When most people think of computer games, they think of escapist titles like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, or Super Mario. Even most games that label themselves as simulations, like the ever-popular Madden football series, are meant to more for fun than realistic training.
Development studio Intelligence Gaming is behind a different kind of game, dubbed “serious gaming” – games that are designed to teach users rather than entertain them. The company has previously created games for the United States Navy, and has now been contracted by the Army to develop a new kind of game that is part virtual reality, part movie. The company teamed with development and design firm EffectiveUI to create a technology called RealityV based on Adobe’s upcoming Flash 10 platform. The result: 3D interactive simulations that could revolutionize training in the military, health care, retail stores, and any number of other industries.
At the core of each RealityV experience is a a full motion movie shot in 360 degrees. This movie is projected into a special headset that strongly resembles the “Virtual Reality” googles of yore. As the user rotates, their perspective in the video rotates as well (they can only rotate around a single point, as the technology doesn’t yet support movement). During the videos users are forced to make quick decisions that affect the scene’s outcome – it’s sort of like a ‘Choose your own adventure’, except you feel like you’re actually there. Users can also use RealityV from their browser, but this effect is lost.
The first application of the technology is “Immersive Cultural Simulation Product”, a game created for the Army that teaches soldiers how to handle cultural differences in Iraq. Soilders are forced to make decisions in real time as they watch the people surrounding them, paying attention to gestures and facial expressions to decide who to pay attention to and look for any possible threats. The first scene available involves a group of soldiers attempting to convince a small village’s leader to cooperate with a checkpoint station that they are setting up, and the Army has ordered three more episodes taking place in Iraq.
Steve Weyl and Anthony Franco, presidents of Intelligence Gaming and EffectiveUI respectively, say that the team initially considered using traditional 3D models for the scenes but realized that current technology simply isn’t able to capture the subtleties of human expressions. Instead, they chose to go with professionally produced videos, which may in the end be a blessing when it comes time to licensing out the technology to third parties.
The two companies won’t reveal much about RealityV’s future outside of the military, but they acknowledge that the technology could be used in a variety of fields. Medical students could take part in a stressful surgical theatre, getting an idea of what goes on without getting in the way. And retail chains could use the system to create a scenario for dealing with upset customers. The companies have plans to license the filming technology out to these businesses as well so that they’ll be free to create their own scenes (something that couldn’t be done with 3D game models).
To get an idea of what a RealityV scenario looks like, check out the embedded video or click here to watch an extended version.