Article By: Amanda D. Stein
In any combat situation, the stakes are high and the margin for error is slim. Training the troops and leaders in the most realistic means possible, allowing them to rise to the occasion when making decisions and executing operations is of the utmost importance for the Department of Defense. For the tenth year running, NPS‘ Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation, or MOVES, Institute showed off their support of that effort during their annual Research and Education Summit from July 13-15, showcasing a variety of defense-based modeling and simulation research projects.
The MOVES Institute specializes in modeling and simulation projects focused in areas like augmented reality, human behavior simulation, human systems and training, and simulation modeling for analysis. The annual Research and Education Summit featured some of these projects being developed at NPS as well as those from various institutions around the world. The summit allows those like-minded developers to come together to share ideas and initiatives, creating lasting partnerships with the MOVES Institute.
“MOVES has really become a cornerstone to the research activities at the Naval Postgraduate School,” said NPS Executive Vice President and Provost Leonard Ferrari. “We are really proud of MOVES and the way it reaches out to the entire community. We are pushing to expand and increase our basic research capabilities … There are expansions everywhere and we are going through those growing pains. But I think the Naval Postgraduate School is certainly ready, now, to play a bigger role in the national security of our nation and of our partners around the world.”
The kinds of models and simulations being developed in the MOVES institute help prepare troops for scenarios that would be costly or difficult to replicate in an actual practice run. The simulations allow the men and women the opportunity to get a feel for the tasks they will be performing, without the cost or dangerous consequences of mistakes. Several Summit presenters noted that allowing for multiple trial runs of a scenario helps the warfighter build confidence in their ability to respond to situations they may face in the field.
“Using models and simulation, they learn faster,” explained John Moore, Director of the Navy Modeling and Simulation Office. “They make fewer mistakes. They build up confidence faster. In most of the things that warfighters do, they need to have confidence that they are doing it right, that they are going to be successful at it, and that they are going to be able to keep going.”
Modeling and simulation also brings specific situations, such as desert combat or storms at sea, to target audiences in a safe, repeatable setting. One such program developed at the MOVES Institute, Delta 3D, is an open source game engine designed as a low cost alternative to pricey modeling and simulation tools. Although originally intended as a commodity solution, Delta 3D has added significant resources and now has capabilities for military training that few other game engines support. Additionally, it has expanded its user base and is now utilized by Lockheed Martin’s Simulation, Training and Support branch as the basis for their SAGE project, as well as other major products.
“Realism is key in what we do,” said Navy Cmdr. Joe Sullivan, Director of the MOVES Institute. “And a lot of the realism that you see here has been created by the warfighters. They are the ones who are deciding the important factors to put in, not contractors.
“We aren’t relying on someone else,” continued Sullivan. “We are using the students as the subject matter experts to guide what’s really important in this simulation. Other organizations struggle … they first have to learn what goes on in the operational world and translate that into a lab setting. We don’t struggle with that. It’s part of our students’ experiences. They bring that with them and we are able to create solutions based on that.”
The projects featured at the 10th Annual MOVES Summit covered a broad range of topics relevant to defense research and application. The three-day event included speakers from NPS and various research institutions proficient in modeling and simulation on topics including: Improving Learning in Virtual Worlds, Crowd Behavior Modeling, Modeling and Simulation in Healthcare, and Fleet Synthetic Training. The summit featured a Demo Night where displays were set up featuring the various research projects being discussed in the lectures.
Over 14 groups spread out in Watkins Hall to show off their models, simulations and concepts. MOVES Research Professor Amela Sadagic displayed a series of modeling and simulation projects being developed for urban warfare training. Her demo featured a 3D model of a person, upon which an image can be projected to give it a more realistic appearance than a flat projection would. The project, funded by the Office of Naval Research, is in its second year of development, with another two years to go. Upon completion they will demonstrate not only the visual appeal of the 3D models, but also the benefits of it in a practical training environment.
“This project is 3D virtual humans and it’s part of a larger project that we are doing with UNC Chapel Hill,” explained Sadagic. “Our colleagues at UNC are masters at display technology, so we are proposing giving up flat displays and going for organic, non-flat displays to achieve a higher sense of reality. In this case we would like to go from virtual humans projected on flat walls, to humans that are projected onto human-like molds. We would like them to interact and be used for role-playing perhaps in some urban warfare type of environment. But you can also imagine all kinds of telemedicine applications where a doctor needs to see a reaction of a human patient who may be remotely somewhere else, but a prop can be somewhere near the doctor.”
Sadagic and Sullivan are consistently striving to work with students to develop the most relevant and useful types of technologies possible to be used in the field. The MOVES Institute was established in 2000, but got its start in 1996 as an academic Master’s of Science program, combining skills prevalent in the operations research and computer science departments. In 1999, the Ph.D. program was added. Students within the MOVES program receive a comprehensive defense-based modeling and simulation education based on guidelines established by the Navy Modeling and Simulation Office to meet the needs of the services.
“Modeling and simulation is always going to be pervasive,” noted Karl van Bibber, Vice President and Dean of Research at NPS. “It’s always going to be more and more important in the training for individual shooters, individual pilots and individual surgeons. And this will guide investments with increasingly precious resources on how many and what mix of live exercises need to be done, and which could be sacrificed. It has been magnificent to me, and I think the MOVES team has done a great job here in really broadening out the mission and application space to all interested areas and disciplines that could benefit from modeling and simulation.”