Allow us to introduce you to gamification. Although much hype surrounds the topic of gamification, there seems to be some misunderstanding as to what exactly it is. For our purposes at Visual Purple, we contend that gamification through our customized simulation training experiences is accomplished through a reward system. While not for every simulation design, when appropriate we will utilize leveling up, leaderboards / scoreboards, badges and achievements to further engage the trainee or learner.

For many even the term of gamification can be a turn-off. Why pay to have a trainee or learner play a game? Gaming concepts are everywhere nowadays from our smartphone apps to email campaigns we all have a desire to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

Gamification must also vary from one application to the next. In the case of simulation design, each simulation is built with different elements of gamification. Through incorporating gamification elements within a simulation, it allows a more immersive training environment that can further engage trainees and learners resulting greater muscle memory and development of critical thinking skills.

Why Gamification Has made Its Way into Simulation Training
Millennials are the least engaged generation at work, and a recent Gallup study further determined that only 31 percent of employees are engaged at work. Let’s just reiterate that number, that’s less than one-third of U.S. workers that were engaged in their work last year! Gamification of training aids the trainee in engaging further and also helps them to prepare better for real-life situations. The average millennial spends upwards of 10,000 hours gaming before even turning age 21. Thus, the millennial workforce is an audience that yearns to have training delivered to them in an easily digestible format that is relatable and intriguing. The millennial generation (as well as other generations) are demanding of innovative training solutions that actually teach what they need to learn.

The 2015 Military Training Technology (MT2) Top Simulation and Training Company List is out and features Visual Purple as a featured top simulation and training company. The award honors only the top simulation and training companies around the world that have made a difference in training for military personnel.

Although this is not the first time that Visual Purple has been recognized on the list, it is a proud accomplishment for Visual Purple nonetheless to see that our training really does make a difference.

Military Training and Technology Top Simulation Company

The training submitted for the award supported limited gamification elements with a technology driven theme. The final training product delivered a high level of interactivity and replayability with the ability for the trainee to learn and apply knowledge through the simulation. Ultimately the training sought to have the player “think like the enemy.”

The training provided a story-centric approach to complex training material that was simple to play and encompassed a Hollywood plausible storyline. Action sequences provide rewards to the player and the training also served as a foundation for future episodes, which are currently under development. A big thank you to Military Training Technology Awards for recognizing our work!

Visual Purple is pleased to announce Supplier Clearinghouse certification as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). This certification entitles Visual Purple to conduct business as an official WBE in support of utilities per California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulations.

Visual Purple pursued the WBE certification to increase both visibility and availability within diversity programs. More and more major contracts are adopting diversity mandates and policies as a key component of their vendor selection strategies. Many of Visual Purple’s clients utilize WBE’s as tier vendors to secure projects that have contractual diversity requirements. Visual Purple’s WBE status allows the firm to facilitate more effectively new business development initiatives as well as help its clients meet their diversity objectives.

“The Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) certification helps our clients and partners to meet diversity goals and qualify for new business opportunities,” commented company Owner and Chairperson, Lydia Heinbockel. Like its clients, Visual Purple will pursue projects that have set utilization guidelines for minority and women-owned enterprises.

WBE Certification

We are proud of our 17 years in the simulation and training industry. We’ve enjoyed supporting Intelligence Community clients as well as many other client types. But as a company evolves so does the internet presence and other related marketing that goes along with it. After much work, we are pleased to introduce you to the new Visual Purple website design at We have reinvented ourselves with a new company logo, website and training/educational capabilities.

We’ll admit that we haven’t been that great at staying in touch, but that’s all about to change. Training must also adapt to the ever-changing technologically advanced world that we live in.

Welcome to the Next-Generation of Training and Education! Among the more notable updates in our simulation technology are:
• Gamification elements
• Ability to train or learn anytime, anywhere with the ability to engage on an iOS or Android tablet, Windows, Mac and additionally Visual Purple Smart Sims are optimized for iPhone and Android smartphones
• World class game engine graphics – Unreal 4
• More realistic 3D graphics

Our business focus has gravitated to:
• Strong presence in the nuclear simulation arena
• Migrating Smart Sims to different languages/cultures: Localization

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves let us explain why our training focus changed. The date was March 11th, 2011 and a 9.0 magnitude earthquake took place near the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. A tsunami occurred, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster ensued which resulted in a nuclear meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors. This event hit close to home for us here at Visual Purple as we enjoy a beautiful location on the Central Coast of California, just miles from Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Known as the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl Disaster of 1986, the Fukushima disaster could have easily been prevented. After investigation, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission found that the nuclear disaster was ‘manmade’, thus all of its direct causes were foreseeable. Since 2011, we have made it Visual Purple’s mission to bring new levels of safety and learning to the Nuclear Energy community. Our hope is that through our mission critical training we can provide defense in depth against the unimaginable.

