digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

Military Technology Forum Transcript

May 24, 2009 _ 11:33 / Digital Nation Team / comments (0)

This live online discussion took place Tuesday, May 26, at 11 am EDT. The forum covered a wide range of issues raised in our online videos and blog, including cyber-security, drones, virtual reality training, virtual reality medical treatment, and the "Soldier 2.0".

A panel of three distinguished experts discussed the issues and answered visitor questions about the U.S. military's applications of modern digital technology. Guests included Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force, Air Combat Command, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, where he served as the first commander of Air Force Network Operations and led the development of the cyberspace mission for the Air Force; Christian Lowe, award-winning military journalist and current editor of DefenseTech; and Dr. Albert 'Skip' Rizzo, research scientist and professor at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and developer of the Virtual Iraq treatment for combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Lt. Gen. Elder is also commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Global Strike (JFCC-GS), underneath US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). The JFCC-GS plans and executes strategic deterrence and global strike operations for USSTRATCOM.


Digital Nation: Welcome to Digital Nation's live discussion on military technology. We're about to get started here in a minute, as our three panelists join us.

Comment From Mr. Nguyen: Hello

Digital Nation: Today we'll be joined by Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder, Christian Lowe and Dr. Albert 'Skip' Rizzo.

Digital Nation: I've been notified that Lt. Gen. Elder is en route to his computer and will be joining us in about 10 minutes. For now, we'll start passing along questions to our panelists.

Comment From Mr. Ariel Gonzalez: Hello

Comment from Devra S Renner, MSW: I remember a time, not so long ago, when I had to sneak into the JAG office at 8th Air Force to email my deployed husband during the Gulf War. I cannot tell you how much better things are now that families can communicate via email and cell phone without having to sneak around! Can you please share what the military sees as the future of cyber communication as it relates to how families can remain connected to their deployed active duty loved ones?

Defense Tech: From my perspective, I'll say that the DoD does a lot to make digital comms more available. In every war zone I've been in, there's been a cyber cafe. And the more cell phone technology is developed and deployed, the easier it will be for troops to stay connected. In fact, my Blackberry worked better in Iraq than my satellite phone.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Greater effort is also being put on the homefront with a variety of Defense Center of Excellence programs as well to break down barriers to care due to access and stigma.

Digital Nation: I think that's something that many people would find surprising. Skip, how do you think this type of close connection to their families impacts soldiers who are deployed?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Overall very good for families, but I have to wonder about getting an immediate "dear John" call and how that may effect someones concentration in the field?

Comment from Mr. Nguyen: Does the panel believe that America is becoming over reliant on technology, and is it worth it?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Regarding Tech and over reliance, Tech is neither good or bad in and of itself. The key to find well matched applications that do some good with the tech, while minimizing unintended consequences. Sometimes a challenge. And regardless of your view of the ethics of tech. I believe that the country that has the best technology will always be the safest.

Defense Tech: I can weigh in on the impact of closer comms from the boots perspective...good and bad...good to hear a loved one's voice, bad because the day to day problems can be a real distraction from the job. I'll say I think that the overreliance on tech is mitigated by the crawl walk run approach to training...first map and compass, then GPS... but i will say, those basic (low-tech) skills atrophy with time.

Digital Nation: Is that something to be worried about, Christian?

Defense Tech: Yes, it is a potential problem...but it's all about keeping that basic approach in training and practicing it.

General Elder: One issue we have in the US is that we often assume that we are well ahead of everyone else ... false sense of security.

Comment from atacms: In regards to reliance on tech, at some point don't we also have to show a mastery of tactics that rely more on infiltration and stealth rather than always seeking firepower solutions that can cause negative effects, COIN-wise?

Defense Tech: Tactics have evolved considerably on COIN over the last several years... and I would say from my experience that commanders in current conflicts take the tactical approach first, then they deploy the hammer only when necessary.

General Elder: The internet has great promise for COIN -- allows us to interface directly with populations.

Digital Nation: General Elder, can you expand on how you use the Internet to interface directly with populations? How exactly does this work?

General Elder: The internet is its own area of operations, and whether it is college students or government employees communicating with others, it helps establish a social network.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: I dont think there has been a decline in tactics, rather better tech tools for training them.

Comment from atacms: Dr. Rizzo, I based my point on a book called Phantom Solider by Gunny Sgt. Poole which says we're a bit too reliant on arty/CAS rather than other methods of close combat.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: I haven't read that book. But I think Gen. Elder is more qualified than I to address this.

