The U.S. military has a long investment history in simulation-based training and all signs indicate that this investment is on the rise. Consider the monumental training needs facing all branches of the Armed Forces: a never-ending stream of new recruits, skills maintenance for enlisted men and women in a constantly evolving techno-driven military universe, and training the officer corps in a broad range of strategic enabling technologies. Despite the economic horror stories of the Pentagon paying $1,500.00 USD for a hammer, when it comes to purchasing state of the art video game based training simulation software, the U.S. Armed Forces are at the top of the class, their knowledge base far exceeding that of even the most advanced private sector corporations.
Business people are slowly “getting it”. Schools get it here and there. But the U.S. military gets it big time. The military has embraced digital game-based learning with all the fervor of true believers. Why? Because it works for them. And trust me, the guys in charge of training at the Pentagon are a very sharp group. They have seen and evaluated everything.
Of course the military is capable of creating micro-worlds that are unheard of (yet) within the private sector, including the use of sights and smells:
To enhance the sense of reality, smells including burned charcoal can be pumped into the room. Participants can gesture and touch objects and elicit responses in the simulator. The machine also uses voice-recognition technology and different languages to allow participants to converse with the characters they encounter.
The intent of simulation-based training is not to replace field training but to effectively complement it. In other situations, such as large-scale nuclear and chemical accidents, simulation-based training is the only viable alternative. Given our recent successes in a number of regional conflicts around the world, one would have to conclude that the boys in the Pentagon are doing something right.