and also some great new capabilities like zoom and terrain scaling.
With zoom, you can magnify the view and see things that are far away without changing the observers location. This is useful for UAV sensor applications, ground based binocular views or even periscopes!
Terrain Scaling is a VR-Vantage XR capability that allows you to exaggerate the height of the terrain in order to get a different perspective of the situation. Don’t know which path is an easier climb or drive? Or maybe you want a clearer picture of the relationship between aircraft and the terrain? Exaggerate the slope with terrain scaling and you’ll find out easily!
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.
One major advantage of the MÄK RTI is its ability to turn HLA services on and off. If you are not using DDM, for example, you can have the RTI turn that feature off to get a performance increase.
Two things need to be noted when using this feature. First, even with all services turned on, the MÄK RTI is very fast. The test federate could still send over 120 thousand updates per second. That is much more than every simulator that we know of, so users really should not fear leaving all services on. Second, every service has its own overhead cost, as is shown in the following chart:
Last week you read all about setting up buffers in VR-Vantage to best suit streaming video. This week I’ll talk about configuring VLC to receive video streams with low latency.
VLC is a commonly used application to show received network video streams out of Vantage and is used often in testing. (You can get VLC from their www.videolan.org/.) The default settings for viewing network streams in VLC includes quite a bit of buffering to make sure the video plays smoothly. Sometimes you want to see the video with as little latency as possible, which will require changing a few settings.
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.
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.
On a quick walk around the show floor here at ITEC 2012 in London, I was excited to see the number of partners and other product vendors demonstrating new integrations between their products and ours:
1) Antycip Simulation is demonstrating a new dynamic ocean visualization plug-in to VR-Vantage, based on their MyOcean3D technology. This plug-in generates realistic-looking waves by using fast-fourier-transform techniques to generate a dynamic height field, encoding the height field in a texture, and passing the texture to custom shader code running on the GPU. The shader supports vertex displacement both vertically (for crests and troughs) and horizontally (for curling and breaking wave tips). In the demonstration, a ship simulated by VR-Forces bobs and rocks realistically on the waves. This is accomplished through a dynamic form of“ocean clamping&rdquo, where a simple physics model is run in VR-Vantage to offset the ground-truth positions and orientations published over HLA by VR-Forces. The MyOcean3D plug-in to VR-Vantage is already in use at one customer site, and we are interested in hearing whether you’d like to see this become part of the standard product offering.
2) Discovery Machine is demonstrating a brand new integration between their Knowledge Service Modeler AI software, and our VR-Forces CGF. With the Knowledge Service Modeler, users can construct strategies in a graphical language that is: accessible to a wide range of users; hierarchical in nature; object-oriented; fully reflective; and easily integrated into existing systems. In their demonstration, Discovery Machine is showing how users can quickly build complex and high-level behaviors in their editor, and immediately assign those behaviors to VR-Forces entities in an interactive simulation environment.
We are pleased to announce the release of MÄK RTI 4.4, a major feature release that significantly improves performance, as well as adds several new features.
While MÄK has always focused on performance with our RTI, over the last year we doubled our efforts. Version 4.4 is the second major release with significant improvements in performance. For this release, we have overhauled the message sending and receiving process to dramatically reduce the time to process incoming messages from the network while significantly lowering CPU processing time. Additionally, we have separated the sending and receiving of messages into separate threads so that performance will not be affected when either one of these is heavily taxed. To better understand what makes the MÄK RTI the fastest RTI on the market please read this.
We didn’t stop with performance: you can now use the MÄK RTI with FOM Modules in Lightweight Mode and international customers can now easily translate the text found in the RTI assistant to target the local language.
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.
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.
MÄK has been a leader in interoperability for a long time. We have an industry-leading RTI, the MÄK RTI and DIS/HLA interoperability library, VR-Link. MÄK is excited to add to our interoperability success with the new MÄK FOM Editor. The MAK FOM Editor is a free, web-based application where customers can build and manage their own FOMs (Federate Object Model).
(If you’re too excited to keep reading, you can get right to work by going here.)
For those of you who want to learn a bit more before you start typing, this is the first of several blogs that will discuss the tool and some of the rationale behind it.
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!
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!
If you’re just joining us in this 5 part blog series, welcome! Check out the previous few blogs describing the goal of this series, Latency benchmark info, Throughput benchmark info, and HLA Services benchmark info.
In addition to turning services on and off as noted in my last blog, the MÄK RTI provides a few ways to reduce the traffic in the network. The two most commonly used methods to do this are bundling and compression. The ideal value to set both of these features varies by the type of simulation being done. Thus it is best to understand their effects on traffic to use effectively. The following graph shows the effects of bundling on network throughput:
The above graph shows our test application with message bundling turned on and off. For this test, the bundling was set at the default 1400 bytes, or just a little under the UDP packet maximum. We also show bundling at 5,000 bytes for comparison. A cursory look at the graph will show a significant speed improvement on small message counts. The improvements then start decreasing until you actually get a small penalty under medium message counts. Once messages become bigger than the bundle value, bundling stops occurring and the performance results are the same as not bundling at all.
By Brett Wiesner - Recently I gave a presentation at IMAGE 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona and at an NDIA meeting in Fairfax, Virginia on the benefits of Open Streaming Terrain (OST). I thought I’d share just a brief synopsis of that here.