By Ed Heinbockel, Visual Purple’s President/CEO

We’ve been producing compelling simulations for 15 years now. Initially interactive video, because our clients’ hardware for the most part was 2-5 years behind the technology curve, then for the last 9 years various flavors of virtual worlds: decision (scenario) based, real-time immersive 3D, and hybrid (a user efficient mash-up of the two).

We’ve trained everything from counter-terrorism to sales training. We’ve learned over the years that our first-person thinkers play best to preventing things from going boom. Yes, boom. In other words, wherever there exists the potential for bad things to happen, you better be employing training that is realistic and sticks. That the individual needs to know what to do and now. That can often make the difference between life and death. This all means that we at Visual Purple have become obsessed with playing to the highest and best use of our technology and collective expertise. This has become our mantra and strategy for success.

So, today, you find us fervently committed to applying our F.I.S.T. toolbox to difficult situations – situations demanding of accuracy and realism in a high consequence environment – all the while lashing it all together through the power of story.

Left is good…Left of Boom, that is!

Most have wondered where we have been for the past little bit, let me tell you it hasn’t been a boring time for us here at Visual Purple headquarters. In reality we have been on some really cool projects. One of which being the creation of simulations for a nuclear power plant based upon lessons learned from the Fukushima incident.

Since the tragic 2011 Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster, nuclear regulators and plant operators around the world have re-focused their energies toward training and readiness of personnel – in the context of thinking the unthinkable. Or, what is known in the industry as beyond design basis events, such as the 9.1 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan on 3/11/11. It was that crisis that illustrated the urgent need to prepare plant personnel to handle plant functions through the use of improved planning, additional equipment and training. Training for beyond design basis events enters a realm of training that can often only be realized in an immersive 3D world. To attempt to train otherwise is prohibitive from both cost and effectiveness perspectives. Visual Purple’s F.I.S.T. powered simulation training allows for rapid development and modifications as new procedures are defined and evolved through iterative testing in the virtual world.

Simulation based technology is the perfect tool to train personnel in protocols for dealing with potential incidents. It gives the personnel the ability to train in a true-to-life replicated environment that accurately mirrors their plant, down to the inch. Visual Purple has 15 years of experience in creating life like simulations that replicate the real-world while providing a safe practice environment for the trainee.

We are pleased to provide innovative simulation training solutions to a variety of sectors, and more recently to the energy industry (both nuclear and non-nuclear). Visual Purple’s proven training simulations and proprietary F.I.S.T. technologies deliver unparalleled training value across the energy, business and government sectors.

A movie’s main draw is its story. The team here at Visual Purple have long been evangelists of the ‘Power of Story’ but realize that not all simulation companies are created equal when constructing a simulation and utilizing the power of story to draw the trainee in and engage them. There are parallel challenges (both in games and intelligent simulations) when crafting together game play and story. Ask any producer, cracking the code on making a blockbuster movie is tough. Usually, Hollywood blockbuster movies have a mix of a-list actors (and of late way too much CGI) and a great script with some character development. One Hollywood blockbuster after another shines with a terrific story, well written from the likes of well-known (and maybe overpaid) Hollywood writers and tons of captivating, if not over-the-top, special-effects.

While some may think it a stretch to compare an intelligent simulation to a Hollywood movie, they do both contain much of the same elements (and in the case of Visual Purple simulations, Hollywood writers, too!). Some games and/or simulations offer a storyline but that’s as far as it gets. Sometimes the storyline is poorly written and irrelevant or perhaps it may be barely developed and still irrelevant. While it may be a thin line to get a happy medium of just enough of a story-line matched to game play, it is possible to do when crafted correctly. Some may consider making the simulation more directed and constrained in order to protect the element of story, but putting the player “on rails” may make them feel more like they are on a ride at Disneyland than mastering skills in a simulation environment. The key is immersing the player in a story construct/world that the player always perceives to be large with many interesting choices. In essence, player-directed game play allows for the story to have distinct and useful paths, all dependant upon player choices. The story will take different paths and have appropriate experiences based on player decisions balanced against training goals. By utilizing narrative devices, the story unfolds at a pace influenced by the player as specific events unfold. By intelligently guiding the trainee through the sim, many training goals are achieved, e.g., the sim is ‘aware’ and will in real-time challenge the player to their level of competence or skill so as to continually raise the training bar – seamlessly and automatically.

“When you think of the word “simulation,” what comes to mind? Some people instantly think of screen capture tutorials. Others might think of medical simulations, interacting with a patient or medical equipment. Others might think of military simulations. But what you probably don’t think of is story.”- Jack McGrath

When you play through a simulation one seeks to be challenged, to be drawn in and placed in the environment by feeling like they can relate to the events unfolding and the realness of the surroundings. Visual Purple simulations have the unique ability to draw the trainee in because of the use of a story allowing for the trainee to play the simulation through not only for the challenges that it presents but for the COMPELLING STORY that unfolds and captures attention. Learning objectives (ELO’s and TLO’s) are easily met when basing a simulation around a storyline. Some worry about game play detracting from the story, but in reality our experience of producing intelligent simulations for the past fifteen years allows for a proven approach to blending the two together: arguably, as much art, as it is science.

