Ready, Set, Disrupt - Military Simulation & Training

Ready, Set, Disrupt

I/ITSEC 2018 has proved again to be the premier event of the military S&T year, rich with content on the show floor, in the conference rooms, and even in the margins. MS&T editors Jeff Loube, Marty Kauchak, Dim Jones and Rick Adams report.

CAE drew large crowds all week for CAE Rise, a data-driven system which can provide real-time insights and standardized evaluations for training improvement. 
CAE drew large crowds all week for CAE Rise, a data-driven system which can provide real-time insights and standardized evaluations for training improvement.
Image credit: Rick Adams.

“We’re at the point where we are going to need more space,” James Robb, USN (Ret.) president, NTSA, concluded as he described what he termed the “rich content” provided by 491 companies in 389 exhibit spaces on the 190,000 net square foot show floor.

And it was not only the show floor that was rich with content, so too, was the program: the five-day program included 143 technical papers, 34 tutorials, 25 workshops and 33 special events. MS&T editors availed themselves of various slices of that content.

The Congressional Modeling and Simulation Caucus provided an opportunity to hear from, and interact with, the M&S leaders in the US Congress. Four members of the caucus modestly told the overflow room of delegates they are “educating their fellow lawmakers in the US Senate and House, and their staffs about modeling and simulation.” In reality, the caucus is helping to expand M&S into adjacent sectors beyond the military, influencing broader department-wide acquisition reform and legislating wise investments in M&S throughout the DoD.

Representative Bobby Scott (Virginia), a caucus co-founder, noted the organization’s efforts to expand the practice of M&S beyond the military into education, health care, engineering and first responders. To that end, Scott provided instances where the capabilities of M&S could be used to help solve “real world problems” from alleviating traffic congestion on overcrowded bridges to providing efficiencies in civil aviation aircraft boarding processes. 

Reps. Jack Bergman (Michigan), John Rutherford (Florida) and Stephanie Murphy (Florida) spoke to the imperative of continuing acquisition reform. They further suggested changes in congressional rules to prevent future continuing resolutions (CRs) and other adverse outcomes which negatively impact simulation and training industry business models and companies’ abilities to earn a fair profit. All four caucus members noted the negative impact of CRs on supply chains and other parts of the M&S enterprise.

The I/ITSEC 2018 theme – Launching Innovation in Learning: Ready, Set, Disrupt – was sharply placed in context by military keynoter Admiral Christopher W. Grady, Commander, Fleet Forces Command. He observed that the rapidly changing landscape of combat in all domains requires a commensurate change in training. The “reality” is the military, and the Navy, needs to react and adapt – and produce “high velocity” training and outcomes. The solution lies, he said, in “creative disruption” and “disruption is an entirely fitting term to describe our mandate,” cautioning that “few technologies are intrinsically disruptive; instead, it is the business model and the technologies that creates the disruptive impact.” 

The aim is to achieve a training environment that accelerates learning through timely, relevant and realistic training for all levels spanning the individual to the collective. And he expressed satisfaction with current initiatives towards that aim such as Sailor 2025, Ready Relevant Learning (RRL), and live-virtual-constructive (LVC).

Grady’s comments were mirrored in the Senior Leader Panel. Topics such as breaking through stovepipes, leveraging technology, blended learning, enabling disruption, relevance to mission, the challenge of time and money, advantages of realism and access afforded by technology, the need for acquisition reform, and more were all raised by the speakers. MGen William F. Mullen, USMC, Commanding General, Training and Education Command, even reached back to General Charles Krulak’s “strategic corporal” concept to illustrate the continuing need to train adaptive Marines, suggesting that synthetic training capability is a significant element of doing so. Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, Commander, Naval Education and Training Command, outlined the Navy’s intent to leverage technology to turn the bricks and mortar model upside down, harness the science of learning, and provide training at the point of need – all in the pursuit of RRL.

And the quest for innovation continued in the Signature Event – The Navy the Nation Needs. The Flag Officer panel, clearly speaking to their constituents in a packed house, noted the “need for speed” in response to emergent training requirements. “Think of every day as if it is the last day of peace” (Grady). And the panel assured the audience that innovation and risk taking were not only okay but encouraged by highlighting successful innovation stories. PowerPoints were not required for the message.

Virtual/augmented/mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) headsets were ubiquitous, perhaps pointing to a Panglossian future for the technology. One exhibitor, standing next to a rack of headsets, opined that four out of five exhibits within his view featured headsets/goggles of some sort. However, while the technology itself is advancing with alacrity, the knowledge within the training community of how best to use that technology has some catching up to do: to date there has been little attention paid to principles of instruction. The Aptima presenters of the paper, “Aligning Current VR/AR/MR Training with the Science of Learning,” spoke to a standing-room-only audience of training practitioners outlining how best to use the technology, the pitfalls to avoid, and some guidance as to how to do so.

MissionFit, FlightSafety International’s new “looking glass” FTD. Change aircraft configurations in seconds.
MissionFit, FlightSafety International’s new “looking glass” FTD. Change aircraft configurations in seconds.
Image credit: FlightSafety International.

