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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While VR-Exchange has always supported DIS and HLA through the RPR FOM (multiple versions), this year MÄK is making a concerted effort to broaden our support for other commonly used FOMs and protocols.
To this end, we have recently added several new brokers to support FOMs used extensively by the US DoD. We have started with a broker to support the MATREX Federation. We currently support MATREX version 7.x, but will upgrade to version 8.0 when it is released later this year. In the past we have had limited support for MATREX via a FOM Mapper plug-in. While this limited approach worked, we believe it was not very robust. All new translation to the MATREX FOM is done through a new stand-alone broker, offering robust and MATREX-specific translation options. Additionally, we are pleased to announce support for the Joint Land Component Constructive Training Capability (JLCCTC) Multi-Resolution Federation (MRF). We will also begin work on JLCCTC-Entity Resolution Federation (ERF) support in the coming months.
As with all new VR-Exchange FOM support, translation between these and other protocols and object models can be complicated. Depending on what protocols you want to bridge between, the object model may or may not support robust translation capabilities. Additionally,VR-Exchange has not been extended to support all the objects in any of these FOMs. As has been our historical practice, we will continue to expand translation based on the needs of our customers. Let us know what you need and we will be happy to figure out ways to make your exercise successful, in addition to explaining limitations you may face.
MÄK is continually increasing the quantity and quality of the content provided with our products. When you use MÄK products you get a world of content: terrain databases, simulation models, human characters, behaviors " all kinds of awesome content to make your virtual environments rich and effective for training and experimentation.
VR-Forces has hundreds of simulation models representing different vehicle types you can use to develop your urban, military, or maritime scenarios. DI-Guy 13 adds more than 100 new human appearances and with the DI-Guy variation system, you can randomly mix bodies, faces, and clothing to make virtually unlimited unique appearances - build huge crowds where you never see the same person twice! Our SpeedTree animated 3D vegetation and foliage gives your outdoor scene the look and feel of the real world. And layer all of this content on top of our many terrain databases, including Hawaii and a Middle Eastern Village:
Commanders, like all good leaders, are responsible for the people below them. But they can’t do it alone. A commander’s staff exists to support the commander, work as a team, and deliver information to help make good, informed decisions. Training and preparation enable the command staff to function efficiently and properly in challenging situations; training allows the commander and his team to assess the situation, make decisions, and communicate those decisions.
Simulation plays an important role in command staff training; it’s job is to stimulate those situations where learning takes place. The simulation content depends on the echelon (level) and the missions the staff is being trained for. Marine Captains need entity-level simulation to train look-ahead surveillance for convoy protection missions while General Officers need aggregate-level simulation to model wargames for course of action analysis. (And there’s countless more examples of both.)
Modeling all of the elements needed to stimulate a command staff " all the activity in a training scenario " is a huge endeavor. Especially when it includes the behavior of opposing forces, the background civilian population, the political and social environment as well as the friendly force operations. To make it happen, commanders either need role players acting out the parts of each unit/entity/vehicle/person or a very powerful, believable, and capable artificial intelligence (AI) solution. Since full scale operations are time consuming and expensive to setup and run, many training tasks use the divide-and-conquer approach of focusing lessons on tasks that are manageable subsets of a complete environment.
We are excited to release VR-Exchange 2.4, a major feature release that enforces our commitment to supporting the latest protocols and the largest exercises with MÄK products. Here are a few of the changes we made with this release:
A US soldier is trapped under rubble from a damaged building in hostile territory. As a Pararescuer, your team must get in, stabilize the situation, and get out – skins intact.
The rescue mission begins with a helicopter ride over to the site - the ride is bumpy and loud as combat zones dot the geography below. The war worn building comes into view and when you arrive, you fast rope out of the helo and into the rubble. You navigate to the trapped soldier and as you begin to address the situation and tend to the rock pinning him down, there’s an explosion. Even more smoke, debris, and confusion fill the area; when the dust settles, you learn that more soldiers are injured, even a civilian is hurt.
What do you do? How do you react?