Latest Army training simulator: a cell phone

Latest Army training simulator: a cell phone

The Army Acquisition Command's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation is building "a spectrum of training all the way up to immersive simulations with thousands of online users," PEO STRI chief technology officer Michael Macedonia said today at the Association of the U.S. Army annual conference in Washington.

PCs and cell phones have gained so much power relative to custom graphics systems that even handheld computers such as the Compaq iPaq and PalmOne Treo are satisfactory for simulator training with Global Positioning System receivers, Macedonia said.

"Cell phones are driving the hardware market," he said. "There are 500 million cell phones made every year, compared with 100 million PCs," and graphics processors are "moving faster than Moore's law, which makes our equipment obsolete real fast," he said, referring to the conventional IT wisdom that processor power doubles every 18 months.

PC gamers employed by PEO STRI are programming wireless devices particularly for remote military units abroad. Macedonia said he expects a wireless unit to store up to 800G on a solid-state drive by the end of the decade.

"Converting all our image generators to PC graphics has saved us huge dollars," he said.

The current training applications serve, for example, maintenance technicians for weapons and aircraft, riflery students and mission planners. "We can simulate a 3,000-block war game" in a large city with thousands of entities'a challenge even with a supercomputer," Macedonia said. "We no longer use Ada. We use Java, C++, Extensible Markup Language and OpenGL."

The handhelds train soldiers as well as first responders to navigate with arrows and zoom functions through 3-D, computer-aided-design maps of cities and buildings.

"We always put a sniper in the church bell tower," said PEO STRI contractor Waymon Armstrong, president of Engineering and Computer Simulations Inc. of Orlando, Fla., and a wargamer himself.

Armstrong said PEO STRI will put a hazardous-materials training simulation into production on a handheld platform this year for the Homeland Security Department.

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