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You’ve been hearing a lot lately about the Pattern of Life support in B-HAVE 2.0.4 for VR-Forces 4.0.4.  We’ve told you that you can automatically create realistic background traffic in your scenarios without laborious planning and route development. But what does it really mean? In this blog and its successor, I’ll drill down a bit into how POL works.

First of all, it isn’t really the Pattern of Life, it’s the Patterns of Life. When you use the POL feature, entities get created automatically at locations of your choice called spawn points (and we say that newly created entities are being spawned). The frequency and timing of their creation is controlled by templates. We provide templates for civilians and civilian vehicles. However, you can create as many templates as you want for creating any supported entity. You can also create multiple templates for any particular entity type that vary in the pattern of creation that they use. So, you really have multiple patterns at your fingertips. (continued...)

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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:

  • We will have a booth in the Exhibit Hall, Monday through Wednesday - showing off all of our products of course, but with a particular focus on the Interoperability products. 
  • I am proud to be chairing a new SISO Study Group on WebLVC. WebLVC is a new protocol we have proposed as a starting point for a eventual consensus-based SISO Standard.  It is designed to support interoperability between web-based client applications and traditional modeling and simulation federations.  The WebLVC Study Group meeting is Wednesday, September 12, at 1:30pm. 
  • We will be giving a presentation at the newly-resurrected RPR FOM Product Development Group on Wednesday morning - on the technical history of the RPR FOM. 
  • Aaron Dubois, our Product Development Manager for Link Products will be giving a product capabilities presentation as part of the LVC Tools Workshop session on Thursday afternoon, September 13, at 4:00pm. (continued...)
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Help spread the word about modeling and simulation!

 
As co-chair of the National Modeling and Simulation Coalition (NMSC) Communications, Outreach and Public Affairs Committee I’d like to invite you all to attend the business meeting being held at VMASC in Suffolk, VA on Wednesday 26th September. The meeting is being held as part of the NTSA M&S Multi-Con(continued...)
 
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Can’t seem to figure out why the play/pause/rewind buttons in VR-Forces are disabled? Wondering why you can’t create/load new scenarios in VR-Forces? I originally posted this question/answer in our forum “ since it’s a common problem, we wanted to point it out here as well.

Usually this means the front-end and the back-end are not talking to each other. This could be the result of a number of things, ranging from your own network to a firewall problem.

If you’ve eliminated all possibilities of your computer interfering with itself, it is likely that you have two network cards on your computer. When this is the case, you need to specify a device address in the VR-Forces launcher dialog box. It conveniently has a drop down box of IP addresses you can select from. Usually the first non-127.0.0.1 address is sufficient. Select this and launch VR-Forces from here. If the buttons are still disabled, we encourage you to let us know, either here or on the original forum post.

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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. (continued...)

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. We have a code snippet that shows how to do this, but it is a bit too long for this blog. We have put it on the MÄK Community Forum in the Link-Interoperate section. If you want to see the code and a somewhat more detailed explanation of this issue, click here!

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When selling toolkits, we run into the same kind of problems that people selling hammers have. Most people won’t believe that the tool can build a house unless I show them a house built with the tool. With our software toolkits, many customers want to see the possibilities that the API is capable of. Because of this, many of the demos that we create have a touch of customization to them, some more than others. However, we always do it in a way that a customer can replicate when they are working with our APIs and we do it through the magic of plugins. Demos including dynamic terrain and video streaming are all implemented as plugins. (continued...)

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VR-Forces 4.0.4 gives you Pattern of Life with B-HAVE, enabling you to quickly and easily add realistic background traffic into your simulation. But that’s not all, folks. We’ve put together a (non-exhaustive) list of more additions and improvements we’ve made to VR-Forces! Contact us if you have questions or concerns.

Radar Modes - Being able to configure named modes for radar systems is an important part of electronic warfare (EW). VR-Forces now allows users to configure multiple named modes for radar systems. A named mode could be “off” or &ldquolow power&rdquo or &ldquosearch”. This is all done through configuration files. The F18 has two modes "Track" and "Search". Users can create new specific modes and then set them through plans. (continued...)

Entity Editor Model Configuration - The Entity Editor has been significantly overhauled to allow users to configure 2D icons and 3D models directly from the Entity Editor GUI. You can also show the bounding volume of the entity in relation to the 3D model. If you select a sensor, you can show where the sensor is placed on the vehicle with relation to the model.

