Remember when crew members in the various Star Trek shows would train and ready themselves in holodecks to prepare for missions? Well, American aerospace and defence company Northrop Grumman remembers, and they are creating a Virtual Immersive Portable Environment (VIPE) Holodeck for the armed forces.
This invention promises to be the latest in cutting-edge video games to provide actual training, and the Army is paying attention.
The VIPE Holodeck is similar in approach to the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) that was developed by Lockheed Martin to train marines, but they differ in many key ways.
IIT was designed as a mixture of mediums, including physical reconstructions that were meant to resemble Fallujah, Iraq. This scenario was complemented by a piping in of digital sounds and avatars to create a fully immersive environment.
VIPE, though, is purely digital. Aside from the individuals within the Holodeck, everything else is a projection based on simple, and inexpensive, consumer technology.
As Wired reports:
Using commercial, off-the-shelf hardware combined with gaming technology, the VIPE Holodeck 360 degree virtual training system provides users with a high-fidelity immersive environment with a variety of mission-centric applications, including simulation and training, mission rehearsal and data visualisation. The VIPE Holodeck can support live, virtual and constructive simulation and training exercises including team training, cultural and language training and support for ground, air and remote platform training.
The Army is hoping to cash in on inexpensive and thorough training programs like VIPE in order to further cut overhead costs. Last year, the Holodeck won first place in the Federal Virtual Challenge, an annual competition led by U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Simulation and Training Technology Center. Judges were particularly impressed by the integrated Kinect sensor, which allows users to crawl, walk, run, and jump in the simulated environment.
Particularly impressive is the VIPE Holodeck’s advanced situational training, which can allow users to walk through exact replicas of operation environments they will later face. To complement that training, threats – from IEDs to armed gunmen – can also be added ino the virtual mix to keep users on their toes.
At this rate, some of the more fantastic elements of Star Trek do not seem too far off.
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