$36 Million Virtual Reality Game to Train US SoldiersS

The Pentagon has just given the U.S. Office of Naval Research $36 million for what it calls a "futuristic" experiment in training soldiers to deal with terrorists by using immersive virtual reality scenarios.

The experiment, dubbed the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), will be, according to the ONR:

A critical, one-of-a-kind futuristic training program in which warfighters would train here at home in preparation for the types of small, urban and borderless conflicts that have spread throughout the middle east and other regions of the world . . . [it will be] a realistic, live-action virtual environment, that provides warfighter trainees feedback that allows for combined arms integration.

Apparently it will emphasize the "human" side of warfare, which is an odd assertion to make about a computer simulation.

Navy researcher George Solhan said the goal is to create "physically and mentally adaptable joint warriors winning and surviving in all phases of warfare." It's fascinating that as warfare becomes more virtual, via robots and UAVs, training also becomes more virtual. I'm curious about how Solhan believes a videogame-style simulation will create "physically adaptable" warriors - is this game sort of Guitar Hero-ish, or Dance Dance Revolutiony with a foot pad?

If $36 million sounds like a huge budget to you, consider that Grand Theft Auto IV cost $100 million. Final Fantasy XII cost $35 million.

SOURCE: Office of Naval Research

Image via US Dept of Defense

UPDATE: What might this virtual reality system look like? It may be similar to an immersive training program that the Navy created last year. Here's a description of that one:

Trainees use their regular tactical equipment, but weapons are modified to shoot special effects small arms marking system (SESAMS) rounds, which are similar in concept to paintball rounds. Trainees and role players use paintball masks for added protection. As the trainees move from room to room, they may encounter live role players or virtual characters. Occasionally, pyrotechnics are used to increase realism.

Read more about that via the US Navy. (Thanks to commenter Ghost in the Machine.)