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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IITSEC_2014_5k_finishline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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It can take an athlete up to 18 months to return to sport after a torn ACL; even after surgical reconstruction and physical therapy, the athlete has up to a 30% chance of sustaining a second injury. Additionally, athletes have between a 50-100% chance of developing osteoarthritis within 20 years of their initial injury. Prevention of these types of injuries is key and it is especially important to know when it is safe for athletes to return to sport after such an injury.

The TEAM VR (Training Enhancement and Analysis of Movement Virtual Reality) Laboratory in the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is leading the development of virtual environments to objectively quantify the progress of injury prevention training and physical therapy so that adolescent athletes can perform at a high level. TEAM VR has chosen VT MÄK’s DI-Guy human simulation software to help create sport-specific scenarios for training and evaluation.

TEAM VR’s virtual environments aim to give physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, practitioners, and strength and conditioning specialists the tools to accurately measure the biomechanics of a child athlete (joint movements, strength, or flexibility for example) by actively engaging him/her in realistic, immersive sport scenarios; these scenarios are performed in a virtual environment that mimics competition on the field/court of play. The TEAM VR laboratory is equipped to utilize virtual environments for knee injuries, as well as concussion prevention. It can also be used as an education simulation center to help sideline first responders like athletic trainers and team physicians gain experience with sideline injury scenarios.

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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:

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Ever have trouble getting the gas nozzle into the tank of your car? Imagine trying to do that in mid-air where the gas station is flying and so is your car (well, airplane). Mid-flight fuel transfer is complicated by the fact that everything is in motion, the gas hose is dangling out of one plane, and the pilot has to maneuver his plane into exactly the correct position to connect. Simulating this maneuver in a networked environment is difficult because the relative
positions, velocities, and accelerations of the two aircraft have to be communicated precisely. Delays in network messages can’t be allowed to sabotage the whole operation. QuantaDyn Corporation, an engineering firm specializing in training simulations, has developed a technical solution for networked aerial refueling training, using MÄK’s VR-Link for DIS standard protocol.

The "dead reckoning" technique normally used struggles when two entities are moving so fast and so close together.  As time goes by, entities using dead reckoning compute the location of remote aircraft each frame until they receive a position update from the remote trainer. This approach avoids flooding the network with position updates every frame, but poses a dilemma for close proximity training. For example, at 275 knots an aircraft will move almost 8ft in 1/60th of a second "” the typical frame rate of the pilots visual scene. Standard dead reckoning only sends position updates when an aircraft goes outside of a certain threshold and can result in a jump of a foot or two when a new position update is received. When refueling mid-flight, those few feet can make a huge difference. Avoiding this dead reckoning gap is the main issue facing aerial refueling training.

MÄK’s VR-Link allows QuantaDyn to modify the way they use standard DIS packets without having to update the DIS interface. They are able to send relative position, velocity, and acceleration updates instead of standard position,
velocity, and acceleration updates by altering the information given to the VR-Link software and selecting an alternative dead reckoning algorithm. So instead of moving 8 feet per update relative to the world, the plane being fueled is barely moving at all relative to the tanker aircraft.  VR-Link provides the necessary "gateway" to send and receive data to and from the DIS network.

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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.

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The HLA standard makes no guarantee for how data is marshaled over the network. Under most circumstances there’s no reason for anyone to care how it’s in there as long as you have access to it. However, there is one situation where it does matter. If you need a 64-bit or 32-bit byte aligned value, HLA gives you no option to do that. And if you are casting a pointer to a 64-bit value, you need that byte alignment to access it correctly.

In the past, VR-Link has managed to get around this by simply copying all attributes from the RTI to a new byte aligned memory space to allow said casting. As you might expect, this extra copy takes processing time and will slow down your simulation some amount. Starting with the MÄK RTI 4.3, however, we have decided to force all attributes to be byte aligned to either 32 or 64 bits depending on the size of the attribute. As long as you are using the MÄK RTI, you can ask the RTI for data pointers and cast the data directly to whatever you want it to be, avoiding that copy.

Among the many performance improvements we have done in VR-Link 5.1, it now includes the option to use data pointers. And if you are using the MÄK RTI version 4.3 or better, you don’t have to do anything to turn this feature on - it will detect the right RTI version and reconfigure itself for the faster data access version. If you are using an RTI by a different vendor that includes byte alignment or you have no 64-bit values, we do provide the capability to enable the faster method by enabling ’setGetValueMethod’ in the DtExerciseConnInitializer.

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

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

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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#.)

MÄK wants to make your life easier and we hope that by adding C# and other CLI-compliant languages, we have. If you have questions or requests, get in touch with us at info@mak.com (or leave us a comment below)!

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More than 20 years ago, VT MÄK stepped into the Modeling and Simulation community and introduced our flagship simulation networking software, VR-Link. Since then, MÄK has remained focused on both our dedication to interoperability and the needs of our customers. We’ve been active participants in the development of industry standards and protocols through the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization (SISO) and have built our products to ensure our customers can use the protocol of their choice. This has consistently made VR-Link the top HLA-DIS networking toolkit on the market and VT MÄK the top choice for distributed simulation software.

Continuing the MÄK tradition of listening, learning, and evolving, we’ve recently added even more capabilities to meet the growing needs of VR-Link users. Here is some of what you’ll find in VR-Link 5.1:

  • New C# library of objects and interactions "“ While a lot of our customers use C++ to build DIS or HLA compliant applications, many new projects are started using C# "” a simple, modern, and object-oriented programming language. VR-Link now empowers customers to use a library of C# objects and interactions with our VR-Link protocol-independent API. (Learn how MÄK is keeping pace with modern programming languages like C#!)
  • Continued focus on performance "“ Performance is a top priority at MÄK. We’ve put a lot of effort in VR-Link to ensure our customers can take advantage of multithreaded publisher lists; this enables users to tick all publishers with a single call, allowing them to update as fast as possible.
  • Easier FOM extensions "“ Enjoy a simpler way to access FOM extensions. If you have a FOM where one or more new attributes have been added, you can now easily access the attribute without writing any new code at all.
  • API Improvements "“ We have significantly simplified our API for transferring ownership in HLA, as well as for configuring dead reckoners and smoothers. This will greatly speed up development for our VR-Link customers. 
  • Compliant with RPR FOM 2.0, Draft 20 "“ You can rely on VR-Link to remain up-to-date with major standards. VR-Link now supports the latest draft of the soon-to-be-finalized RPR FOM 2.0 standard, defining HLA classes, attributes, and parameters that are appropriate for real-time, platform-level simulations.

Stay tuned for more blog posts highlighting VR-Link newest capabilities!! And as always, reach out to us at info@mak.com (or leave a comment below) to get more info!

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