Terrain databases are an important part of any simulation and there are four main approaches for building terrain databases. You have hand modeled terrains that are built by artists and 3D modelers. There are tool generated terrain databases that are built by terrain generation tools. You have direct from source terrains that are constructed on the fly from source data in the client application. And finally you have streaming terrain, where content is streamed from a sever to a client directly. Each of these terrain approaches has its advantages and drawbacks.
Open Streaming Terrain (OST) is a kind of streaming terrain, where the data (elevation, imagery and feature data like roads and building footprints) is streamed from a server to a client using open standards. It’s the open standards thing that’s the important part. See, by using WMS, WFS, TMS or any of the open standards looked after by an open governing body like the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) or Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) you can build an application that“talks” to other compliant applications and can take advantage of petabytes of free (or fee) source data thats out there on the internet right now.
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.
I’m heading out today to the Fall SIW Conference in Orlando - the semi-annual Simulation Interoperability Workshop hosted by SISO (www.sisostds.org). As usual, MAK is participating in many ways:
MÄK knows that the expense of developing and operating simulation environments is high, but we’re committed to reducing that cost.
I’m excited to announce our Q4 limited time promotional offer! We want you to take advantage of our innovative web and mobile technologies alongside our streaming terrain server, saving you time and money immediately.
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.
DIS 7 brought a large number of improvements to the standard. Two of these improvements, however, stand out above the rest due to their flexibility in supporting all sorts of simulators and not just specific use cases. The first of this improvement is heartbeating for specific types of entities, which I covered in a past newsletter, so let’s move on to the second major general improvement: extensibility.
The Attribute PDU is a new type of message in DIS that works much differently than other PDUs. This PDU is not meant to be used alone and it contains extra information about an existing PDU. For example, say you want to add new parameters to your entities. You can now create an attribute PDU with those parameters and bundle it with your standard entity message. The DIS 7 standard also comes with tens of new record types for all sorts of new data.
Unfortunately, the actual implementation of Attribute PDUs is very confusing. You can attach this PDU at the end of an existing message for one type of effect. You can also send it separately with an identifier. Or you can even send an attribute PDU that affects multiple PDUs by itself. In order to be compliant with DIS 7, all three options need to be managed. Luckily, we do that for you. All you have to do is fill out your data and add it to your object.
Here's are a few snippets of Brooklyn viewed in VR-Forces 4.5!
Brooklyn is a composite terrain consisting of the DI-Guy Stage 12 site model that has been well-positioned within a section of Brooklyn, New York terrain data from VR-TheWorld. The area surrounding the site is streamed from VR-TheWorld Server or from a disk cache installed with VR-Forces and VR-Vantage.
Take a walk through geotypical Brooklyn and enter buildings that have interiors built.
For more information on VR-Forces, check out the product page.
Intel offers several processors that are widely held to be some of the best CPU's around for PC gaming systems. They exist in a natural progression of both performance and price, but that doesn't mean the most expensive is necessarily the best choice. It's all about what you plan to do with your system and what your long and short term budgets are. For near term budgeting, consider the reasonable life expectancy of your next PC purchase before you will probably want to replace it. For casual gamers purchasing a top of the line machine, this could be 5+ years. On the other hand, casual gamers may find it just as satisfying and cheaper to purchase a middle of the line machine now and replace it with whatever is middle of the road 2-3 years down the line. Hardcore gamers may find themselves upgrading more often, and should budget accordingly.
So what's the best Intel gaming processor? Let's take a look at them:
Intel Core i3 - Intel's Mid Desktop Gaming CPUs
Welcome to the first topic of our multi-post series highlighting specifics about the performance of the MÄK RTI! We’ll start with the topic of Latency, or the amount of time it takes for data to reach its destination.
Much of the literature on distributed simulations indicates that latencies of up to 30-100 milliseconds are tolerable without losing the feeling of real-time interactivity. Even a 3D graphics-based application running at 60Hz has 16 milliseconds in which to compute and draw each frame, meaning that latencies of 5-10 milliseconds may not even effect the time at which a particular event is drawn. Meanwhile, typical latencies for the MÄK RTI are closer to 100 microseconds on our gigabit network " fast enough to meet the needs of even the most sensitive real-time simulations.
Latency Benchmark Info
We’re always looking to keep customers in position to take advantage of the latest technological releases, and that includes the latest graphics cards.
Nvidia released their latest consumer graphics card, the GeForce GTX 1080 in May. The 1080 represents a step up from the 980ti that we used in our demos at I/ITSEC last year, and brings a higher level of GPU performance to the consumer market ($699), with an eye toward virtual reality. Of course, MAK products fully support this newer card.
Earlier this week, VT MAK presented a Command Staff Training seminar in Daejeon, South Korea in cooperation with their regional representative - KCEi.
In VR-Forces 4.3, we’ve made a number of enhancements that are not immediately obvious, but are still very useful if you know how to take advantage of them. In this post I’ll share some tips on how to make use of the improved Simulation Model Set (SMS) management that is part of VR-Forces 4.3.
For those who don’t already know, a Simulation Model Set (SMS) in VR-Forces is the set of configuration files that defines the entities and objects available for creation in a scenario. This includes everything from their names and type enumerations to their behavior logic and physical movement dynamics. An SMS is typically modified using the VR-Forces Entity Editor tool.