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This week, MÄK is in sunny Las Vegas for the AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2012 show. Sitting in the middle of one of the largest unmanned vehicle trade shows is a like sitting on the set of Wall-E, but with more robots. We’re showing our simulated video solutions and how we can support experimentation and training for these systems. We teamed up with DiSTI this week to develop a ground control station that interacts with the simulation, controls the UAV, and receives data streams from the simulated UAV over MISB standards compliant protocols just like a real UAV would. 

If you’re looking for a winning bet, come by the VT MÄK booth (#2911) and see how we can help you produce reliable training and experimentation platforms for your unmanned systems.

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We are pleased to announce the introduction of the Early Adopters Program for MÄK COTS software!

These days, MÄK is moving full steam ahead with some exciting features in our product line - be ahead of the curve and learn about these upcoming features before their public release. As a member of the Early Adopters Program, you’ll receive download links to pre-released software; this gives you the chance to provide critical comments about feature usability and direction that can influence a product’s final release. These releases will also help you better understand the direction our products are going with regard to new features.

If you’re an engineer who likes to live on the bleeding edge and always plays with the latest and greatest, then the MÄK Early Adopters program is for you. Customers with up-to-date maintenance can sign up to receive download links to Early Adopter release versions of MÄK products.

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Esri, the biggest player in the Geographic Information System market, held its international users conference last week in San Diego. As usual, it was a very impressive event.

Many of us in the Modeling, Simulation & Training industries use, or have used, Esri’s ArcGIS tools to prepare geographic information for use as source data in our terrain database generation workflows. Well, this year Esri stepped into the 3D site model generation business by acquiring Procedural and their City Engine technology for building 3D urban environments.  Those of you who know me, know I’ve been a proponent of procedural terrain generation for years, I even authored an I/ITSEC paper on the subject in 2004.   So, on the flight to San Diego, I took the opportunity to give City Engine a try.

I found the design approach to be just what you expect from a procedural tool: fast and creative. The product comes with several sample projects that let you experience the scope of the rule-driven approach. After playing with the sample projects for a while, I felt like I understood the approach and wanted to try it out with my own data. So, I loaded a shapefile of road centerlines and was pleased to find that it automatically found all my intersections, buffered the road, created sidewalks, blocks between the roads, and lots within the blocks. All this because of default rules. I then tweaked the parameters to make lots the sizes I wanted and I’m off. There’s lots more gems to be found in the rules they have set up in the sample projects.

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It is somewhat axiomatic in the documentation biz that“no one reads the doc&rdquo, unless you make a mistake -“ then everyone reads that section. In the Entity Editor documentation for VR-Forces 3.12, we described a feature that wasn’t actually in the product:“ the ability to edit 3D models in the editor. Since then, every now and then someone asks how to find that feature and we’ve had to admit the error. No more! In VR-Forces 4.0.4, you can edit an entity’s 3D model, XR model, and 2D icon in the Entity Editor.

The Entity Editor lets you quickly and easily change the 3D model used to represent an entity. When you change a model in the Entity Editor, the entity’s model definition also gets changed. (In other words, it is fully integrated with the settings in the Visual Model Editor.) 

The window that shows an entity’s model is live, so you can manipulate the view of the model using the same keys that you would use to move the observer in the VR-Forces Stealth or XR observer modes.

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For a number of years, the MÄK RTI has supported a useful feature called FDD (or FED if we’re talking about HLA 1.3) file distribution. The original idea was that often during federation development you might find the need to update your FDD file. This often meant going around to every machine you were using and updating the local copy of the file. Obviously, this is both tedious and error prone. With FDD file distribution, only the federate that created the federation execution needed to have a local copy. When the federation was created, the file was distributed through the RTI to the rtiexec, which then distributed it to every other joining federate. This guaranteed that everyone was using the most up to date file and there were no discrepancies. There was one obvious downside to this feature however: start-up times were slower.

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Last week, alongside my colleague Gary Schrader, I attended and exhibited at the AFCEA-GMU (the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association - George Mason University) C4I Center Conference in Fairfax Virginia. The conference consisted of various speakers with expert backgrounds presenting topics consisting of C2 Integration Operations, Research Testbeds, Cyber networks, and C4I cloud computing, to name a few of the topics and papers. 

