Video game developer, Epic Games, is known for giving players realistic experiences thanks to its popular Unreal Engine platform. But while games like Batman: Arkham City and Gears of War are certainly entertaining, virtually beating up thugs and fighting subterranean creatures doesn't exactly translate into real world skills. However a new agreement with teaching software developer, Virtual Heroes, could see Epic's platform used to create more practical experiences and train medical staff and law enforcement officers to handle high-stress situations. By using Epic's Unreal Engine 3, some United States government agencies like the FBI and US Army are hoping to give their employees tools for virtually practicing their skills in a more realistic environment and better prepare them to save lives.
This wouldn't be the first time US government agencies have made use of the Unreal Engine. In the past few years, NASA has worked with Virtual Heroes to develop Moonbase Alpha, a space exploration sim, and the Department of Defense has used the engine to develop the America's Army series of games to promote recruitment. But these outings were focused more on introducing the general public to the basic tasks of each organization. The proposed projects in the works now are being designed for trained professionals to further hone their skills.
With the new agreement, Epic Games and Virtual Heroes, a division of Applied Research Associates, Inc., are establishing the Unreal Government Network to support government organizations in the United States and its allies that license the engine. Aside from state-of-the-art graphics - a feature sorely lacking in most training software - the Unreal Engine 3 already has a plethora of programmers, artists, modders, and other designers that have been creating with it for years, so using it frees up these departments and agencies to focus on teaching elements.
Most of the revealed projects have not disclosed specific details, but the types of applications under development already appear widely varied in scope. For instance, the US Army Telemedicine Center has supplied funding for Virtual Heroes to build a program for training medics in anesthesiology, while on the other end of the spectrum, the FBI Academy is creating a multiplayer crime scene simulation for new agents to practice their observation skills. Additionally, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has contracted Virtual Heroes to contribute to its Sirius program in developing software to measure how well intelligence analysts can detect bias, and both an unnamed defense contractor and a national laboratory are building visual concepts using the engine.
The project closest to completion though is HumanSim, a program from Virtual Heroes aimed at preparing hospital staff for various medical procedures by recreating them in excruciating detail. The developer hopes HumanSim will become a jumping off point to base other training tools on and to attract new talent already familiar with the Unreal Engine to future projects.
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