General Elder: AFG is a "hearts and minds" campaign. Kinetic action is used only when necessary, according to my friends currently working there.

Defense Tech: Hey atacms...arty/cas is a tool that makes up for lack of ground power and unwillingness to sustain casualties in many situations. Clear an afghan village with a platoon of coalition forces? Or pound the building with a JDAM...that's the calculation commanders have to make every day over there.

General Elder: It is a basic Law of Armed Conflict principle to minimize collateral damage (civilian casualties) to the maximum extent possible.

Digital Nation: All: what about the technological advances of unmanned aerial vehicles? Is this a promising alternative to the tough calculations made in the field Christian describes above?

General Elder: UAVs are useful, but require a lot of bandwidth.

Defense Tech: Why do you think the Army and MC is scrambling for more UAVs at the company level? And Gen. Elder could comment on the food fight between the Army and USAF on control of UAVs...

Digital Nation: What is the status of the Army's UAV program?

Defense Tech: (status) not sure what you mean?

Digital Nation: Is the Army using UAVs to the same extent as the Air Force?

Defense Tech: Their Hunter UAVs are attacking targets... USAF/CIA used to have dominance in that arena with Predator/Reaper drones.

General Elder: The different services each approach UAVs very differently. Army and Marine Corps use them as tactical aids where AF uses them in ways much as they would other theater aircraft.

Defense Tech: On army using drones as attack planes: http://www.defensetech.org/archives/003714.html

Comment from atacms: The problem is many of these UAV's aren't stealthy. I know we're working on "robo-fly", but when will our troops see this so that we have a covert "fly on the wall" that is mass deployed?

Digital Nation: Here's a relevant question we received earlier: "I understand the military uses light-projections to aid in combat training and to create unexpected scenarios for soldiers. One of my concerns comes from a moral perspective that naturally always emerges from Any change. Seeing as how we have gained numerous technological advances from the military, like creating the internet or the Navy's Supreme Court Case for radio, we can't live in fear and should instead act responsibly with such things.

However, what is to stop the military from creating robots and developing ever-more realistic imitations of humans? Will we have to just Hope that the possible consequences will always be considered from a military, economic, and moral standpoint?"

General Elder: Ultimately, war is a form of human conflict; we might use machines to fight, but the conflict is still about human relationships.

Digital Nation: That same reader continues: "Also, perhaps if it's a more appropriate question, how secure will our military be when we start using non-human technology to fight our battles?

While the threat of breaking into our databases or hacking UAV's isn't as large with less developed countries, what happens when we face a more modern industrialized threat that could similarly use or turn our technology against us? (god forbid a third world war occurs) Technology isn't perfect and it is still difficult to control and prevent leaks or breaches, as paper documents were back at the beginning of the 20th century."

General Elder: Regarding autonomous machines, we do not let machines attack without a human in the loop. The point about hacking systems is a good one--but we are less concerned with loss of data than we are integrity of the data and code.

Defense Tech: From earlier question, check out the "outer limits" of what the army is working on: http://www.defensetech.org/archives/004507.html#comments

Comment from Nick (atacms): The NYT had an interesting article on MRI's and autopsies on soldiers helping improve protection and medical treatment due to a better appreciation of the tech we currently have.

Comment From Robert Bloomfield: Question: Are you familiar with the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds, and do you think their work has promise?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Not familiar enough to comment

Defense Tech: Virtual World Consortium: http://www.ndu.edu/IRMC/fedconsortium.html

General Elder: Air University has done some work on use of virtual words for education and sees great promise.

Digital Nation: Here's a question we received earlier: "The 21st Century is being equiped with more and more electronic devices, all of which require electrical power. What is being done to reduce the load of batteries that must be carried?"

Defense Tech: Very good question on power...lots of work and interest in fuel cells going on with new vehicle development in DoD...

General Elder: As for batteries, there is a great deal of work at AFRL to improve their efficiency and find ways to recharge them in the field to reduce what must be carried.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: On the power storage issue, that and medical advances will be the two immediate areas for civilian transfer of tech.

Comment from Mr. Nguyen: I believe the military has taken Metcalfe's law to the extreme and we are at the point of over saturation with regards to networks and sensors.

Defense Tech: Nguyen...I'd say field commanders would disagree with you... They're always asking for more sensors not less...

