Army hosts MOSES open-source virtual world

Secure environment allowing multiple agencies to experiment with 3D environments

Federal agencies are experimenting with virtual worlds for training, analysis and team-building in a secure and open source environment, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The Army’s Research Lab Simulation and Training Technology Center in Orlando is hosting an open source training platform behind a secure firewall, allowing about 400 use cases to be tested, Douglas Maxwell, science and technology manager at the lab, said at a conference of the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds on May 18.

The lab created the Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy (MOSES) last year to test the stability and reliability of open source virtual worlds. Previously, many of the agencies had been using the commercial Second Life platform, but Maxwell said he and others decided to migrate to a more customizable platform that offered options for information assurance and security.

MOSES is an experimental platform and the Army does not intend for it to be a permanent provider of virtual training services, Maxwell said. For now, about 400 projects from military and civilian agencies and partners have been approved for testing in MOSES, he said.

For example, Stephen Aguiar, virtual worlds project lead at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, said his center is using 3-D virtual environments in MOSES for design, analysis, command and control and experimentation.

The virtual world is being used to test scenarios based on real-life situations, and participants can move, interact and access systems as they do in real life, he said.

“We support team dynamics and access to tactical displays,” Aguiar said.

A strong advantage of the virtual environment is that it allows for “rapid prototyping” and the ability to make changes in real time, he added.

Kay McLennan, professor of practice at Tulane University, said she initially migrated her 3-D learning courses to MOSES after an educators' discount expired at the commercial Second Life platform. She uses virtual platforms for teaching economics courses to college students.

One of the great benefits of virtual learning is that it can be simultaneously remedial, for students lagging behind, and also enriching, for more advanced students who want to move more quickly on the course material, she said.

As a teacher, she benefits from the collective feedback from the students generated in the virtual environment. The students’ learning contributes to a “network effect” by generating crowdsourced information, she said.

Robert Daniel, president of BlueGrid Virtualization Security and adjunct professor at George Washington University, appeared at the conference wearing an Emotiv Neuro Headset on his head.

The headset reads the user’s brainwaves and transmits information about the user’s emotions—including excitement, relaxation, engagement or boredom—to an avatar in a virtual world, Daniel said. The brainwaves are used to direct an avatar’s actions in the virtual world, and the emotions are shown on the avatar’s facial expressions, he said.

In the future, the emotions may generate activity and interactions with other users in the virtual world, he said.

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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