This short report from the U.S. Army Research Development & Engineering Command (RDECOM) Simulation Training & Technology Center (STTC) discusses some of the functions and advantages gained by using human role-players in a virtual-world setting to enhance training for real-world situations such as dealing with asymmetrical warfare in the Middle East. While it references software that is, by now, likely complete, the cited advantages of role-playing in military training remain valid.
One of the most important components of simulation-based military training is creating a set of believable enemy-actors capable of acting with enough realism to enhance training and allow members of the military to learn what to expect in certain situation and against certain opponents. Asymmetric warfare such as terrorism and insurgency are unusually hard to model due to high levels of unpredictability and frequently-changing rules of conflict based on psychological factors and values foreign to the mindset of most U.S. forces.
Simulating enemy actors in such a setting is extremely difficult to do through AI and programmed rules, so this article looks into the use of human role-players in a "very-large-scale, distributed, persistent, immersive virtual environment" as both civilians and opposing forces. In particular, the paper describes the Asymmetric Warfare - Virtual Training Technology (AW-VTT) in development by the U.S. Army RDECOM STTC. The AW-VTT system is intended to allow for complex scenario-simulation such as crowds of varying temperament and ambush-infested convoy missions. One goal of the software is to allow role-playing participation from anywhere through standard personal-computers and an internet connection. The AW-VTT synchronizes the real-life user's stance, expressions, breathing patterns, conversational gestures, with suitable equivalents for their avatar. Finally, role-players' avatars are equipped for the objectives at hand - for example, terrorist avatars may be given explosive devices and goals of targeted destruction.
The ultimate goal of the AW-VTT technology is to enable trainers and trainees to quickly and easily create and run through iterations of a vast array of scenarios, offering a chance for trainees to experience and rehearse responses to the level of surprise and adaptability found only in human opponents. Possibilities include developing situational awareness based on appearance, behavior, or movement patterns, practicing interpreting foreign-languages and gestural cues, testing the operational coordination of a geographically-scattered cohort, and numerous others. Through role-playing to practice these skills in "dangerous" virtual scenarios, the U.S. Army hopes to mitigate the risks and losses brought on when soldiers encounter the real thing out in the field.
Comer, B., Gehorsam, R., Grosse, J., & Kusumoto, L. (2004). "Employing human role-players in simulation-based training for assymetrical and unconventional warfare." U.S. Army Research
Development & Engineering Command (RDECOM) Simulation Training
& Technology Center. Available at http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA433434