General Elder: Our sensors are producing more information than we can currently manage; that is why the field of knowledge management is so critical ... consider Google for example.

Comment From atacms: Excellent point Gen. Elder, but where is our mastery of Infowarfare, I've yet to see it. The enemy seems to win the propaganda war every time.

Comment From Mr. Nguyen: I am familiar with the Afghan AOR and observed the amount of sensors and technology is dominating but makes it cumbersome to make a simple phone call because you have 4 phones on your desk. I think in comparison with the Taliban and their TTPs they are respectively effective considering their low tech approach.

Digital Nation: Is it important for our troops to have multi-tasking skills, in response to Mr. Nguyen's observation?

Defense Tech: Troops in all services are getting more familiar with the "Four Block War" concept and making "multi-tasking" part of their everyday lives in the AOR ... or "three block war" that is ... though the fourth "block" could be considered "pre-conflict".

General Elder: I spent almost three years working in AFG, and although dated, did not have a problem with communications. We do have gateways to help with the multiple communication systems, at least in the field.

Comment from atacms: Isn't it better to develop a oversaturation of sensors to blanket an area with good intel so that you can identify your target prior to engaging? This isn't even with just COIN, but deals with fratricide issues. Even now after following about 10 years of IFF programs, I think we don't have a reliable system.

General Elder: As long as you have a way to process, exploit, and disseminate the data, more sensors are always good.

Comment From Guest: Any consideration ever given to providing network access to indigenous populations?

General Elder: We do provide indigenous populations with radios.

Defense Tech: (radios) which is a BIG DEAL in an underdeveloped country like Afghanistan. In Iraq, there's a thriving digital market -- cell phone networks, internet cafes, sat TV...

Digital Nation: Like you said, your Blackberry worked better there than your satellite phone.

Comment From Guest: Radios are nice - us as ISP could be potentially useful in other ways.

Comment from atacms: Dr. Rizzo, do you see us developing in some time soon the ability to remotely detect explosives or firearms from extended distances?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Sorry, not really my area of expertise to weigh in on (explosives detection, etc.)

Digital Nation: Skip, when you treat patients, do you find there are different mental effects for soldiers who are more "removed" from the combat via technology -- e.g. flying drones vs piloting an aircraft vs fighting on the frontlines?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Our work thus far has mainly focused on "ground-pounders". Have heard stories about sort of a "conceptual" PTSD effect from the knowledge of the actions that may occur at a remote distance compared to first hand presence.

Comment from Heather: With regard to the Internet and its role in the "general public," as General Elder mentioned, do you find that the Internet has played a significant role in getting non-military folks either more involved or less involved in military operations (be it the war or what have you)?

Defense Tech: I feel that blogs have been a very powerful tool in getting people more invested in the conflicts.

General Elder: The Internet has been a great social networking tool, but we Americans have not yet seen the value of social networking with our competitors.

Defense Tech: Good point, Gen. Elder... But it's coming... There are no barriers in the Web 2.0 world so anyone can be a part of the coverage nowadays.

Digital Nation: General Elder, can you expand on your point: what do you mean that we have not yet seen the value of social networking with our competitors?

General Elder: There has never been a technical impediment to expanded use of the internet for international political purposes, but we primarily use the Internet to build relationships with those that share common interests rather than using it to help understand others or share our interests.

Comment from Greyhawk: Dr Rizzo: How many patients have experienced "virtual Iraq" treatment, and how would you characterize DoD/VA support?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: From the 32 sites that currently have it, I would estimate about 100 have receive treatment. Regarding DOD support, it was previously as much of a persuasive argument as a scientific one... So in some quarters in the DOD there was resistance to using Star Trek tech for mental health treatment. But now with the data coming in on treatment effectiveness using VR for exposure therapy, the ones who are resistant, are quite frankly uninformed about the how and why of treating PTSD using VR exposure. Virtual Iraq in and of itself doesn't fix anyone... It is a tool in the hands of a well trained clinician versed in PTSD and exposure therapy.

Comment from Greyhawk: Is VR treatment available via VA?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: The VA is slowly embracing the use of VR... I would say about 10 sites have it. Sometimes its a hard sell though, since a lot of old school clinical providers still cling to the idea that "supportive counseling" is the way to go in spite of the data showing minimal effectiveness when you don't directly confront the trauma memory.

