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!
Children awe at being read stories from simple books that have textures for them to feel as a baby/ toddler to the grade school history text books. The point is that we are brought up around stories from an early age. Even though adults nowadays may be getting away from the traditional hardcover or paperback types of books, storytelling is still here. It may just reside in iPads and Kindles and the like instead. But what makes stories jump off the page? Well of course you can read a book full of text without pictures, while most of us tend to create specific images in our mind of the different scenarios being played out- is that really enough? By using “digital storytelling” the user is being immersed into a realistic environment that replicates the real world down to a tee.
“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” –Robert McKee
Digital storytelling is the art utilizing computer-based tools to tell a story. So I consider Visual Purple’s intelligent training simulations to do the same. Although the storyline of a simulation is immersive by itself we pepper it with decision blocks (and yes we do use Hollywood writers to craft our intelligent training simulations). Digital Stories also may encompass audio narration, images/ reference materials, video clips, etc.
So what exactly does make a virtual world immersive? Well aside from the real-world representation that they offer, many VW’s are 3-D. Does it have to be 3-D to be immersive, not necessarily but 3-D is always better in my book. I virtually attended a Metanomics event featuring Chris Abraham- he stated that the problem with Second Life is that it may be “too immersive.” Hmmm, could SL really be seen as too immersive? I wouldn’t exactly call it that, although it can be an overwhelming experience for a newbie to the world, I would not define it as being too immersive by any means. The learning curve can be immense to someone with little computer (and do I dare say gaming) knowledge.
Although a variety of different types of immersion exist, from sensory to tactile. Immersive environments are unique in that they offer a high level of realism to what is found in the real world. Some of the enticing factors of virtual worlds are the ability to explore, create and interact all of which bring in multiple layers of immersion. By engrossing the player in the environment virtual world environments are gaining prominence as immersive training spaces for all types of learners and organizations. These ‘immersive environments’ are especially helpful when replicating dangerous real life situations such as combat zones and medical training.
This is a two- part blog post on the promise and peril of virtual worlds, this post will specifically focus on the promise of virtual worlds. Recently K Zero posted a Forecast for the Virtual Worlds Sector on their blog:
“By the end of this year we’ll be at the 150 mark for total worlds. We forecast this number to double by the end of 2010.”
“Combine all of this and we get to our 2012 forecast of 900 virtual worlds.”
“We forecast 2012 revenues to reach $6bn and 2013 to hit $9bn.”
Yes that is Billion with a capital B! But 900 virtual worlds by 2012 could this be true- a little more than 2 years away and we haven’t even hit the 150 number!? What will be the differentiating factor from one virtual world to the next with that many virtual world applications to choose from? We don’t even have that many options with social media apps. as of yet. It seems like a daunting figure- although I am all for the growth of virtual worlds- how many is too many? There are many indications that virtual worlds hold a very bright future.
So you may ask why virtual worlds?
-Reducing Training Costs
-Increasing Company Revenues
-Training / Education
-Increase in Employee Productivity
-Offer an Immersive Learning Experience
-High fidelity graphics
I just finished reading the latest issue of TSJ (Training & Simulation Journal). An editorial entitled War Gaming by Karen Walker resonated with me. The article outlines the use of serious games to meet the needs of a variety of military organizations.
A couple of key points….
-A interesting computer game simulation utilized to train military police was developed for the U.K. Ministry of Defence.
-The learner landscaping is shifting. So training Generation Y with engaging and immersive experiences through simulation training applications rather than “Death-by-PowerPoint slides” just makes sense.
-By institutionalizing and standardizing the use of gaming technology for training today’s warfighters the military is able to manage limited resources more efficiently and effectively.
-Game-based training solutions can add entertainment value and provide for education and training to succeed.
-The Army’s latest field manual, FM 7-0 is the new cornerstone for the future of Army training.
-Serious games are demonstrating that they are effective in teaching invaluable decision-making skills.
Yes, the military gaming revolution is on track and gaining momentum while utilizing serious gaming technology to prepare troops for current and future missions.
An article just released online today by World Politics Review is just another testament to the use of games for training within the military sector.
With the latest immersive training news that the United States Joint Forces Command is investing $36M into a technology basket of immersive training solutions, I thought it only appropriate to share some observations: While this specific example may not put users in the Enterprise holodeck, though we’re getting closer, it is yet further validation to the sheer power and efficacy of simulation. Military simulation has been around for a long time. $36M may not seem like pocket change, unless of course you’re comparing it to the “Stimulus” bill, it is most likely a real bargain in this case. Why? The military wisely decided to have JOINT (emphasis added) Forces Command, or JFCOM, take the lead as what appears to be a large scale aggregation and integration of largely off-the-shelf technologies being bolted together for specific and expanded training scenarios. As a taxpayer, we should all be happy. As a warfighter, we should thank God.