US military commission $57m virtual reality training sim powered by CryEngine 3

Tom Senior at

The Dismounted Soldier Training System is a new military sim commissioned by the US government. The sim will be used to train new soldiers as early as next year, and cost a hefty $57 million to make. GamePro report that it's likely that most of this went on development of the the new technology that will capture soldiers' movements on a ten foot square pad. New recruits will experience the simulator through a virtual reality headset that will run from a state-of-the-art custom laptop strapped to their back.

The sim is powered by the Crysis 2 engine, and aims to provide a flexible training tool that should ultimately be cheaper than running similar live exercises. Directors running training excercises will be able to mod new missions using intelligence on a target area. This will allow soldiers to move through a mission in virtual reality before attempting it in real life. Once a mission is completed, soldiers receive a score and a report on their actions in the mission.

The sim is being developed by Intelligent Decisions is designed to be able to realistically model helicopters and ground vehicles, as well as environmental effects like footprints, disturbed foliage and realistic weather effects. Multiple soldiers will be able to play in the same instance, allowing troops to practice squad tactics.

The director of strategic programs at Intelligent Decisions, Floyd West tells GamePro that "a soldier could practice a scenario alone or with squad members, just as they would play an online video game. Soldiers and instructors could also play roles within the simulation. For example, they might play civilians that interact with someone from that squad, or they could play an opposing force, an enemy combatant. They could also control a group of semi-automated forces in the world."

"With CryEngine 3 being used for Crysis 2 and the capabilities that game engine provides, it allows us to make the most realistic simulation possible. We're able to transport soldiers to accurately recreated locales like Afghanistan and Iraq, where we can simulate everything from visuals to 360-degree sound."

The virtual reality headsets the trainees wear will run from a backpack unit similar to a top of the range gaming laptop, called the 'Man Wearable Unit'. "While the man wearable units aren't running on an off-the-shelf Alienware, the internal components themselves are commercial off-the-shelf CPU's and GPU's like NVIDIA graphic cards and whatnot," says West.

Given the ten foot square area needed to run the game, it's unlikely we'll see a commercial release of the Dismounted Soldier Training System. For now we'll have to make do with America's Army, another training and recruitment game developed by the US army. For more information on the DSTS, check out the info from Intelligent Designs. We really want to try it.