Virtual 'Tiny Town' coming for Secret Service training

Kiosks will help agents prepare site security plans against advanced threats

Secret Service agents are about to get a boost into the virtual world. The Service, which has been training agents how to do site security planning with a miniature “Tiny Town” tabletop model for 40 years, will soon shift to a high-tech virtual world environment known as “Virtual Tiny Town” with gaming technology and three-dimensional modeling.

The goal is to help the agents train for security scenarios at airports, stadiums, urban locations, hotels and other prospective locations. The threat scenarios include chemical, biological or radiological attacks, armed assaults and suicide bombers.

In previous years, agents-in-training prepared for the scenarios in a miniature model town with various loctions.


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The new video game technology, named the Site Security Planning Tool, creates similar locations in a virtual world with gaming technology accessible through video kiosks.

The new virtual world is expected to be completed and activated by this spring. It is being deployed at the service's Security and Incident Modeling Lab at the James J. Rowley Training Center near Washington, D.C., according to a Jan. 24 news release.

The Secret Service “sought to take these scenarios beyond a static environment to encompass the dynamic threat spectrum that exists today, while taking full advantage of the latest computer software technology,” the service said. “The agency’s Security and Incident Modeling Lab wanted to update Tiny Town and create a more relevant and flexible training tool.”

The new virtual world includes several virtual environments, optional simulated chemical plume dispersion, touch-screen interfaces and optional changes in perspective, from overhead to “walk-through.”

The new technology consists of three kiosks, each comprised of a 55-inch Perceptive Pixel touch screen with an attached projector and camera, and a computer running Virtual Battlespace as the base simulation game. Each kiosk can accommodate up to four people.

The next stage of development will include adding more nuanced scenarios, incorporating health effects and crowd behaviors.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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