Some companies offer a troubled approach to storytelling, making the storyline hard to follow and character development just plain awkward. Tools often used to help deliver a message and/ or story are typically in the form of Non-Player Characters (NPCs for short) but the use of the surroundings help as well. Some simulations may seem primitive at best and it is these that give the simulation training market a bad name: Second Life’s many technical, social and story deficiencies have not done well-executed training simulations any favors.

There is, however, a better choice that represents a balanced marriage of game play and storyline – harnessing “The Power of Story” to achieve measurable training results.

Not to name names here, but Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple and others have been unceremoniously modifying user terms of service so you tacitly agree to them using your data (search habits, email content scanning, FB postings, etc.) in any manner they desire. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few weeks, it has become mainstream knowledge that the government is accessing this same data for horizon scanning of potential terrorist threats/plots. The National Security Agency (NSA) is at the heart of this debate in light of Edward Snowden’s leak of classified information, a federal crime. Some people are re-thinking the concept of privacy. We believe there is value in providing choices and privacy has been an area of interest at Visual Purple for some time and has influenced GisterPRO’s feature set.

In wake of the recent Google snooping scandal a few weeks back other search engines that are not tracking user information have seen a big bump in folks visiting their site to conduct searches in a non-tracked environment. As an example this past Monday, June 17th, Duck Duck Go saw a record 3 million searches in just one day as people conducting searches on the internet looked for an alternative search engine free of user tracking. In fact Duck Duck Go traffic has increased over 33% in the past two weeks in wake of the Google scandal.

Europe has already seen a lot of debate over data privacy and has therefore begun enacting new data protection laws to protect its citizens. It may not be long before the U.S. starts to think (and act) more about this hot topic as well… how much is enough when letting the big guns track you?

When you stop to think about it we are constantly under surveillance – everything from simply browsing the internet to smart phones and even driving around in our fancy, black box equipped cars. The concept of privacy is being recast before us… apathy might prevail, or some of us may decide to use a different search engine or private email service. Options are a good thing!

Search privacy

We are awash in facts. Have a question? Google has an ‘answer.’ If you wanted to know the gross domestic product of New Zealand, you can find that online in a few seconds. Or in the world of training, you can endure traditional CBTs (that’s short for Computer-Based Tranings) rich in facts, and as exciting as a root canal. What matters more now than ever is the ability to put facts into context and deliver them in bite-sized pieces with emotional impact; we all know this as story. This is the magic of bringing context and building connections – if you want to convey important lessons and subject matter in ways that stick, you must first recognize the power of narrative and effectively lead your organization by creating and delivering engaging story with a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s in our DNA.

We carried this successful theme beyond Intelligent Simulations with GisterPRO. Both 1.0 and 2.0 (currently in BETA) build a story by extracting terms and concepts then displaying them in what we term a ‘Gister Graph’. This visualization bakes in an interesting story of meaning by displaying relative relationships and strengths of terms and concepts. So, with just a glance, a dense dataset of facts yields its ‘story.’

GP OldGP New

Our mission with GisterPRO, is to give people something they didn’t know they were missing: their data has a story to tell; an important story.

I wanted to take a few minutes and share some quick comments I have on a presentation that Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft Research, presented at the Data Edge ( Conference last week: “Six myths of Big Data.” While I tend to agree with most of Ms. Crawford’s points, I believe two of the myths are open to debate at some level…

Myth 1- Big Data is New
Agree. As Ms. Crawford states the scale and prevalence of Big Data is reaching us in new ways. Big Data is only at the beginning climb of the hype cycle. With the way that the internet and social media are today as well as large organizations amassing data in great amounts, Big Data is here to stay. So, yes, Big Data has been around for some time and is only going to grow exponentially.

Perhaps one of the most important take-aways is that there are “…two prominent issues today in Big Data, display and insight […have] been around for awhile.” GisterPRO is a tool that helps solve these perennial challenges.

Myth 2- Big Data is Objective

Disagree…Big Data is objective. I think she really wants to say that the complexion or sources for a given dataset may or may not accurately describe a population as in the cited Hurricane Sandy biasing example. Thus, the person analyzing the data needs to be experienced and savvy enough to pose basic statistical questions around data capture/composition & thus validity.

Myth 3- Big Data Doesn’t Discriminate
Disagree. The people using Big Data may not be, however, be discriminating. Reporting truth is not discriminating. Correlations will be made, whether we like them or not.

Myth 4- Big Data Makes Cities Smart
Agree. I would go further to suggest that Big Data making cities smart will lead to an individual being more vulnerable to Orwellian-type abuse.

Myth 5- Big Data is Anonymous
Agree. Unforeseen correlations have repeatedly proven to lift the veil of privacy in a myriad of ways. Look out!

Myth 6- You Can Opt Out

Agree….kinda of. Think of it this way. If something is free (Google search or Yahoo mail to name just two of many examples), you are the product; you pay by giving up your privacy so they can sell stuff to you. There are options for opting out. Fodder for future posts…