Dr. Michael Hieb, Research Professor of George Mason University, presented the C4I simulation based environment for Concept Development and Assessment developed on VR-Forces.  His research group also exhibited and demonstrated with their Brazilian partners ITA (Institute Technology Aeronautics) their joint collaboration solution based on VR-Forces. 

We are very much looking forward to next year’s event and can’t wait to see further development and solutions derived from GMU and ITA!

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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.

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The weather in Atlantic city is definitely IFR conditions (&ldquoInstrument Flight Rules” - or for us recovering army helicopter pilots,“I Follow Roads”). There’s zero visibility and clouds all the way down to the surface. I’m not the least bit worried though, I’m at the Air Traffic Controller’s Technical Symposium with a large number people who are used to landing aircraft of any size in these conditions.

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Periodically, MÄK reassesses platform support for our product line. We consider a platform a paired version of compiler and OS. For example, Windows 7 and MSVC++ 8 is a single platform, while Windows 7 and MSVC++9 is a different platform.  In order to support the most popular and stable platforms while maintaining commitment to quality products, we need to limit the total number of platforms we support as part of the standard product offering.

In general, when deciding to support or not support a platform we consider a number of factors:

1. Does the product have a heavily used API? -“ some of our products are generally used out-of-the-box with little API usage. In those cases we can support fewer compiler variations.
2. Do customers have to integrate our products and libraries into legacy systems, or larger systems that they are developing? -“ this requires broader compiler variation support.
3. How easy is it for us to build and test on a given platform?
4. How many customers are actually using the platform at all?

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Earlier this month, VT MÄK, alongside our corporate partner DiSTI Simulation, held the regional Asian Resellers Conference in a Songdo, Korea - a small town nestled in the hills located just outside of Icheon.  The event was well attended by distributors who came as far as Australia, India, Singapore, and Taiwan to our local distributor in Korea.  We welcomed over a dozen resellers and 30 attendees, each representing their respective regional companies and territories. 

During the two-day event, the attendees were exposed to the latest product technologies of VR-TheWorld and the entire suite of Simulation, Visualization, and Interoperability products, as well as DiSTI’s HMI tools such as GL-Studio, Replica8, and corporate roadmaps. The event was a great success and we hope to see everyone at the next resellers meeting scheduled to be held in Singapore.

asain_reseller_conference_2012

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In VR-Vantage 1.5, we will be making some small changes to the Track History feature. Track Histories are currently limited in how long they can get. This is for performance reasons because, as you can imagine, creating infinitely long track histories will cause the application to run out of memory.

In 1.5, we will allow the users to specify the length of each track history segment and also the total number of segments allowed per track history. This lets you have longer track histories if you have fewer entities, for example. 

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Some people count themselves as members of Gen X, or the Pepsi Generation, but we here at MÄK are proud to be members of the Scenario Generation. When people see us at trade shows, they say,“Hey, there go those scenario generation fools.” No, wait. I mean they say, &ldquoHey, those guys have great scenario generation tools.” Right. And we just say, &ldquoLA, LA, LA.” No, I mean we say, &ldquoHLA, HLA, HLA.” That’s because we are all about distributed simulation. Yes. That’s us. The folks who do distributed simulation with great scenario generation tools. And great support. And people love our documentation too. They always call us up and yell, &ldquoHey, your doc is full of DISinformation.” And we say, &ldquoRTIUR.”

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At MÄK we take developer documentation seriously. We recognize we haven’t always gotten it right, therefore we are continually trying to make it better. With new product releases starting this quarter, we will be overhauling how we present development documentation. The changes may be relatively subtle but we believe you will appreciate them.

Historically, we have always had two places developers needed to look to understand our APIs: The Developer’s Guide, which was in PDF format, and the Class Documentation, an HTML guide to class usage. These two competing formats sometimes got out of sync because they weren’t reviewed at the same time, or because the class docs were generated automatically from the code thereby instantly reflecting changes. To solve these problems, we started moving code segments from the Developers Guide to the Class Docs, but this just made the split between the two documents more troublesome.

To resolve this problem once and for all, we are doing away with the Developers Guide as a PDF and moving all the content into a single unified HTML format which is generated and highly cross-referenced every night as part of our Nightly Build Process. All of the same content will be there, but now users will be able to click through class references in the documentation to see the associated class docs. We have also started to add tutorials and other content into the web system to provide a more comprehensive understanding of our APIs.

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