Digital Nation: Dr. Rizzo, in the segment we produced on the Virtual Iraq treatment system, it's apparent that the graphics are not up to par with some of the latest military videogames. How realistic do the graphics need to be in order to provide effective treatment? And can you explain a little bit about how this works?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: One thing that has been found is that a little vagueness is fine for helping a patient to add in their own experience into the mix... It is not a video game in that regard. For someone with real PTSD, sometimes just the sound is enough to trigger the deep reminiscence of a trauma experience... Sound is powerful driver for emotion... The graphics really serve to set the stage for a lot of that.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Regarding the comparison between a flashy computer game and Virtual Iraq (and now Virtual Afghanistan), aside from the theory of immersion that we operate from regarding leaving the graphics vague enough to encourage individualized imagination, there are also financial drivers--modern high level computer game=5-20 million to create vs. Virtual Iraq=less than a million.

Digital Nation: Here's a question we received earlier: "General Elder, I have read that a "once in 100 years" solar flare would knock out communications and GPS satellites. Do you agree, and does the US have a backup plan?"

General Elder: We monitor solar flare activity everyday, and they can have some impact on communications, but we have extensive alternative capabilities to the frequencies that would be affected. And if a GPS is INS-coupled, it will have virtually no effect.

Digital Nation: General Elder, recently there was a story in the news that the GPS satellites were in danger of suffering outages in the future because they need repairs. Is there any danger of this happening and what is the Air Force doing to prevent it?

General Elder: I am not an GPS expert, but there are spare satellites on orbit, so if a satellite does "age out" another can be put in place. Until in place, the outages would be temporal only since the satellite constellation is constantly changing.

Comment from atacms: I spoke with Peter Singer, author of Wired for War and asked him about tamper proof tech for our ground drones and he responded that the firms he's covered don't seem to be worried about the issue. Considering the pervasiveness now and in the future of these "battle buddies" shouldn't we be concerned that there aren't fail safe methods to prevent enemies from getting a hold of them and using it?

Digital Nation: Elaborating on the comment from atacms above: in general, what steps need to be taken to ensure that the U.S. military's technology does not fall into the wrong hands and get used against it?

General Elder: The steps to prevent technology loss are both technical and procedural. In some cases, we protect the technology by making it tamper-proof; but if a system gets into adversary hands, we lose some advantage. Procedurally, we take steps to minimize the utility of a system if we think we might lose control of it.

Defense Tech: Like a downed F-117?

Digital Nation: Sure

Defense Tech: As far as I'm aware, drones are pretty low tech and cheap to buy and develop, but much more difficult to use and maintain... So, it's not so much an issue of "falling into the wrong hands"... I mean, Hezbollah used an armed drone to hit an Israeli ship in the Lebanon war in 2006.

Comment from atacms: Or a ground drone, apparently Iraqi insurgents were able to use one against soldiers already!

Defense Tech: atacms...hadn't heard that...what kind of UGV?

Comment from atacms: I think it was a Dragon Runner? It's mentioned in the book I believe.

Defense Tech: atacms... I've seen a lot of hype around Dagon Runner but never seen a single one used in combat.

Comment from atacms: Defense Tech, I'll try and find the place I've heard that and email you Christian.

Defense Tech: Thanks atacms... Again, USMC warfighting lab has been pumping that little UGV for years... And I've never once seen one used in the field.

Comment from atacms: The VR program is being used for PTSD treatment, but do you see its application evolving to the point of also pre-prepping soldiers where they seem to be combat veterans rather than novices by virtue of the simulation they've "fought?"

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Pre-deployment use of Virtual Iraq has always been on the table for stress inoculation training... But I don't believe that JUST VR is sufficient---it would be optimally combined with "appraisal training" and some real world challenge and dilemma exposure.

Comment from Guest: Do you feel the the PTSD is becoming a larger problem, say since WWII?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Regarding comparison to WW2 etc. there are many factors here. One is the fact that we see in many people with PTSD a different brain response to emotional stimuli that helps document that we are dealing with an actual source of psychopathology. The climate for admitting you are having a problem with your combat experiences has changed considerable since WW2 and that may add to the numbers.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: The uptick in PTSD, while due to many sources, may be akin to the uptake in Alzheimer's--while older folks would be called senile before the elements and biological roots of Alzheimer's became specified, it was likely still Alzheimer's, just didn't have a name other than senility... Same with going from Soldiers Heart to shell shock to battle fatigue to finally PTSD.

