Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR JUL 2015 Contents 45
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 11 | Jul 2015
US Army researchers get
serious about gaming
RIGHT: Other gaming-based
training simulations include
Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3)
which enables scenario
training, mission rehearsal
and weapon effects training,
such as target suppression.
VBS3 was selected by the US
Army as its flagship product
for its Games for Training
program and has become an
industry standard in game-
based military simulation.
Image: Bohemia Interactive
Group. This group aims to
help the ARDEC workforce
find innovative ways to use
and apply gaming technology
to support the warfighter.
The Gaming Innovation
Lab, one of the group’s five
parts, is a virtual ‘sandbox’, where employees are encouraged to
be creative while also learning what it takes to develop serious
The lab focuses on three categories, (video game programing,
3-D art development and new gaming technology research,) and
provides all the space, equipment, software and reference materi-
als to work with new ideas.
The group’s other sections include the Organization for Innova-
tion Strategy, Collaboration Innovation Lab, Materials Innovation
Hub and the Picatinny Armaments Technical Library.
Ur has been part of the Gaming Innovation Lab since its incep-
tion in 2013.
“We want others to come in and say ‘This is what we do with it.
Now, what can you do with it?’’’
Advancements in technology have radically improved the
gaming world since America’s Army, allowing creators to update
games with more realistic features, such as character profiles,
real-time explosions and simulated weapons.
At the Picatinny Gaming Innovation Lab, the team offers a
variety of equipment, including motion capture, 3-D scanners,
cameras, virtual reality headsets and commercial game systems,
such as Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It also works with different
gaming engines, such as Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5, as well as
art software, such as Adobe Production and Autodesk Entertain-
ment Creation Suite.
However, you don’t need to be an expert in either gaming
equipment or art software to work with the Gaming Innovation
Lab. Instead, video game programing, 3-D modeling, 3-D ani-
mation, 3-D scanning and motion caption are skills that the lab’s
team offers to teach to its customers.
“Our team works from concept to product and, because we
have access to all training material and resources, we can mentor
your team,” explained Ur. “I’d just like to give employees the
opportunity to use the gaming hardware, because I want to pass
on as much of this knowledge as possible, so that we, at Picatinny,
can continue to develop this capability in the future.”
While video game technology is criticised for not being as
accurate as real-life simulators, Ur said that the pros outweigh the
cons, helping to create more immersive serious games, a genre
that simulates real-world events to train or educate users.
For instance, 3-D scanning and 3-D modeling allows the lab’s
team to make virtual prototypes of weapons before manufactur-
ing, reducing both cost and production time. The use of 3-D an-
imation and motion capture can also offer insight as to how that
weapon will function and where it can improve as well as how a
soldier moves on the battlefield.
“ Traditionally, when you do computer animations for market-
ing, you’re looking at a very long production time for rendering,”
said Ur. “Here, we can get a lot of the effects in real time using
these advanced game engines.
“Or, say we’re developing new body armor,” suggested Ur.
“Well, we can motion capture that soldier with the old body ar-
mor and with the new body armor and analyse the data to see the
performance difference between the data. We can ask ‘Are they
are inhibited in their movements because of this armor? Or, is it
The use of 3-D technology and virtual environments has ex-
panded at Picatinny Arsenal as well. For example, the Spider XM7
Network Munition Dispensing Set, and the XM153 Common
Remotely Operated Weapon Station, both use an interactive, 3-D
animation manual to help soldiers perform maintenance tasks,
including inspection, assembly and disassembly.
To conduct weapon evaluation, custom interior and outdoor
scenarios are projected in virtual environments for the Simulated
Weapon Environment Testbed.
This recent expansion into the virtual world is why Ur, who
graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2002, encour-
ages everyone to explore gaming technology as well as be self-
made innovators and think outside the box.
“When I graduated college, I wanted to get into movie production
or work on video games,” said Ur. “But I realised, at the end of the
day, that those are just for people who are going to sit, maybe play
Call of Duty for an hour, and then be done with it.
“At Picatinny, I’m using the same technology to develop prod-
ucts for soldiers, and it could potentially save lives.”
Source: Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs
WHEN AMERICA’S ARMY, a first-person shooter video game,
was published by the US Army in 2002, gamers praised it.
Computer Gaming World magazine gave it the ‘Editor’s Choice
Award’. It won the ‘Best Value’ award in PC Gamer magazine.
And Wargamer.com, a website that focuses on strategic and war
gaming, dubbed it the ‘Best First Person/Tactical Shooter’ game
In recent years, though, persuading military personnel that
gaming remains a viable training application for soldiers hasn’t
been as easy.
“The moment you say ‘gaming’, people assume it’s just fun,
and that it doesn’t mean anything,” said Anthony Ur, animation
technology lead at Picatinny’s Gaming Innovation Lab. “So, as we
go more into the digital age, training, and upgrading our require-
ments, a lot of people are having a hard time adapting and accept-
ing that gaming technology is a great and inexpensive method for
The Gaming Innovation Lab is part of the Armament Research,
Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) Innovation
Gaming is becoming an
increasingly viable training
tool for warfighters.
ABOVE: Army researchers point to the official game of the US
Army, America’s Army, as proof that gaming is a viable training
application for soldiers. Image: US Army
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