Monday, March 29, 2010

CNN report on simulating roadside bombs

With improvised explosive device (IED) attacks more than doubling in the past year in Afghanistan they have become the number one threat to soldiers. The US Army is turning to a training simulator to help prevent soldiers from dying in IED attacks.

The simulator trains soldiers to look for "signatures and observables" that are indicators of potential IED attacks. The training simulator uses up-to-date intelligence and data gathered at a military operations center near Ft. Eustis, Virgina. This data is analyzed and converted for use by the game development engine that runs the simulation software. This allows the simulation to accurately replicate current combat conditions, providing soldiers with valuable training.

When the safety of a nation is at stake, simulation-based learning is a clear cut choice in training. For other mission-critical tasks, and when lives are in the balance, interactive 3D training simulators lead to a higher level of success.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Caterpillar Provides Cost Saving Training Simulators

If you're in the heavy equipment industry, simulators can provide cost savings for your customers. The market leaders in the construction and mining equipment industry are using virtual training simulators to deliver cost saving and safety benefits. In order to compete in today's competitive market, you need to deliver training simulators with your equipment.

A great example is Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar, better known as CAT, is the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. CAT delivers increased safety and cost savings to their customers through Caterpillar Virtual Training Systems and their custom line of heavy equipment training simulators.

These 3D training simulators are available to the public on the Cat Simulators web site. CAT sells their simulators to customers requiring training on Large and Small Wheel Loaders, Mining and Medium Off-Highway Trucks, and Hydraulic Excavators. The prices range from $11,000 for their Motor Grader Simulator to $25,000 for their Mining Truck Simulator.

The CAT equipment operator training simulators are designed to increase the bottom lines of companies that are using real-world CAT heavy equipment. Suited for both inexperienced and experienced equipment operators, the training simulators provide safety, production, and cost saving benefits to customers.

Cost Saving Benefits
  • Does not require expensive consumables, like diesel fuel and oil.
  • Does not increase engine-use hours on real-world equipment, lowering maintenance costs.
  • Leaves real-world equipment available for billable work.
Safety Benefits
  • Operators can practice complicated maneuvers until they master them.
  • Operators can become familiar with equipment controls before entering real-world vehicles.
  • Training can occur at any time, regardless of weather, time of day, etc

The simulators include a training curriculum that takes an operator from machine control comprehension, to basic equipment operation, to complex machine tasks and mining operation scenarios. The Mining Truck Simulator trains and orients operators on machine operation as well as equipment-specific tasks like loading, hauling, and dumping. The simulator tracks an operator's performance and delivers a scoring report across more than 20 different criteria, including the user's scenario execution time, total time spent in reverse gear, average break temperature, and number of collisions - valuable data when assessing an operator's ability.

The world's largest manufacturer of heavy machinery delivers hands-on training in a safe and economical way by providing operators with virtual training simulators that teach machine controls, operating procedures, and complex construction and mining tasks. CAT's training simulators produce safer operators and result in many cost-reduction benefits for CAT's customers.

Caterpillar achieved better than expected earnings in Q1, with 2010 revenue estimated between $38 billion and $42 billion. On average, analysts are estimating a $2.66 profit on CAT shares in 2010.


The bottom line is that if you're not offering a training simulator with your product, you cannot be competitive with the top industry players.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Heavy equipment training simulators increase safety and cost-savings

If you're charged with training people to operate heavy equipment, you're aware of the financial and safety challenges associated with conducting training on real-world equipment. Using highly-realistic simulators attached to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) controls, allows you to provide your operators with a safe and cost effective training environment.

A good example of one of these simulation systems from the mining industry is featured in the Australian Mining News, March 23, 2010 interview with Brad Rouse, Director at ThoroughTec, a company that specializes in the development of mining simulators.

“Traditional methods of training meant that managers would have no option but to let inexperienced operators drive expensive machinery and accept the increased risk of wear and tear, damage, maintenance costs and potential injury.”
"The cost of removing machinery from production for training as well as the potential damage to the machine is ineffective for mine sites."

Heavy equipment training simulators are used globally by leading mining, engineering, and construction companies, transforming the way industries train their heavy equipment operators.

The benefits of simulation-based training include increased safety, less wear and tear on machinery leading to less down time and production interruptions, and an increased understanding of machine operation. In addition, training simulators can be used to evaluate prospective trainee's abilities and allow experienced operators to keep their skills sharp.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Canadian Air Force report predicts a sharp increase in aerospace training simulation usage


The report, by the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre, and release at the end of 2009 is titled "Projecting Power: Trends Shaping Canada’s Air Force in the Year 2019". The report takes a detailed look at the short term future security environment—specifically the trends, drivers and strategic shocks—that will impact on existing and emerging Air Force concepts and doctrinal designs.

