USAF takes virtual training to third dimension

Monday - 6/1/2009, 6:54am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

Of the places where virtual worlds technology is generating so much buzz, probably the most excitement comes in the area of education, especially distance learning.

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By Max Cacas

With all the talk about social networking, and web 2.0, what about the possibilities of using the new virtual worlds technology for education and learning in the federal government? One branch of the military, the U.S. Air Force, is already making a commitment to integrating artificial 3-D environments into its training regimen.

Larry Clemons with the Air Force Future Learning Division at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas recently told the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds Conference here in Washington about MyBase, an online virtual environment, that represents the first step for the Air Force in melding 3-D, virtual reality environments into his agency's training regimens.

MyBase Public exists in Second Life, and resides on Coalition Island, which Linden Labs has placed there as a centerpoint around which some of the military services will be gathering.

Along with the Air Force's MyBase, the U.S. Navy's Undersea Warfare Command, and the U.S. Army's TRADOC, have virtual presences within Second Life.

Clemons explains that My Base serves not only as an Air Force recruiting tool for the growing number of millenials who may be considering military service, but also the basis for future training using 3-D, immersive virtual worlds technologies now being developed by scientists.

Clemons told the Virtual Worlds conference that the USAF's long-range implementation plan for virtual worlds technology in training includes, "instructional design to include updated learning theory, to take advantage of the 3-D learning environment; Advanced Learning and Technology Development (ALTD); and a new Future Learning Division with new manpower slots and funding."

He adds that with development now underway, there will be opportunities for collaboration with universities, research institutions, and vendors now doing research and development in virtual worlds, and its use in high-end military training.

In addition, improvements in computer graphics, plus advancements in the amount of bandwidth available to applications mean that one day virtual worlds technology could be used to extend high-level 3-D learning and education anywhere in the world for just about any kind of job or task.

On the Web:
FederalNewsRadio - A 'virtual' road to better intelligence analysis?
FederalNewsRadio - Impact of cloud computing on virtual worlds
FederalNewsRadio - Virtual Worlds: the next-generation of web 2.0
FederalNewsRadio - Taking Web 2.0 beyond Facebook and Twitter (Daily Debrief)
National Defense University - Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds
National Defense University - Information Resources Management College

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