Comment from Mr. Nguyen: I am currently standing a Comms watch in the Afghan AOR, how ironic. In my opinion we are over reliant on technology. The myriad of sensors and the abundance of intelligence they produce require securing. The financial investment required to secure all the various networks is borderline excessive. We need to share information while at the same time keeping it secure which produces a lot of overhead in manpower and fiscally. Information sharing also requires a lot of resources such as satellites which are vulnerable from China's demonstration a few years back. The commanders will always side on getting more intel from more sensors but ultimately the cost of obtaining information is lost.

General Elder: While I disagree that we are becoming too dependent on technology as a Nation, it is critical that we provide for mission assurance should our technology be degraded. Mission assurance is what commanders do in preparation for information assurance to fail.

Digital Nation: Elaborating on Mr. Nguyen's comment above: He states that the financial investment required to secure all the various networks is borderline excessive. General Elder, how do you approach the costs of securing networks?

General Elder: The cost to secure networks is not nearly as large as physical security costs; however, the key is to get individuals focused on self-defense rather than depending on just security. There are a variety of ways to protect data at rest and in motion; few people or organizations use them.

Digital Nation: Mr. Nguyen states: "The commanders will always side on getting more intel from more sensors but ultimately the cost of obtaining information is lost." General Elder, do you agree? How serious a problem is this?

General Elder: We need to spend more money on information fusion and decision support capabilities. We must remember that sensors only provide data; we need to do analysis of data to get intelligence that we can use.

Comment from atacms: Gen. Elder, isn't this our Achilles heal? Software and its reliability? Consider all the hacking and phreaking that has been going on courtesy of Russia and China and yet our software DOESN'T seem to be getting more secure.

General Elder: We are more vulnerable to hacking than groups that are not dependent on cyberspace to do their missions, that is true.

Digital Nation: Regarding the issue of cybersecurity, General Elder, what do we consider to be an act of war in cyberspace?

General Elder: Act of war is not yet defined ... that is a political assessment; however, it seems that something that impaired public safety (air traffic control), or degraded our economic systems would be viewed as a possible trigger

Digital Nation: And how vulnerable are we to that sort of impairment, in your estimation, General Elder?

General Elder: These areas get a lot of attention and so are better protected than routine use of the Internet. I don't have a good assessment beyond that.

Comment from Heather: Do you find that training with virtual reality-type games, troops become desensitized during actual battle because they've practiced on a screen?

Digital Nation: Christian, here is a comment we received earlier that maybe you can answer: "Does the panel see Afghanistan as a perfect reason as to why exoskeletons for troops should be developed or is that generally seen still as too sci-fi-ish?"

Defense Tech: On Exos...they're being developed and pretty close to becoming a reality... very slimmed down versions that give some added performance to an operator.

Defense Tech: http://www.defensetech.org/archives/004778.html

Comment from atacms: Christian, just like IED's shined some light on our vulnerability to mines, don't the mountains of Afghanistan and issues of troop protection and mobility SCREAM for the need for an MRAP like program for exoskeletons?

Defense Tech: Hmmmm... hadn't thought if it like that... Though I think there are other ways to approach the load vs. distance/altitude than developing Exos...

Digital Nation: Here's another question we received earlier: "Does the restructuring of FCS have a positive impact for achieving netcentric warfare in difficult terrain such as urban, or mountainous areas filled with noncombatants?"

Defense Tech: On FCS...maybe...a decentralized development program for FCS I think will help since it is less likely to get hung up in overall architecture debates and more likely to spin out to troops faster... develop sensors, spin them out, develop UGVs, spin them out etc... Rather than waiting on one before deploying the other.

Digital Nation: We are starting to run low on time, do the panelists have time for a couple more questions?

Defense Tech: Sure...

General Elder: I need to depart NLT1215 for a "traditional" meeting

Digital Nation: Any other questions for General Elder before he has to depart?

Digital Nation: General Elder, looking down the road, what do you see as the biggest cybersecurity threats to be dealt with in the next 5 years?

General Elder: Biggest threats are altering data or code so that we lose trust in use of the internet to enable our business and social networks. We focus on loss of data... but we have technology to protect against loss of data today, we just need to use it. Protecting against alteration of data is a bit more complex.

Digital Nation: Ok, well General Elder, I know you need to get going. Thanks for taking the time to join us this morning.