VR-Forces ships with some preconfigured SMSs with hundreds of objects to use in scenarios, however, it is quite common for customers to add specific models, or to modify the shipped VR-Forces models to suit the needs of various projects. In the past, this was most often done by editing the default SMS in VR-Forces directly, or by copying it wholesale and making edits to the copy. Both of these options lead to significant upgrade work when moving to a new version of VR-Forces where parts of the default SMS were edited, since the changes have to be merged.
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.
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.
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.
The Cost-Effective Solution
Maybe you’ve seen the newest addition to the MÄK Product Suite: the MÄK FOM Editor. Some of you may have been surprised to see it’s a web page " most modeling and simulation applications are heavyweight desktop applications. MÄK is leading the industry by bringing lightweight and powerful web applications to the modeling and simulation community. For this article, I want to describe why we choose the web for the MÄK FOM Editor and discuss some of the technologies that enabled it. I will also talk briefly about security and what is happening to your data when you use it.
At home on the web
We chose to develop the MÄK FOM Editor as a web-based application because we could do it quickly with less hassle than a standard desktop application. First, we could develop it once and deploy it on any platform for which our customers had a web browser (we assume you all do). Second, since there is no heavyweight deployment process, it means we could release new versions of it " with bug fixes and new features " almost every day! While the former makes development cheap enough , the latter is really the best part. Within a day of using it, one of the first users reported a few minor problems and within hours they were resolved.
In a recent interview, we got a chance to catch up with Jay Kemper, Senior Software Engineer at Calspan. We discussed how MÄK’s VR-Vantage IG is used by the Air Force test Pilot School and what they are learning using the VR-Vantage product.
Recently we have been seeing widespread Windows 7 adoption by our customers, we are internally moving to it too. However, we have noticed some very strange behavior on Windows 7 with some of our applications.
The most significant problem we have run into is extremely slow startup times for the MAK RTI. This problem is usually obvious; the RTI Assistant will take between 3 and 15 minutes to load.
While its loading you will just see a blank console window. HLA Federates may take an equally long time to load because they are waiting for the RTI.
The MÄK RTI enables High Level Architecture (HLA) federations to rapidly and efficiently communicate. Strong performance in an RTI increases a simulation system’s capacity for spatial updates, providing higher fidelity to a simulation. With this in mind, we’ve made significant performance increases for MAK RTI 4.4.2.
VR-Link is the longest-running and most popular MÄK product, so we’re always excited to make improvements to it. With the release of VR-Link 5.2.1, our focus is turning to accessibility and ease of use.
Interoperability is hard. It is hard because there are a myriad of open standards out there, as well as multiple protocols, operating systems, and, of course, requirements. At VT MÄK, we understand this. To help, we have always tried to support the widest variety of configurations that we can. All of our products support four different DIS versions, three different HLA versions, and a plethora of FOMS, operating systems, and compilers. VR-Exchange expands this even further with DDS, TENA, and many other protocols.
Among it's many other new features, VR-Link introduces generic attributes and parameters for version 5.1. Generics are a way of accessing extended information in your FOM that is not normally supported. For example, lets say your FOM, based on RPR, contains an extra attribute on entity objects called "RadarSignature." Once generics are enabled in VR-Link, all you have to do is ask for your data:
Now that VR-Link for C# is released, we are excited to build new simulations on top of C#. I personally find C# to be fantastic to work with, so I can't wait. But even more interesting is that VR-Link is actually built as a CLI (Common Language Runtime) library.
The CLI is an intermediate language that can be used to build applications on any other language that conforms to the CLI standard. There are many. As of this writing, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_CLI_languages) lists 32 separate languages that can interface with a CLI library. This includes scripting tools such as Python, PHP, and Ruby, purer languages such as Eiffel, and commonly used simpler languages, such as Visual Basic! Our customers are no longer bound by language limitations and will now be able to choose the language strictly based on which one is more useful for the job. You can even mix and match as you please.
Because HLA has so many configuration options, it can be frustrating to learn that your system isn’t communicating when you think everything is set up correctly. The MÄK RTI team works very hard to make it as easy to use as possible, but sometimes things go wrong. HLA federations can be very complicated.
Luckily, the new MÄK RTI 4.2 provides a revamped RTI Assistant that will help you find the problem and fix it faster than ever. In this blog, we will identify and attempt to remedy the most common problems.
Are all the federates correctly connected?
Double clicking on your RTI Assistant tray icon opens up the Federations View.
Help spread the word about modeling and simulation!
Interoperability is the backbone of MÄK’s software solutions, so we are always working to make improvements and develop new capabilities in this area. With the release of MÄK Data Logger 5.4, we are focusing on pushing the limits of our exercise scalability by reading more packets and managing the distribution of packet processing.
At MÄK, we’re always pushing the boundaries of what is possible for your simulation and helping you maximize the power of our software. Our engineers work to make everything you see more accurate and lifelike, including the actual terrain you are running your simulation on.
MÄK continues to make major investments in the development of VR-Vantage, with our sights set on helping our customers Get Ahead of the Game. From IG users developing immersive first person experiences to Stealth users visualizing missions and developmental prototypes, there are new features that improve everyone’s VR-Vantage experience.
