Article By: Amanda D. Stein
Training and preparation are key components of effective military operations, particularly in theater, but preparing for the dangers of combat in a training scenario can be dangerous and conditions difficult to replicate.
For more than a decade, NPS faculty and students in the university’s Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation (MOVES) Institute have examined current modeling and simulation (M&S) technologies and their future of training. In order to continue the discussion surrounding the future of MS capabilities, the MOVES Institute hosted their 11th Annual Research and Education Summit, July 12-14.
For the three-day event, experts and students gathered in the MAE Auditorium to share their areas of study and discuss the direction that modeling and simulation is headed for the future. MOVES Director Joe Sullivan offered opening remarks for the summit, noting that NPS is unique in that the research being done is unlike that of any traditional university in the country.
"The MOVES degree was stood up as one of the first in the nation specifically for educating consumers in modeling and simulation," said Sullivan. "It's nice to talk about the strategic footing of NPS and to be able to say that MOVES is used as one of the classic examples of how we've executed that mission. Our mission fits incredibly nicely with not only NPS' mission, but also the current strategic model."
The summit featured sessions on topics ranging from human behavior modeling to web-based and social networking technologies, with participation from students, faculty and visiting presenters.
“One of the things that sometimes stifles innovation is someone’s rank or their platform affiliation, or their nametag even about where they are and who they work for,” explained Carpenter. “So if you are in your uniform right now, I want you to join me and take your insignia off. And I want you to take your nametag off … You take these off because if you are Navy you have a certain way of thinking and if you are a civilian, you have a certain way of thinking. And sometimes you can get caught in the trappings of ‘I’ve been there. I’ve done that.’”
Carpenter touched on the partnership efforts between NPS and NWDC, which allow MOVES students to explore research topics that are of value to the NWDC, while receiving invaluable feedback on the future needs of the Navy in M&S.
Keynote speaker Rear Adm. Wendi Carpenter, Commander of Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC), Norfolk, removes her insignia, and encourages the audience to do the same, demonstrating that the summit is about collaboration without the constraints of rank or title.
“I came here today to be a cheerleader,” Carpenter said. “What I came to do today was encourage you about what you are doing for today and for the future, and how important it is. We have done a lot of work in the last year in a half with the MOVES Institute, and a lot of work in the past few years with the Naval Postgraduate School. And it is pivotal to what we are doing at NWDC and the way we are doing business. Modeling and simulation is pivotal and strategic for where we are going not only in the Navy, but in the rest of the Armed Forces.”
Navy Center for Advanced Modeling and Simulation Deputy Director, Darrel Morben, discusses the goals and objectives of the center, and the growing partnership with NPS and MOVES.
For the final day of presentations, student presenters took the stage to describe the research they have done in their path to a MOVES degree. Lt. Tommy Getty explained his thesis, titled “A Comparison of Legacy Marksmanship Training vs. Simulation-Based Marksmanship Training with the Use of Indoor Simulation Marksmanship Trainer.”
During his presentation, Getty described how his decision to explore simulations for marksmanship training was spurred by a noticeable lack of simulation training available through the Navy. His research looked at the benefits of having the ability to train in a non-lethal, simulated environment, versus the traditional munitions training.
The value of M&S as a critical training tool was echoed by numerous presenters, all noting that M&S could be recreated, and errors would be non-lethal. One aspect of any combat scenario that is often unpredictable is the human component. It is hard to determine what the human response will be to a stressful situation, and any chance to prepare men and women in advance for the uncertainty that they may face is invaluable.
During the Visual Perception session, Computer Science Professor, Dr. Chris Darken, gave a lecture titled, “Practical Models of Human Visual Perception for Simulation.”
“You need to train your guy up and at the end of the day, you want to improve his perceptual processes when he’s actually out in the field,” explained Darken. “For cases where we have human behavior models, obviously perception is a key part of human behavior. So if we want to get the human behavior right, we’d better think about perception and we do that a whole lot here at MOVES.”
One aspect of human behavior modeling that Darken touched on was getting the subject to seek out concealed routes as opposed to the shortest route, more closely simulating the human response to a potentially dangerous situation.
“You’ve got your entity in a simulation and you want to tell them to go to point B,” Darken explained. “Your baseline is that he can find a path there and now you want him to find a path that is concealed. So that’s information that a person gets through perceptual processes.”
One of the highlights of the three-day sessions was the annual Demo Night, where participants were given a platform to showcase their M&S projects in action. With various stations and hands-on experiences, the booths gave attendees the chance to see first-hand the technologies being discussed in the various sessions.
As Sullivan and Carpenter both noted, collaboration in any academic setting is invaluable, and the chance to gather experts from around the country not only broadens MOVES’ influence, but also enriches the experience for NPS students working on their theses.
“We’ve been able to capitalize on events like this and opportunities that participants bring to us, to forecast where M&S needs to go,” noted Sullivan. “The other unique feature of the MOVES Institute is we’re closely coupled with the academic programs. And we often say that co-evolving a research program along with the academic program is exactly the right model for how you maintain a unique and relevant program.
“The research agenda can be aggressive, forward leaning, adopt risk, investigate areas which may or may not fold back and integrate into the academic program,” he added. “The key element is that we keep those closely coupled.”