Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

War Games

The latest video game for training U.S. soldiers emphasizes social skills over combat – and even has a built-in editing function.

In Iraq and other conflict zones with unfamiliar cultures, U.S. soldiers can find it hard to identify threats and targets amid the hubbub of everyday life. Yet their interactions with locals yield far more information than intelligence officers could collect on their own – hence the emerging military doctrine that “every soldier is a sensor.”

Soldiers inspect a car in ES3’s virtual Irag. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army Simulator Training and Technology Center)

Now the U.S. Army Research and Development Command’s Simulation and Training Technology Center in Orlando, FL, has translated that doctrine into a video game. The purpose: to help soldiers learn to recognize signs of danger or opportunity in the field. Teaching through video games is nothing new for the army. Full Spectrum Warrior, a “first-person shooter” for PCs and video game consoles, was originally developed as an army training aid. But the Every Soldier a Sensor Simulation (ES3) is heavier on social skills than on combat. “In our environment of asymmetric warfare, you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of people,” says Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Compton, director of military operations at the Orlando center. “The last thing you want to do is to pull your trigger.”

This story is part of our July/August 2006 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Like many commercial games, ES3 unfolds from a first-person point of view, with the player assigned a mission – searching for a hidden bomb, for example. But an ES3 player must simultaneously maintain a rapport with the locals. Players are evaluated on how well they gather and report information.

ES3 runs on almost any computer and can be customized by soldiers themselves. It comes with a built-in editing program that allows soldiers to upload digital photos of real-life details – say, an undocumented style of Iraqi dress – to the army’s online ES3 network. If administrators approve these additions, they are incorporated into future play.

In the coming months, ES3 will be modified to include a sort of built-in language trainer, which will familiarize soldiers with common Iraqi phrases and symbols. “These aren’t games,” says Compton. “They’re a new type of digital training.”

The AI revolution is here. Will you lead or follow?
Join us at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.