This is part 2 in my series of blog posts on RTI RID configuration tips. Each of these tips, unless otherwise noted, works in HLA 1.3, HLA 1516-2000, or HLA Evolved. Take a look at part 1 HERE, and stay tuned for future posts in this series.
The RID file is written in MTL. MTL stands for MÄK Technologies Lisp. MTL is basically a limited form of the Lisp programming language. The primary purpose of the RID MTL file is to set specific variables which are parsed by the RTI’s MTL parser and loaded into configuration settings. The same goal could be achieved using other formats such as XML (another popular MÄK configuration file format), but there are advantages to MTL.
The first important thing to understand is the difference between the setq and setqb commands. The "b’ in the setqb command stands for "bound". This command is used to set the bound variables that are recognized by the RTI. So the only variables set using setqb should be those that are documented RID parameters that are accepted by the RTI. The setq command, however, can be used to set any temporary variables you want that can be used in RID processing. Why would you want to do this? Well, used in conjunction with other features of MTL, this can make your life just a little bit easier. Here’s an example:
Okay, the title this week was a little weak, it was an attempt at a good pun on par with the Economist’s discussion of the S&P Downgrade:“Substandard & Poor: AAAaaargh! (ARTICLE)”. Sorry"¦
As many of you know, MAK’s vision of the future of terrain is a combination of live streaming source data coupled with high resolution insets. The idea is, you still need to obtain (or create) high fidelity terrain databases largely by hand. However, the technology to generate moderate fidelity terrain from streaming source data (imagery, elevation, and feature data) is getting better every day. So, the world you want is one where the hand generated terrain is smaller and smaller and well blended with the source data providing the rest of the world. In this world you may generate a DB for your base of operations, and a DB for the area where you will insert after a helo to fight. However, the space between the base and the extraction point will be procedurally generated to appear to be high fidelity from the perspective of the helicopter. Such blending should let you go from space to someone’s dining room table. In the three pictures below we embed the hand crafted OpenFlt DB "VR-Village" into the broader world as supplied by VR-The World (VR-TheWorld.com) (Yes, the transition is smooth and beautiful).
MÄK and our reseller Antycip make great partners!
Paris, 20 March 2014 - Antycip Simulation, a subsidiary of ST Electronics (Training & Simulation Systems) Pte Ltd, is to support Thales Naval Systems for its combat management system, TACTICOS. Part of Thales’ Combat Management Systems (CMS) family of solutions, TACTICOS meets the combat management needs of the world’s navies. The combat management system is at the heart of naval vessels and integrates all the ship’s sensors and information received from various sources for real time situational awareness.
Based on a recognised fire control capability worldwide, TACTICOS combines Combat Operations and Maritime Security Operations in one CMS. Open standards technology and a massive amount of subsystems interface implementations, make TACTICOS the core of the mission solution with new looks and new features which are carefully designed for mission packages and are released according to the TACTICOS roadmap.
Frequently we get questions about hardware requirements for customers who are trying to use VR-Vantage as an IG for a specific program. Typically, the customer is looking to achieve 60 frames per second (FPS) in VR-Vantage and their scene is rendering slower than they would like/expect. They have read the MÄK Blog about minimum hardware yet didn’t find the answer they were looking for.
Over the years, many of us have been conditioned to assume that buying newer/better hardware will yield better performance; if your performance isn’t up to snuff, just buy something newer. This often works – new GPUs are released yearly, often with phenomenal performance improvements. The cost for this new hardware is low compared to the total program cost, so upgrading can make sense. That said, most terrains used in the Modeling & Simulation community aren’t particularly complicated and so should run really fast even on old hardware. So how can you figure out if it’s your terrain that is slowing you down or if it’s your graphics card that is the culprit? This blog will try to answer that question for you.
To understand where your bottleneck is, you need to understand if your application is CPU or GPU bound. For this blog I will use the term “CPU” to mean not just the physical processor, but also the process of organizing and passing information to the GPU. Simply put, VR-Vantage can be bottlenecked in many places: collecting information from the network, updating the scene graph, sending information to the GPU, or the GPU itself may be bottlenecked trying to render the actual scene. Of these possible bottlenecks, upgrading your video card will only help the final case. That means if your scene is slow for any reason besides the final render step, you need to optimize your scene’s content and configuration, not by buying a better graphics card.
A week ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Do I need a new graphics card?” to answer the common question: Will I get better performance if I just upgrade my graphics card? In the blog, I discussed the difference between CPU and GPU bound scenes, and made the point that if you are CPU bound, getting a new graphics card will not help much. Typically scene performance will improve more with better terrain organization.
While that is all true, there is one additional problem you may encounter that will spoil performance and can be addressed by upgrading hardware: running out of video memory. VR-Vantage 2.0.1 now tracks your total video memory, how much you are using, and if any of your textures have been pushed out of memory (evictions). Once you have consumed all of your video memory, the card will start swapping textures off the card and into the system memory. This is incredibly slow and will seriously affect frame rate. Scenes that were fast may all of a sudden have a 100ms draw time.
To see how your scene is performing, turn on your Performance Statistics Overlay (found in Display Settings -> Render Settings). You would want to see something below 80% usage. As you move around in your scene, if the memory consumption gets up to 100%, or you start seeing Evictions, then your performance is being seriously affected by a lack of memory.