What we found most interesting about this report was the Science and Technology Trends section, specifically the Advances in Simulation Technology sub-section. The report predicts that in ten years computing power and simulation technology will have advanced to the point where 3D simulations will replace training that is currently conducted in actual flight operations.

“If the increase in computing power continues, one can expect a 1,000 to 3,000 percent increase in computing power by the 2019 time frame. For simulation technology, the flight in a 2019 simulator (designed and built with 2015 technology) is expected to provide an experience that is practically on par with actual flying conditions."

The Declining Energy Resources Section predicts rapidly increasing fuel costs, declining crude oil production levels, and less access to reliable energy sources. Coupled with the advancement in simulation technology, it is predicted that using aerospace training simulators will greatly help to offset fuel costs. The report warns that due to rising energy prices over the next 10 years, the Air Force will spend between 200 and 500 million Canadian Dollars on aviation fuel annually.

"The latest simulators of tomorrow’s time frame will be capable of replacing first-stage flight training as well as most collective and operational flight training.”

The report concludes that simulation training technology will be critical in order to counter rising energy prices and still meet the demands of increased number of military operations due to geopolitical instability, without reducing the amount of training pilots receive.

You can read the entire report here: Projecting Power: Trends Shaping Canada's Air Force in the Year 2019

If you’re a training simulation sponsor or considering having a simulation developed for your business, you may be interested in a new Canadian report. The report basically quantifies what we know from common sense: systems that are based around digital technology are going to continue to see exponential improvements in performance along with similar decreases in cost.  Although non-simulated real-world training programs do see quality improvements and find costs efficiencies over time, these gains are limited by real-world constraints. For example costs for energy consumption, fuel usage, physical materials, etc. These limits don’t apply to simulated systems. As technology advances, expect to get more and more for your simulation training budget in the future.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The 3 Stages of Performance Enhancement through Simulation

Don’t take the title the wrong way, this post is all business.

With conventional training, your staff learns competency. This is training for the basics – and that’s about where it stops until operators start getting hands-on experience. With simulation training, performance can be enhanced beyond basic competency prior to real-world experience. Further, seasoned operators can play out optimization experiments in a simulation environment which might not be practical or are too time consuming in a real-world situation.

The 3 stages of performance:

  1. Learning to Do
  2. Learning to Do Quickly
  3. Learning to Do Optimally


Let’s say that your business revolves around the efficient operation of farmer equipment. Safe operation is the baseline requirement, but beyond that, your most efficient operators are the one that really pay the bills.

Learning to Do


The first stage of training is just learning how to get the job done.

In the hay baling example above, a new simulation trainee learns how to steer the hay baler and begin the hay collection and baling process. Their route is semi-random as they’re getting their bearings.

Learning to Do Quickly


After mastering the basic techniques of operating the equipment, the operator takes a systematic approach and goes row by row to collect and bale hay.

Learning to Do Optimally


By experimenting within the simulation environment, and reinforced by a tight feedback loop of performance assessment, scoring, and timing, the operator discovers an optimal approach. By taking every other row, the time consuming tight turn-around at the end of each row is eliminated and scores improve.

Bottom Line

Even in a situation as trivial and simple as the efficient operation of a hay baler, optimization techniques can be found through experimentation. The key is that the operator is having a direct experience with the training material and is able to do trial and error refinements that aren’t possible in training that is non-experiential. Consider the optimization opportunities that are present in other systems which aren’t so simple, and the value of simulation training is clear.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Finding Quality Real-time 3D Simulation Demos

One challenge for sponsors of new simulation projects is locating playable demos of existing simulations. One solution is to demo simulation-style retail games. While training simulations share many qualities of and often use the same technologies as retail games, they're not the same thing. Experiencing a true non-game training simulation product saves development time and money by taking advantage of design patterns that have worked for others.

An existing simulation will not include the exact equipment from your business and may not even be from the same industry, but many of the basic constructs are the same from simulation to simulation. For example, just about every simulation has a title screen, a range of user preferences or settings, ideally a tutorial mode, etc. Once into the actual simulation experience, elements such as virtual camera perspective (1st person vs. 3rd person), navigation controls, etc. also are common across a range a simulation applications.

The majority of completed training and sales simulation products are proprietary and not publicly available, but there are some notable exceptions. These are typically the more game-like simulations which have some appeal to a broad consumer audience. One example is the excellent retail Farming-Simulator 2009.

Farming-Simulator 2009 homepage:

Farming-Simulator 2009 demo download page:

Title Screen

Settings Screen


Driving Tutorial

Hay Baling Tutorial

Taking an hour or so to download/install/demo a completed sim like this is time well spent. This type of demo gives your team and your simulation designer/developer a shared point of reference where you can start discussing what approaches you do and don't like and where you want your simulation to be similar or different.