Magazine article National Defense

"M*A*S*H" Meets "Star Trek" in Simulation for Combat Medics

Magazine article National Defense

"M*A*S*H" Meets "Star Trek" in Simulation for Combat Medics

Article excerpt


* WALTER REED ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Md. -- Inspired by a concept found in the "Star Trek" television show, scientists and videogame designers have joined forces to build an immersive simulation that will replicate realistic battlefield and field hospital scenarios to train combat medics and surgical teams

The goal is to combine 3-D images, Hollywood-style effects, props and live actors, and a range of computer-controlled medical mannequins into an integrated "holodeck-like" experience, said Alan Liu, director for virtual medical environments at the National Capital Area Medical Simulation Center.

The simulator--called the wide area virtual environment, or WAVE--will consist of two pods about 20 feet in diameter that are connected by a 15-foot long corridor. Nine-foot tall and 12-foot wide movie screens will surround the resulting 1,000-square foot space and will display stereoscopic images that trainees wearing polarized glasses will see. During exercises, participants will have to hunt for live "victims" among the humvees, boxes, debris and other props scattered on the backlit floor.

A speaker system will deliver directional sound effects, such as flying bullets, screams and explosions, while smoke-generators and other special effects will create the appropriate levels of chaos for the scenarios.

"You will be completely immersed inside a video game," said Liu.

A team of up to 18 people can train together in the simulation during a sustained period. The idea is to use one pod to simulate a single phase of a scenario, such as the aftermath of an explosion, and then have the team evacuate casualties along the corridor to the other pod, where the next scenario, such as a helicopter transport, would be ready to play.

Once all the actors have left the first pod, it would be reconfigured for a third scenario, so that by the time the individuals in the helicopter "land" and move back through the same corridor, they would enter a completely different scene, this time that of a field hospital.

"You can alternate the pods and you can keep changing the scenery so that you can carry it on for an extended period of time," said Liu.

So far, less than 5 percent of the final system resides inside an 8,000-square foot room of warehouse-like dimensions. There are currently three screens set up and running with two projectors each. …

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