VR-Link 5.1 has put a heavy emphasis on performance. The MÄK Engineers have gone through every bit of VR-Link to find hundreds of speed improvements in the already fast libraries. There comes a point, however, that most of your speed improvements are going to come with multi-threading.
VR-Link now includes multi-threading classes that allow you to update publish your DIS and HLA objects in parallel, greatly speeding up that side of the simulation. But don’t worry, we have abstracted out most of the complexity required to multi-thread, and your code does not have to increase in complexity at all.
The trick to this simplicity is that we have now created a DtPublisherContainer, a class that can tick all the publishers at the same time but can be used in a single threaded environment otherwise. For example, if your code before looked like this:
Transferring control in simulations is a complicated dance. Both the relinquishing and the receiving simulations have to agree in principal and then exchange lots of complicated transactions to make the exchange. The complexity leaves most who attempt it frustrated and hopeless.
It doesn’t have to be that way. In VR-Link 5.1, MÄK offers you a technique to make the transfer of objects pre-approved and thus easy. Each participating simulation starts by agreeing to take any objects offered and agreeing to relinquish any objects asked for. With the approval steps out of the way, only a single message is needed to take control of another simulation’s airplane, for example. Similarly, with a single message your simulation can give back control when you are finished. We’ve included examples in VR-Link to illustrate this technique. So give it a try " it’s actually kind of fun.
Background and Rationale
If you’ve been playing with some of our VR-Link for C# examples, you might have noticed something strange. We usually include one example for each networking protocol, so you get F18DIS, F18HLA13, and F18HLA1516e.
But our C# examples do not do that. There is just a single F18Sharp executable. Don’t worry, we didn’t suddenly decide to drop all our networking standards. In C#, we have slightly changed the VR-Link interface to load all the protocol-specific material at run-time instead of at compile time.
Now you don’t even need to recompile to get all your protocols. You can define which protocol you want in your run-time configuration, or even command line arguments.
As a software engineer, just writing that line brings my heart rate up. HLA in particular makes things a little harder because of the sheer number of exceptions that HLA throws, even for non-exceptional reasons. In this article, we will discuss two minor additions to VR-Link 5.0.1: One that helps find the error and another that helps you recover from an error gracefully.
First things first " finding the error. Have you ever had a crash (hopefully not too many) in VR-Forces and encountered a little dialog asking you to save a memory dump? If you send that memory dump to us, we can analyze the VR-Forces source code and find the cause of that crash. This is actually a fairly simple feature that Windows provides. To make it even easier for you, however, we now have a simplified version of this in VR-Link that you can implement in your own applications.
DtMinidump miniDump("ApplicationName"); //Enable mini-dump.
Now that VR-Link 5.0 is out and we have added support for DIS Version 7, you might have questions about compatibility between DIS versions and VR-Link. In a nutshell, if everyone is using VR-Link 5.0, there will be no compatibility problems. If you have systems not using VR-Link, or using an older version of VR-Link, then you might have some situations arise.
DIS Version 7 is not fully backwards compatible with previous versions of DIS. If you are sending DIS 7 PDUs, there is no guarantee that the other systems in your exercise will be able to read them. For this reason, by default, VR-Link 5.0 still sends DIS version 6 PDUs. This means that upgrading to VR-Link 5.0 will not suddenly make your exercise incompatible.
If you want to send DIS Version 7, you can set the global variable DtProtocolVersionToSend to 7 (this is defined in the file pdu.h). Now, you are sending DIS 7 compatible PDUs. You can also, of course, set that value to any number between 4 and 7 to send a specific version of the protocol. You can even do this at runtime using the command line if you are using our included command line interface:
DtVrlApplicationInitializer appInit(argc, argv, "VR-Link Application");
If you are parsing the command line (or loading a VR-Link configuration from a file) simply typing "--disVersion 7" as a command line parameter will force your application to send DIS Version 7 messages.
Receiving legacy PDUs into a VR-Link 5.0 version should give you no problem at all. VR-Link has always been able to support receiving multiple protocol versions even in the same exercise. For years, we have been able to read versions 4-6 of the DIS protocol. Now, you can read versions 4-7. This is regardless of what version you are actually sending. (As an aside, this is also true in HLA where you can mix HLA 1.3 federates with HLA Evolved federates.)
There are two values that define what DIS version you can receive: DtProtocolVersionToRecvMin, and DtProtocolVersionToRecvMax. Both are also located in pdu.h. In nearly all situations you should not need to change these values, since by default they are set to the lowest and highest values that VR-Link can provide.
Those two values exist in older versions of VR-Link as well, although they are set to 4-6 instead of 4-7. If you feel up to it however, you can take an older version of VR-Link and tell it to read DIS Version 7. It will not understand new concepts, but in some cases it understands enough to be able to communicate with newer systems.
Programming languages have been evolving since the first computer was created. Early languages, including Autocode, FORTRAN, and FlowMatic, made way for many of today’s modern languages. The era of the C language introduced better structure and access to low-level system functions and devices. Then came C++, adding object-oriented programming constructs. Now we have a whole class of simple, modern, general-purpose, object-oriented programming languages, like C# (pronounced C sharp), that are gaining popularity.