General Elder: Thanks for the invitation to participate today. I hope the participants found it useful!

Digital Nation: Absolutely, thank you again.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Thanks for adding your expertise to the mix here.

Digital Nation: Dr. Rizzo, could you layout what you see as the future of PTSD treatment? Where is it going from Virtual Iraq?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Lots of areas for expansion... more to follow. Developing the optimal protocol for treatment time is one... need research in that. Also, the use of the drug D-cycloserine -- an antibiotic that speeds up fear extinction -- very promising results with reducing number of treatment sessions is emerging on that front. Also, use of simulation tools like VI for determining who may have an extreme reaction to stress and then develop ways to use the stress inoculation approach to reduce development of PTSD when finally deployed. Also, use Virtual Iraq as an assessment tool for emotional reactivity that could predict who will develop PTSD... provide earlier and better reset care armed with that info.

Digital Nation: Dr. Rizzo, the use of Virtual Iraq as an assessment tool for emotional reactivity is an interesting concept. Is this done at all currently? Could it be used to screen out potential recruits?

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Pre-deployment not yet... We are fighting every day to get work like that funded. The use upon redeployment home as a predictor of those who may run into trouble is about to begin in a project at the Providence VA and Brown University using Virtual Iraq.

Digital Nation: Christian, amongst the members of the armed forces that you've spoken with, does the changing nature of training come up often? Both the shift to COIN, and also the increased reliance on virtual/live simulations of villages in Iraq and Afghanistan? What is the perception amongst these new training systems by the troops?

Defense Tech: Some bemoan the days of combined arms training (like artillerymen), but most like the shift to COIN and see huge gains from virtual training -- especially with the shrinking availability of land to use for wide training.

Digital Nation: Christian, is there something lost in the virtual training? Or is it starting to come up to par with the live variety?

Defense Tech: Obviously the smells and cues and feel is lost, but at the end of the day, it's either train this way or wait six months for a range. Remember, pilots have been trained in simulators for years.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Some things can be trained well at the current level of simulation technology... As the tech evolves more and more options for simulation tech will emerge and be beneficial... The key to use what you have now to build a simulation tech base to work off of.

Digital Nation: In terms of preparing troops for the mental effects of facing live fire, do you think a virtual simulation can help prepare for that?

Defense Tech: I mean, it has to right? Better than just shooting at paper targets and trying to decide shoot-no-shoot scenarios...

Comment from atacms: Yes thanks Digital Nation, that was what I was trying to get at in terms of VR training. Can we create combat veterans that seem for all purposes battle hardened as a result of all their simulated battles?

Defense Tech: I mean, for all of its flaws, virtual training helps ensure that a trooper won't freeze up at the moment of contact.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Regarding live fire... Why is that so compelling--because of the element of potential risk... We need to embed consequences for screwing up in a simulation that engenders similar negative consequences.

Comment from atacms: Dr. Rizzo, simunitions together with VR?

Digital Nation: Yes, I suppose virtual training has to be better than nothing. I guess what I was getting at was if there were danger of a virtual simulation creating false expectations in a soldier's mind.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Ah negative transfer from a low fidelity trainer to the real world...

Defense Tech: Skip, you just reminded me of training done with "simunitions"... Paint balls that sting like hell...

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Yes, exactly. There are actually shock vests that folks are experimenting with.

Defense Tech: Again, there are downsides to VT, sure... Skip, wonder if we could embed the MILES tech with sims... beeping when shot.

Comment From atacms: Yes, this is all gaming tech, they are leading the field.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: It may seem cruel at first blush, but if it makes you more thoughtful in training that carries over to the high stress real combat situations, then you have your cost-benefit case made for you.

Defense Tech: Totally agree.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Absolutely, all learning requires feedback as to outcomes of action.

Digital Nation: Well, unless you have anything else to add, I think we can wrap it up there and let you go.

Comment from atacms: Thanks gentlemen for this interesting panel discussion!

Defense Tech: Thanks for the invitation.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Thanks for having us on board... quite a lively and diverse multitasking endeavor!

Digital Nation: Thank you for joining us. I found the discussion to be fascinating. And it was certainly an exercise of our multi-tasking skills.

Skip Rizzo, Ph.D.: Talk again soon!

Digital Nation: Ok, take care guys. Thank you again for joining us and for your thoughtful answers.

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posted February 2, 2010

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