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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, China, 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.)

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Database correlation between different systems is a difficult issue, but sometimes we make it harder than it has to be. For example, imagine someone has a large terrain database built with TerraVista. You want that terrain and since your system can handle OpenFlight, you think, "Great! Let’s try it out. Send me that database." What you get is hundreds of openflight files and one master.flt file that references the hundreds of individual tiles of terrain. When you try to load the master.flt file, your system runs out of memory and crashes. Bummer, that didn’t work. It’s like trying to eat a bag of popcorn without opening the bag first.

To handle this problem, you could choose an approach that would be optimal for your system, but also the hardest and most time-consuming to implement; you would have to reprocess the terrain database into a structure that better suits your system architecture. But many times you don’t have the skills, time, or energy to do that. You just want to load the thing and see if it is a useful database before committing to optimizing it.

Here’s what I recommend: try MetaFlight. Lots of people think MetaFlight is a different kind of database but it’s not. It’s just an XML-based way to reference the many tiles of a terrain. MetaFlight describes the grid of tiles using your database’s coordinate system so that the simulation or visual system can fetch the tiles that it needs and ignore the ones that are not needed or in view. When you use MetaFlight, it’s like reaching into the bowl of popcorn and getting the handful that you want. 

If you’d like some help doing this, or even if you just want to understand it better, give us a call, leave us a comment, or email us at info@mak.com. We’re here to help.

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

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

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

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At I/ITSEC 2013, we showed a demo of an integration between VR-Vantage and the Oculus Rift, a head mounted virtual reality display being developed by OculusVR (www.oculusvr.com).

The Rift has low latency, 360 degree head tracking and the inputs from its sensors are fed into VR-Vantage, which changes the orientation of the observer as the person wearing the Rift moves their head. It uses lenses to create an immersive 110 degree field of view. The hard work of correcting for the distortion created by the lenses is all done in shaders on the GPU. Two separate channels are drawn onto its single panel display to allow for a stereoscopic view. The Oculus SDK allows VR-Vantage to access all the parameters required to calculate the distortion correction and the projection matrices required for each eye. At the show, I’d put people in the cockpit of an F-35 and it looked and felt real enough that some people were reaching for the eject handle!

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

booth-front

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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");
appInit.parseCmdLine();

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.

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The Military Simulation & Training India 2013 held at the DRDO facility in New Delhi, India on October 29th and 30th brought together top military officers as well as industry and academic subject matter experts to discuss the latest developments and requirements on training and simulation systems for India.

This event presented future requirements of military simulation to include the Army, Air Force, Navy, and defence R&D establishments.

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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.

Now through December 19th, 2013, we are bundling VR-TheWorld, MÄK’s streaming terrain server, with the MÄK WebLVC Suite, a collection of web-based applications that can interact with existing simulations or be a platform for new applications. This bundle gives you ready-to-use thin clients, like a browser-based 2D/3D observer and a lightweight call-for-fire application. Together, the MÄK WebLVC Suite and VR-TheWorld allow you to rapidly create customized interfaces that are easier to use and more intuitive to operate while reducing your overall development time and cost. Don’t let this limited time offer pass you by "“ contact us today at info@mak.com.

Curious about WebLVC? It was launched by MÄK in 2012 to leverage web and mobile technologies within existing or new HLA and DIS modeling and simulation applications. Check out the WebLVC Testbed at www.weblvc.com for some sample applications. For a live demonstration of how these technologies can improve your project, contact us at info@mak.com.

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Hola! Que Tal?

Last week MÄK attended, exhibited, and presented at the Esri Colombian User Conference 2013 in Bogota, Colombia hosted by MÄK’s Colombian reseller "“ Procalculo Prosis.

This one week event was attended by over 500 users filled with ESRI presentations discussing the latest in ArcGIS as well as complimentary ESRI and partner products. Each day was structured specifically for a specific target audience including Oil and Gas, GIS, and Defense, which was held on Tuesday. MÄK delivered a presentation titled "Building Modeling and Simulation Solutions."

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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.

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A common question I hear about video streaming setup is "how many buffers do I need?"  The answer is "it depends."  Let’s look at why and how you can determine for yourself the best setting for your system.

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VT MÄK’s reseller in China, Seastars, made MÄK the center stage at the C2 Conference in Beijing last month! We demonstrated our ISR and UAV Lab capabilities, driven by VR-Forces and VR-Vantage.

The ISR/UAV Lab is a demonstration of how MÄK can deliver higher level simulation solutions to help customers meet their goals faster and with less risk. This demonstration brings together MÄK’s integration expertise, COTS products, and partner products from DiSTI and JRM Technologies to form a lab consisting of 3 work sta­tions:

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Each HLA object must have an object name that is unique throughout the federation execution. When an object is registered, the federate can provide a name or let the RTI supply an object name. In the HLA 1.3 specification, when the federate supplies the name, it is up to the federate to make sure that the name is unique. If it isn’t, the RTI throws an exception. The HLA 1516 specification lets you reserve names to ensure that they are unique.

By default, the VR-Link publishers perform name reservation and object reservation at the same time - when the publisher is created. The name reservation process requires a round trip handshake between the local RTI component (LRC) and the rtiexec. Therefore, performing it just before an object is registered can delay the object registration process. If the federate is simulating a limited number of objects that are created at start up, this overhead is negligible. However, if the federate is creating many 100s of objects or if an object is being created in a time critical fashion (say a missile fly out), the delay caused by name reservation can become significant. One way to avoid the name reservation delay is to perform the name reservations ahead of time before the objects are registered. VR-Link can do this.

To reserve names in advance, your VR-Link application needs to make name reservation calls. If the calls are performed through the exercise connection, the results are cached. When an object publisher is created, it first checks to see if the name is already reserved. If so, the name reservation call is skipped.

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

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

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

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When working in an environment with multiple compiler versions of our MÄK RTI installed, it can sometimes be tricky to remember which RTI you have your environment variable pointing to. With the release of VR-Link 4.0.7, we introduced a new "DtVlRtiMismatchException." An exception in C++ is a way to handle certain outlying situations, like runtime errors, which can lead to program crashes. This new DtVlRtiMismatchException is an exception that VR-Link throws if it finds that the RTI is an incompatible compiler version. When the exception is thrown, a catch is needed to handle it. A catch statement is some C++ code that triggers when a certain exception is caught. This DtVlRtiMismatch-Exception is thrown when making an exercise connection, so adding a catch after creating a connection is a great way to avoid, what are often, vague issues caused by a mismatched RTI compiler version. (continued...)

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