VR-Link has been with you since the beginning and we plan to be with you to the end. So " drum roll please " we are excited to introduce C# support for VR-Link! Because our C# implementation of VR-Link is built as a Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) library, you can build your applications using C# or any other language that conforms to the CLI standard. There are currently 32 separate languages that are a part of the CLI standard, including Python, Ruby, and Visual Basic, as well as functional languages like F# and Lisp. (Functional languages provide an incredible amount of power when manipulating objects or groups of objects - read more about programming with F#.)
VR-Exchange is MAK’s Interoperability Portal. It’s a very easy to use application which allows users to bridge together two or more systems to form a larger exercise. Here is a small video I made to demonstrate VR-Exchange quickly. Please make sure you set your resolution to HD, it’s a bit blurry in the lower resolutions.
Last fall, MÄK introduced our FOM Editor, a web-based application for creating and extending HLA FOMs. The original goal of the tool was to make it easier for people to quickly develop their own HLA Evolved FOM modules to extend widely used existing FOMs, such as the RPR FOM. Once we had a tool that supported HLA Evolved FOMs, however, it was simple to add support for HLA 1516-2000 as well. Both 1516-2000 and 1516-2010 (as HLA Evolved is more officially known) use XML formats and contain a lot of the same information. The formats are a bit different and 1516-2010 added some new things, but there is a lot of overlap.
Until recently we have not had any support for HLA 1.3, but we just upgraded the FOM Editor to import 1.3 OMT and FED files for conversion to HLA 1516 formats. To try it you will need a valid 1.3 OMT file at a minimum, but a FED file is also recommended for a full import. Just drag your OMT file onto the Project page, and once that’s complete, follow it up with your FED file.
Things are a bit different in 1.3 than in 1516. The most obvious difference is that rather than using a single type of file, a 1.3 FOM is defined by a combination of an OMT file and a FED file (neither of which is in XML). That’s a fairly minor difference from the point of view of the FOM Editor, but there are more important differences that don’t become apparent until you delve into the content of the files. Datatypes just aren’t the same in 1.3 as in 1516, and the FOM Editor has to make some assumptions and choices when converting a 1.3 file to a 1516 file. Below is a list of some of the most notable differences between 1.3 and 1516 FOMs, as well as a brief description of how the FOM Editor handles each case.
I recently had need to compare to OMT files to see what would be required for bridging them using VR-Exchange. Rather than doing it by hand, which would have most likely been a large waste of time and risked missing something important, I spent a few hours writing a tool that would compare two OMT files for me.
One of the issues of comparing OMT files is that a simple text based diff won''t give you the results you want because there is a lot of semantic information that needs to be compared.
The customer gave me two OMT files and said that they were both RPR FOM based with some extensions. That should simply work with VR-Exchange out of the box. However, using the OMTDiff tool we found that there were several enumerations with the same name, but with different values. Using this information I was able to quickly create a modified HLA broker for VR-Exchange that intercepts these enumeration values and translates them properly.
SISO’s annual Simulation Interoperability Workshop (SIW) will soon be here and as always, a number of us MÄKers will be in attendance. There is a lot going on this year but one of the most notable " at least in my (admittedly biased) opinion " is the meeting of the RPR FOM PDG. Earlier this year RPR FOM 2.0 was successfully balloted, though with a number of comments. A small group of us has been working to resolve those comments and at SIW we’ll be holding a full PDG meeting to vote on final decisions (feel free to join us). That means we may soon have an official RPR FOM 2.0 standard!
Some of you are probably thinking, "What’s the big deal? I’ve been using RPR 2 for years." It’s true, many of us have been. Despite never being officially standardized, draft 17 of the FOM has become a de facto standard, used throughout the world in many important federations. But draft 17 had a number of issues which the RPR drafting group has been trying to address over the last couple of years. Perhaps the most glaring problem was the lack of support for HLA 1516-2000 or 1516-2010 (HLA Evolved). While a number of versions have been produced by different groups over the years, there was no one official version. On top of that we have fixed bugs, inconsistencies, poor datatype naming, and confusing descriptions and documentation. We now even have a modularized version for HLA Evolved. I am happy to say that I believe this is the best version of the RPR FOM yet. I encourage you all to check out draft 20 of both the FOM and the accompanying GRIM (Guidance, Rationale, and Interoperability Modalities) document.
If you are going to be at SIW and would like a higher level overview of RPR FOM history, what we’ve been up to lately, and where we think the FOM is headed in the future, I also encourage you to attend the presentation of a paper I co-authored with BjÃ¶rn MÃ¶ller of Pitch Technologies, Patrice Le Leydour of Thales, and RenÃ© Verhage of CAE titled "RPR FOM 2.0: A Federation Object Model for Defense Simulations."
VR-Exchange 1.6 is just finishing up Quality Control testing and should be released any day, if it isn’t already by the time you read this. VR-Exchange version 1.6 is a bit of a milestone for MAK: it is the first release of VR-Exchange which contains all the functionality of the MAK FOM Agile Gateway.
Every year we receive a number of support questions which have to do with licensing. We hate to receive them, because licensing should be easy! For the most part it is, as many customers never run into any problems at all. However, when a problem does crop up customers frequently feel at a loss.
