Chief Scientist, GameSim
The role of simulation is growing fast in military operations. Stephen Eckman, Chief Scientist, GameSim, explains how the company is working with the US Army, Navy and Air Force to breed the next generation of warriors
What are the main business areas of GameSim?
GameSim, which was founded in 2007 by Andrew Tosh, works with the game and simulation industries. Because of our association with the simulation industry, we also have to work in the field of GIS. When companies want to implement a particular feature and yet do not have skilled professionals, we are contracted to implement them. We have done research work for the US Army, NASA as well as the Air Force research labs. Recently, we have started working on a research project for the US Navy.
For the GIS industry, we have our own product, called ‘Conform’, which bridges the gap between simulation and GIS. GameSim is also working on a programme called Synthetic Environment Core (SE Core) for the US Army. Under this programme, the Army takes GIS data and generates simulation database for other customers of the Department of Defence and some foreign entities. We supply tools for this programme, and Conform is one such tool. It is a concept of data fusion which enables a person to easily load large amounts of data quickly and easily. So you just have to drag and drop it into the tool. You don’t have to sort out the data as the system is equipped to figure that out itself.
Conform offers an instantaneous 3D view of raw source data. Users are able to easily import large amounts of data (e.g. Shape Files, DTED, Geo- TIFFs, LiDAR) and immediately view them in both 2D and 3D displays.
Concepts of GIS and simulation have a lot of potential in the gaming industry. Is that the reason why the company is called ‘GameSim’?
Most of our employees come from the gaming and simulation industry and our area of work largely lies in this domain; hence the name GameSim. We have also started doing a lot of work in the GIS field. We have been successful in deriving concepts that came out of the gaming industry. So, technologies, processes, tools and techniques are applied to simulation problems. Recently, I concluded a research problem where we decided to run the whole thing as kind of an agile software development IPT type environment with several stakeholders.
In the gaming industry, it is not very important to know how the government does software development. As a result, we were able to bring those processes, tools and techniques from the gaming industry and apply that to a gaming problem for the army. And this worked out really well.
What kind of project are you taking up in the gaming industry as well as the defence sector?
We are doing a lot of projects in the gaming industry and most of our work is through Electronic Arts. They develop many popular video games. For example, if we work on something that sells 5 million copies a year and we do that on the next generation consoles, so we have, say, PS4s and Xbox360s as well. They need some internal management tools which are required for tracking their projects. We are also working with Electronic Arts on their project called ‘Origin’ which is their digital distribution forefront and platform. We are the exclusive developer of Mac version for the clients as well.
In the simulation industry, we have other projects like the research project for the Navy which is about run-time correlation of databases. We are about to wrap up the Air Force research project named ‘The Tactical Training and Rehearsal Environment’. The project is about training the pilots of fifth generation aircraft. There is one project called ‘The Procedural Model Generation Service’, where we will procedurally generate models for the government so that they will not have to hand-create every model and their artists can focus on the generation of other important models in a scene. For example, if you want to make a simulation database of Paris, then first you will have to find out what makes Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre etc. make Paris. So you would create models of these iconic buildings to ensure that these models look good. For other buildings, they just need to be of the right size and located at the right place; they need not be as detailed. This is procedural model generation where you fill necessary gaps without a large group of artists working on it.
We use a lot of different tools for this. Usually when we are doing 3D modeling, we use Maya and 3DS Macs. The customers on the other hand set up their own guidelines on how they want their files to be delivered. GameSim is really tool agnostic and we will use the best tool that fits the customer needs. If they have specific requirements about using specific games and tools, we will do that. If a customer wants us to use any other product than our own product, say he wants to visualise something in ArcGIS, we are okay with it. We do not insist on it being converted into a feature of Conform.
While building a simulation database real-world location, real-world data and GIS data are required. We provide such services, tools and technology. We can create a database which will fit everyone’s requirement. On the flipside, one already knows what they want and have a guideline for it so we provide tools and technology which will make that guideline more efficient. We have already done this for a large system integrator using the Conform tool. They saw the tool and the visualisation, and realised that it looks good and that is what they need as a starting point. We developed a specific exporter for them to go into their guideline so that they could take GIS, explore it and use it in CryEngine.
Are there other international projects in the pipeline?
At present, we do not have any international projects. But we are certainly interested in expanding our horizon. The kind of work we did for the US Air Force research labs by training the F-35 pilots could be a big break for us. The F-35 will be deployed around the world and the UK is going to be a big customer for that. There is simulation work going on across the globe. The next step for us would be to get some international business.