On the Show Floor

Launch Pad was a new feature on the I/ITSEC show floor. The intent of Launch Pad is to identify and showcase new technologies and approaches. Over the past year NTSA solicited proposals and selected nine for presentation. MS&T stopped by one session – Aptima’s SAIL3: The Sailor Adaptive Intelligent Life-Long Learning System. CEO Daniel Serfaty explained the intent of SAIL3 is to enable management of the learning continuum to ensure sailors get the right training, at the right time, and the right way i.e. personalized, proactive, and intelligent training. SAIL3, when fully implemented, will support all three RRL lines of effort; career-long learning, delivery at point-of-need, and integrated content development.

Real Time Innovations (RTI) spokesman John Breitenbach introduced MS&T to the Industrial Internet of Things, suggesting a strong move into the military simulation and training domains. The IIoT, he explained, is about connecting real systems and real data.

And speaking of real data, in real time, CAE demonstrated the data gathering and display prowess of CAE Rise to the military audience. First introduced into the civil aviation community, CAE Rise is a data-driven training system that gathers, analyzes, records and displays data about pilot performance in the simulator, making for, according to CAE, more student-centric learning, reduced subjectivity in pilot assessment, and instructor focus on teaching and instructing.

One of the more exciting “rides” at the show was Cruden’s outstanding full-motion fast craft simulator – replicating a 40-ft rigid inflatable boat (RIB) with two 400HP outboards strapped on. It only lacked sea spray for a full immersion experience. Good simulation of motion, sea state, and weather / light conditions, and excellent synchronisation between motion and visual contributed to the experience.

For those seeking a low-cost light helicopter simulator, Australia’s Ryan Aerospace demonstrated the HELIMOD Mark III virtual reality helicopter sim. We were impressed, noting that unlike most of the genre experienced, this one is eminently controllable, and easy and pleasant to fly. The cost of the system was quoted in the range of $35K.

BARCO showcased their new FL40, a solid-state, single-chip DLP LED projector aimed at the simulation market.

NORXE stated their P1 projector, which seems similar to the FL40, is now in full production and displayed the 4K/120Hz model. The P2 will be in production in six months, and there will eventually be three variants of each model, with differing resolutions. P2 is slightly bigger than P1, but with twice the brightness.

Esterline announced the too-big-to-display RP-X rear-projection dome. The dome is egg-shaped, reducing the number of projectors required, and is made of thick acrylic, allowing it to be self-supporting. Esterline also showed their collimator mirror, in seven sections, giving a 240o horizontal coverage. More sections, in increments of two, can be added to expand the FOV.

Raydon’s Mission Reconfigurable Trainer can support more than 30 different tracked and wheeled vehicles. Rapidly deployable, and scalable, it enables maneuver and gunnery training at the point of need for individuals, crews, platoons and more. A booth spokesman stated the multi-station trainer on display was set up in about 20 minutes.

MetaVR had a large footprint, and new and enhanced products to view. A partial list of the company’s “ecosystem” at this year’s conference indicated 10 government and 32 industry exhibitors were at the event as MetaVR customers and business partners. In one collaboration, MetaVR’s Virtual Reality Scene Generator (VRSG) and 3D content supported Immersive Display Solutions’ new VisionStation3 spherical desktop display and Battle Simulations’ Modern Air Combat Environment, rendering US Naval Air Station Fallon virtual target ranges, built with MetaVR’s small drone-captured 2-cm imagery.

DiSTI reported strong growth in its military portfolio and increasing interest in its VR and AR solutions for training in adjacent high-risk industries. Their booth featured several products including VE Studio, a commercially available virtual training development platform designed to allow the user to build complex 3D virtual environments on desktop, mobile, and virtual and mixed reality training applications. VE Studio manages the entire development process including requirements analysis, content development, and automated software builds and regression testing.

Competing in a similar space, Nova Scotia’s Modest Tree highlighted their Modest3D software suite for rapid creation of 3D interactive and immersive training, support and marketing solutions.

An attention-getter was the demonstration by Engineering & Computer Simulations (ECS) and its Seattle-based partner HaptX, which brought the capabilities of haptic technology into medical training. Medical trainees have a persistent requirement for higher-fidelity learning experiences – by gaining improved touch in scenarios. The HaptX Gloves Development Kit introduced to the community last October consists of two gloves, each with 130 tactile actuators that provide realistic touch across the hand and fingertips, permitting learners to participate in virtual scenarios with realistic touch feedback and natural interaction. In scenarios observed by MS&T at the ECS booth, delegates from military medical organizations completed suturing and related highly tactile skills.

MS&T has always paid special attention to the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge, and this year was no different. See “Games Showcase Tackles Serious Challenges” below.

And finally, some exhibitors with a local geographical advantage take the opportunity to add value in the margins of the show. MS&T Europe Editor Dim Jones visited Lockheed Martin’s 100 Global Innovation Circle facility near Orlando, and was briefed on the LM take on the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, flying an FVL Light Portable Full Motion Simulator (PFMS).

I/ITSEC has always been considered the premier event of this kind. The numbers indicate that it continues to hold that position. The organizers report some 16,500 registrations comprising 5,300 exhibit visitors, 4,500 conference attendees, and 6,700 exhibit personnel. 1,840 international visitors from 60 countries took part in the show. By any count, I/ITSEC in 2018 has continued the upward trend since its nadir in 2013, and continues to maintain its premier position. 

Originally published in Issue 1, 2019 of MS&T Magazine.