As many of you know, MÄK has an unorthodox model for technical support. We are proud of how we do support, and believe it’s a key reason why people buy our products (other than the fact that we make awesome products!). In the next few weeks, and continuing over the summer, we will be making a few minor changes to how we handle technical support.
Good news! HLA Evolved has just cleared a major milestone with the IEEE SAB and REVCOM approving the changes to the HLA Standard. IEEE will now will complete an editorial review and then publish the new IEEE 1516-2010 family of standards. This pretty much means the standards are finalized and will appear on the IEEE website soon.
When adding features to a product we frequently need to make design decisions. Often these decisions come after many hours of sometimes heated arguments. Today I want to write about one of the design decisions we made with the RTI, and what its implications for the future are. I want to talk about the two main information dialogs in the RTI Assistant: the Federations View, and the Network Component View.
Today I want to discuss a key design decision we made with the RTI in version 3.4: we removed the rtiexec user interface. For many years the MÄK RTI’s rtiexec had two user interfaces: a console and a QT based GUI. In version 3.4, we removed both options and made the rtiexec a simple daemon with no interactive interface.
Len Granowetter has been with MÄK since 1993. He currently serves as MÄK’s Vice President of Products with overall responsibility for MÄK’s Modeling and Simulation Product and Solutions business. From 1999-2009, Granowetter was MÄK’s Director of Product Development. Under his direction, MÄK’s product line expanded from a few interoperability toolkits to a full portfolio of applications, plug-ins, and developer’s tools, spanning the focus areas of Link, Simulate, and Visualize.
Frequently people write to support and say“My RTI Crashed!”, or they write "I have 10 federates, and the RTI is installed on Machine X." When I read sentences like these I sometimes cringe. I cringe because RTIs really don’t crash; a component of your RTI crashed. Maybe I cringe because I have been working with RTIs for a very long time.
Occasionally we receive a support request asking for the latency of a message in the RTI. Answering these questions is difficult as there are many factors which can affect RTI latency. Not least of these is the network itself and the tick rate of the federate. These are probably the two largest factors in determining latency.
As you all know, MAK is always looking for ways to improve communications with our broader community. This Blog is one important component of that effort. The MAK Blog is a channel through which we can convey important information about our products, or comment on industry trends and other changes. While Blogs are typically one way communication devices, they don’t always have to be that way. To help improve our communication with you we have recently enabled comments in our Blog.
Today I just wanted to provide a status update on our upcoming MAK RTI 4.0 release, and the corresponding VR-Link 4.0 release . These releases will add support for HLA Evolved to each product. As most of you know, HLA Evolved is the latest version of the IEEE 1516 standard which was released this spring.
An HLA Evolved compatible MAK RTI is almost ready for release. As we have been awaiting its release we have received a few requests for more information about HLA Evolved, specifically the work required to update a federate to the latest version of HLA. I was always surprised about this because I have always used VR-Link; our plan is to make VR-Link source compatible, so there will be almost no work required to upgrade a federate using VR-Link.
After you have connected to the RTI and Joined a Federation, your federate will tell the RTI what Classes it will be publishing and subscribing to: these are the HLA Declaration Management Services. For objects, this is done through the RTIAmbassador’s publishObjectClass() and subscribeObjectClassAttributes() respectively. Additionally for Objects you will need to tell the RTI which attributes in the class you will be publishing or interested in. The process is similar for interactions, but with interactions you must subscribe to and publish all attributes.
Just a quick note of good news. IEEE officially released the published IEEE-1516-2010 standard today. You can now order printed copies and download the PDF from www.ieee.org. Keeping with our promise to support IEEE, MAK is pleased to also announce the release of the MAK RTI Version 4.0!
Recently one of our customers contacted us for consulting on how to setup a large federation that would scale up to 1000 federates. Here is how we setup their federation for scaling to large numbers of federates.
Upon first arriving, we took a look at their Federation Object Model (FOM) to get an idea of what types of objects and interactions they were sending through the RTI and how much data was being used.
I am frequently asked the question“Should I upgrade my existing HLA Federate to HLA Evolved?” I confess, I cringe when I hear this, mostly because there is no clear answer and usually the inquisitor expects such. Anyone making the decision to upgrade the version of HLA they are using needs to answer a few questions first:
Check out the video below of VT MAK’s latest product: VR-TheWorld Server! VR-TheWorld Server is a streaming terrain server for modeling and simulation. It supports the TMS and WMS-C open standards and streams imagery and elevation to your simulation and visualization applications! The easy to use web interface let’s up upload your own data and get it into your simulation in no time!
As many of you may have seen, we just released MAK RTI version 4.0.1. This release fixed two significant problems with MAK RTI version 4.0 on Linux. We recommend all customers who are using version 4.0 move quickly to version 4.0.1 to prevent additional problems. Today I wanted to take a moment and explain in more detail the nature of the problems.
If you have upgraded to a new version of the MAK RTI, you have probably noticed that the RTI include paths have changed. This means that MS Visual Studio project files which worked with pre 4.0 RTI versions likely no longer work. This problem manifests itself when your previously compiling application can no longer find RTI.hh or some other standard RTI header file.
In Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 (VC8) and later, there are two special compiler flags developers need to be aware of:
If you missed I/ITSEC this year in Orlando, then you missed some very impressive demonstrations presented by the experts at MÄK. Our booth was bigger than ever this year, allowing us to showcase both our COTS products and higher level solutions.
