Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Counterinsurgency Training by ‘Virtual Human’

Miller-McCune Online has an interesting article on Counterinsurgency Training by ‘Virtual Human’, profiling the impressive work of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies:

The Institute for Creative Technologies was founded in 1999 with a grant from the Army; its brief was to bring the technology expertise of USC together with the storytelling and other creative abilities of Hollywood and the video game world to make training simulations for the military. “We came to the conclusion that they had a pretty good handle on training someone to shoot a gun,” Swartout says, so the institute focused on the human dimension of military action. Though conceived long before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and subsequent U.S. military action in the Middle East, the focus now seems almost prescient, with ICT simulations training soldiers in any number of immersive, highly realistic ways to engage with and win over the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sometimes that immersive quality is more a matter of concept than life-size graphic wow-factor, as with “Urban Sim,” a PC-based game in which Army trainees try to manage relations with the various factions in a digital version of an Iraqi city during a counterinsurgency campaign. (The current “Urban Sim” is based on actual experiences from Tal Afar, Iraq, that were then fictionalized, so the scenario was typical of the geographic region, without being specific to one place. Swartout says “Urban Sim” is now being adapted to support scenarios representative of Afghanistan.) Modeled roughly on the game “Sim City,” “Urban Sim” has teams of trainees decide how best to pursue counterinsurgency as the town’s various groups react in ways that are based on what commanders have actually experienced in Iraq, as translated to a computerized “deep social simulation” that incorporates the ways in which cultural groups and leaders in the city interact. As in Iraq, it is easy for a trainee’s actions to produce unintended negative consequences, and in the end, trainees are judged not by purely military objectives but by the level of support citizens show for military and civilian leaders.

In one, a research prototype known as Stability and Support Operations — Enhanced Negotiation, Army participants negotiate with two virtual humans, an Iraqi doctor and elder who are responsible for a clinic located in a city market in Iraq. The trainee must convince them to move the clinic downtown, closer to an American base.

In this complex negotiating scenario, the virtual humans are life-size, and they respond to trainees (and one another) not just by talking, but with a full gamut of facial expressions and body movements, all of which are based on a decision-making process that is driven by the virtual humans’ internal “mental state,” which is determined through artificial-intelligence programming and includes many factors, including a calculation of emotion. So trainees must respond not just to the practical requirements of moving the clinic — it will need a source of electricity, for instance — but to the Iraqi virtual doctor’s fear that his clinic will be attacked if it is seen as too closely associated with the Americans.

You can read the full article at the article link above. The video of clinic scenario can be found below. I’ll admit to some doubts as to whether the scenario is better played out with responsive AI or a couple of moderately intelligent human role-players (frankly, I think I would vote for the latter), but a software package does have the advantage of being easily reproduced and distributed once made.

You’ll also find a piece by Michael Peck on “Thinking Like an Insurgent” at Defense News (21 June 2010), discussing ICT’s Mobile Counter-IED Trainer, which integrates physical exhibits, AV briefings, and immersive computer simulation.

One response to “Counterinsurgency Training by ‘Virtual Human’

  1. content creation 30/04/2012 at 2:02 pm

    Im enormously glad that I determined this post. Thiss just the info I was initially browsing for.

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