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The truth about 'hyper-realistic' video games as war simulators

[The Verge]

Mixed in among the insane ramblings of Norway mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is a familiar claim: The same video games enjoyed by millions of adults and children around the world are also used by the world’s military forces for training and indoctrination.

While video game simulators are increasingly used to augment real-world training of fighting forces, the technology behind them includes the sorts of advancements that would be impossible to replicate in a person’s home. And the minutia of detail they rely on is often shed when a game is created for entertainment. …

Special Forces units at Fort Bragg, for instance, use the Laser Shot Virtual Shoot House. The building is designed to allow soldiers to blow in doors, fire live ammo at life-sized enemies and feel the thump of shots being fired back. The latest version of these shoot houses, designed by Texas-based Laser Shot, include smell emulators and a new technology that can project in the middle of a room, moving, life-sized holograms that can react to being shot.

The holograms are created by projecting video onto a fine wall of mist sprayed into a specific spot in a room. A complex 3D algorithm then tracks bullets fired by training soldiers, determining when a round has pierced the image and the avatar reacts accordingly, said Kevin Bass, director of software development at Laser Shot. Other enemies appear on the building’s interior walls, which are high-tech video screens that can self-seal after a bullet passes through them.

“The hologram stuff is still in its infancy,” Bass said. “The idea is that instead of looking into a screen of characters, you become part of that virtual world.”

In California, some of the shoot houses are designed to increase the interior temperature to more than 100 degrees during training.

“Military training is about how to do what you need to do under the fatigue and cognitive strain you will be under,” Herz explains.

But both forms of military simulator concentrate on teaching things like the rules of engagement or how to tactically approach a specific conflict. Video games, at their best, deliver not a realistic experience, but a hyper-realistic one, Herz says. …

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