On the product front, we showcased VR-TheWorld a streaming terrain server for Modeling & Simulation.
VR-Forces 4.0 is getting close to release! As many of you are aware, we’ve been working hard over the past year to give VR-Forces a whole new GUI based on MAK’s VR-Vantage visual product. One of the key new capabilities of this GUI is the ability to work with many different views of the scenario at the same time.
The default behavior of the VR-Forces startup process is designed to get you up and running quickly. However you can customize the process to meet your workflow, as follows:
As the newly accepted Secretary for the National Training Systems Association (NTSA) Executive Committee, I wanted to let people know what great work the committee does in the training and simulation community. The following three examples demonstrate how the NTSA Executive Committee provides leadership, volunteers, and support:
When VR-Forces starts up, it needs to connect to a DIS or HLA exercise. To do that, you need to specify at least a minimum set of configuration parameters. The VR-Forces Launcher provides a graphical user interface for specifying these parameters. It is ideal if you want to run in combined mode (one front-end and one back-end that start together) or in independent mode (front-ends and back-end are started separately) with just one front-end and back-end.
Pattern-of-Life analysis is becoming increasingly important in today’s military. It revolves around the continuous observation of behavior patterns for a population, town, or street. Most people and populations tend to have very distinct patterns in our lives. We get up, brush our teeth, go to work, go to lunch, go home, kiss the kids, and go to bed. Okay, maybe your life is more interesting than mine, but when you think about it in the big picture people in general are fairly predictable. This gives way to the“See something, say something” signs we see in airports. On a subconscious level everyone recognizes patterns in our lives: we wear winter coats when it’s snowing and shorts when it’s hot. When someone is wearing a winter coat and it’s hot outside, you notice it.
One of the new features in VR-Forces 4.0.1 is support for launching counter measures (chaff and flare) from fixed-wing and rotary-wing entities.
Counter measures are enabled by default, so you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of them. If you run the embark demo scenario that comes with VR-Forces, you will see them being launched by the opposing force helicopters that are attacking the airport.
Okay, so B-HAVE 2.0 is done and most people might think the coolest bit about this release is that path data will generate 60 times faster. Yes, my spelling is often poor, but my numbers are perfect: I said 60 times faster"¦ Yikes SIXTY? Yep.
But let’s not talk about that, the really cool bit is the funky colors:
The title today is a bit of a positive spin on a few problems we have had with VR-Forces. Perhaps, we should say“VR-Forces 4.0.1: were sorry, but we will be better.” It’s important to always be honest, even when you make a mistake. With the introduction to VR-Forces 4.0 we were so excited about new visualization, we left out some important features. You let us know we messed up, and we understand. With VR-Forces 4.0.1 we have started to add the features back in, and have put most of the other features on a priority list where they will show up in VR-Forces maintenance releases later this year.
Today I wanted to give you another glimpse of some technology which is coming to MAK products like VR-Forces and VR-Vantage: streaming feature data.
Future versions of VR-TheWorld server will be able to load and stream geospatial feature data, including VMAP, .shape, and S57, among others. There are many applications for streaming feature data, but one of the better ones is to use to to generate richer terrains from raw source data. Currently VR-The World, VR-Vantage, and VR-Forces support streaming imagery and elevation source data. Adding streaming feature data will allow for the automatic extrusions of buildings and the placement of line, point, and areal models on top of the streamed imagery. It means when you walk off your embedded hand modeled open flight terrain (See Blog“How to get your terrain embed”), you will still be in a 3D world full of fairly rich objects.
Last week a couple of other MÄKers and I once again made the trip down to Orlando to attend the biannual Simulation Interoperability Workshop (SIW). I’m sure many of you are familiar with the workshop, but for those of you who don’t know it, SIW is where people in the simulation industry from around the world meet to discuss the work they’ve been doing in simulation interoperability and develop the standards that the industry uses. This is where standards such as HLA and DIS are developed.
The workshop consisted of the usual presentations and development group meetings. To me, one of the most interesting was the RPR FOM revival meeting. There is a new push right now to restart the RPR FOM Product Development Group (PDG) and finalize the RPR FOM 2 standard. There are currently several draft versions of the standard, but nothing official. As a result, different simulations will end up using slightly different versions of RPR 2. At MÄK, we’ve added support in our products for a few of the more popular RPR 2 drafts, but we are definitely interested in seeing the standard finalized. We’re excited to be part of the RPR FOM 2 standardization effort, and we hope that RPR will continue beyond that as well. After all, the new version of DIS is nearing completion, so the RPR FOM will need to keep up.
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.
In the next few blogs I want to talk about a new exciting product MÄK is working on with AGISimMetrics. SimMetrics is a cool product that uses AGI’s analytics and MÄK’s visualization to model sensors, sensor tracking, the GPS Constellation, and GPS receivers to produce a real time analytical capability integrated with your simulation environment. All of this is done to add high fidelity real time Intelligence, Surveillance, and Recognizance (ISR) capabilities to your simulation environment. To model a high fidelity ISR capability, you need to know where you are and where your targets are. SimMetrics helps you easily do both.
To help you understand where you are, SimMetrics models the entire GPS constellation taking into consideration both your position and the ca