Army has been using commercial game technology for three decades now, so it's
no surprise that virtual worlds, in massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs
like Second Life or World of Warcraft) is the latest stuff that's being adapted
for military training.
The virtual world approach
would provide troops with a much broader array of training opportunities and,
obviously, an identical user interface for all of them. Of particular interest
to the army is the major NPC (Non-Player Character) technology advances of the
last few years. For decades, game programmers have been making NPCs more
intelligent. As a result current NPC tech produces very realistic non-player
characters, which are essential for military training (to represent civilians
and other troops, friendly and enemy). Combined with photo-realistic images,
troops can be confronted with very realistic training situations. This is
particularly true when it comes to dealing with civilians in a war zone. This
is the most difficult sort of thing to train for. With virtual worlds and
MMOGs, troops and units can also create their own scenarios and training
exercises. This is essential for troops heading for a specific area, and
situation, in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The new generation of army
MMOGs are restricted to just military personnel, and some are classified, and
not even reachable via the Internet (the army uses a separate "Internet" that
uses web technology, but is not connected to the public Internet). Some of this
training technology is also showing up in businesses. There it can be used for
everything from management, to sales, customer service and even manufacturing.