Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 24/05/2010

Tron meets COIN

According to a current small business innovation research solicitation posted by the US Department of Defense, DoD is looking for a virtual-environment small unit counter-insurgency trainer that would address cultural awareness skills and incorporate bio-feedback in game play:

VE simulations that allow warfighters to practice both language and cultural skills could benefit from incorporating social network, cultural, and geospatial models in order to show how interactions with local populations affect societal changes and shifts in local opinion, perception, movement, and so forth. Currently, language/cultural trainers teach language and cultural skills without population scenarios and first person shooter trainers do little to teach language or cultural skills. For example, if a player makes a poor decision say by insisting on speaking directly to a young single female when her older uncle is there, instead of speaking through her uncle to her, the program does not model how that interaction affects the local population’s opinion, perception, movement, and so forth. By creating simulations where warfighters can learn cultural negotiation skills, cultural aptitude, and language a new cultural trainer that incorporates all the behaviors and types of interactions a warfighter will be called on to perform, as well as incorporating adaptive models, warfighters will be better able to see how their actions and reactions to events impact not only the person they are interacting with but the population as a whole. The proposed solution will leverage an existing cultural and language trainer and incorporate social network, cultural, and geospatial models effects on population parameters. Trainees will be able to speak to and interact at any level with indigenous non-player characters (NPC), complete with voice recognition, speech, and facial gestures. The characters will react according to how the trainee interacts with them. Further the game will track how the local population reacts to these interactions. The game will adapt to changes in local population response. For example, if a player comes in and insults the local tribal leader the game scenario will change and the trainee will find that future interactions with the local population are more difficult and more hostile. In addition, the trainee will be monitored for neural/physiological markers (e.g. EEG, eye tracking, pupil diameter, heart rate, respiration, and so forth) of workload and the game will adjust in difficulty based in part on these neural/physiological metrics; this is designed to keep players motivated, interested, and at an optimal learning level. To assess users’ performance, trainees’ behavioral responses in the game will also be monitored.

I’m sure there’s much more that could be added to make it realistic: immensely heavy pack loads and sweltering heat, for a start. One could even use 1960’s smell-o-vision technology to create a realistic pushing past bored donkeys into a crowded suq after hours on patrol in the hot sun sensation.

You’ll find the full and official description of the project here.

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