Monday, October 22, 2007

Simulation in the Dirt

The ADL Implementation Fest included a session in which soldiers from Iraq presented their perspectives on learning, training, and ADL opportunities. SFC Richard Colon from USSOCOM showed a picture of the dust filled tent that he lived in for 5 months. Then he told the audience that in spite of these conditions 80% of the soldiers there have access to a laptop computer, and could make use of ADL if you delivered it on CD or USB stick. This was very surprising. It implies that we really can deliver digital simulation products all the way to the edge of the force. But, as in all other networked systems, the Last Mile will require some special steps. Any desktop, self-guided simulation can be downloaded to a near-by fixed site with infrastructure, then delivered across the last mile on a USB stick. According to SFC Colon the soldiers are equipped to receive these products now. (Note: Colon’s branch is Intelligence, so 80% may not be characteristic of all the units out there – not yet.)

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Paper-embedded Data

Hewlett Packard has announced a new product that is a 2mm data chip that is thin enough to be embedded in printed paper, such as the pages of a book, magazine, or annual report. These chips can contain up to 500KB of data and can transfer to a reading device at a rate of 10Mbs. It has similarities to RFID, but with much higher storage capacity and transfer rates. Marketers see this as an opportunity to deliver short movies along with a printed advertisement. Financial users could embed an electronic spreadsheet in the printed annual report. Children’s books could contain a chip on every page to enhance the reading experience by transmitting audio and video to a player. One federal use would be to make all printed documents compliant with Section 508 rules by adding an audio version to the paper.

Though 500KB is not a huge amount of storage. These devices should be viewed as a form of USB Data Stick. Initial sizes are small, but if the product is successful, then mass production could lead quickly to storage on the order of 50MB at significantly lower costs. At these volumes, intelligence documents could contain photos and video footage

ComputerWorld Article

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Quality Search vs. Quantity Search

When I ask a person a question, they respond with one or two answers that reflect their understanding about what I asked and in what context it falls. When I ask Google Search a question it returns thousands of answers, primarily because it cannot understand the structure of the question or the context in which is lies. Google relies on brute force word matching and then maximizing the number of matches to order the results returned (as well as a number of other criteria about which entire books are written). When Internet Search is really good, it will return far fewer answers. Like a human it will understand structure and context and will give two or three pertinent answers. If it misses the mark, as with a human conversation, then we will engage it with statements like, “no that’s not what I meant, I was referring to …” Right now there is no way to have such a multi-step conversation with Google to explain what you are looking for (though you can approximate this if you have a programmer’s mindset and study the Google query language). This limitation is the focus of search researchers and the hope that companies like Microsoft have to overcome Google’s lead in the area. Someday Search applications may be smart enough to tell us much less about what are interested in finding or learning.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Web 2.0 Generation

The Web Browser, HTML pages, and the services structured around these all have a common feel that is the WWW to most people. However, following the bust a number of unique web capabilities began to emerge that were more powerful and capable than plain web pages. These are commonly referred to as Web 2.0. This usually refers to web services in which the user has the ability to interact with the web site, create and post content, and build networks of relationships. There is no hard boundary around the idea, but common Web 2.0 applications include: Wikipedia, digg, AJAX programming behind the Google Maps and Netflix sites, Social networks like Facebook and MySpace, Blogs like those cataloged at, Flickr photo sharing,, and hundreds of others that are less well known.

There have been a number of articles in the techno and business press about how the high school to 20-something generation that is growing up using these will be a different type of professional employee when they graduate from college. The speculation is that they will be much more creative, independent, and self-directed. They will be less submissive to corporate authority, less tied to a single corporate employer, and less likely to define one office as the place where they spend their working hours. The entertainment, movie, gaming, and web programming industries already work through ad-hoc teams and independent contractors. This pattern has also been showing itself in the defense contracting industry as companies shy away from adding permanent employees and use contractors for much of their technical labor.

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AAR Camera Ball

Immersive Media is selling a “camera ball” with 11 lenses on it that provides nearly-360 degree motion picture capture. All 11 camera feeds are recorded individually and a software algorithm stitches them together in real-time so that you can “pan” around the room, even though the camera does not move, but continues to record everything in all directions. They showed me film of their system being used at NTC.

These cameras can be used to record everything that is happening in an important area during live training. The “camera ball” can see and record in all directions simultaneously and the user can steer around the complete scene in the same manner that we currently pan a single-lens camera. Someone at NTC has already used this at least once, but I was not able to find out who from the vendor.

Google as the Future Internet Backbone

Google has built a number of processing centers around the country. Those in Oregon and North Carolina have been the subject of magazine articles, though there are supposed to be a number of others. These centers initially provide rapid responses to search queries and the delivery of advertisements. However, given the bandwidth that will connect these sites, their processing power, and their data storage, these sites are potentially the backbone of the future media-rich Internet. Google may sell hosting services to companies like YouTube and the television networks who need to deliver movies, music, etc to customers from locations that are close to the customers that requested the information. As Hollywood moves toward digital movies delivered via a network, these sites may also deliver those movies directly to theater projectors

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Simulation Books are Hard to Find

It has always been a challenge to find really good books on interactive simulation. There are a number on niche topics, like Richard Fujimoto's book on Parallel and Distributed Simulation - which is primarily about the synchronization of sims across multiple computers. Then there are all of the Discrete Event college textbooks. Then the pool gets really dry. Keep your eye on game programming books. That who genre is pretty primitive right now, not much more than programming advice. But it might get richer now that the whole world wants to create virtual worlds.

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