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.

Related coverage:

Government-only virtual world on the way

Virtual training has risks

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.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group