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Cultural Training Scenario Tool

Cultural Training Scenario Tool

Aptima Develops Tool to Help Automate Creation of Cultural Training Scenarios

‘Machinima’ software transforms experiences from field into game-based training vignettes

Woburn, MA, May 19, 2014 – In other cultures, the smallest gestures can create the biggest misunderstandings. A village elder invites a commander to his home to learn about the community and is deeply offended when the soldier interacts with his wife, thanking her for tea without his permission. That simple affront can unknowingly cause distrust and undermine relationship building.

How can such experiences from the field be quickly turned into lessons for the benefit of other Warfighters?

To address that challenge, Aptima, which applies expertise in how humans think, learn and perform, has developed ABCD, a tool for Authoring By Cultural Demonstration. ABCD is an innovative approach to creating cultural training scenarios that combine cognitive science, technology, and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) scenario-authoring tools. Requiring minimal technical know-how, the software allows Warfighters and instructors to quickly script and transform real-world incidents into animated vignettes for game-based training.

Initially funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense through an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II contract, ABCD has been transferred to the Army Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC) in Orlando to align with STTC’s other efforts aimed at capturing and replaying lessons learned from the field. The ABCD prototype is currently STTC’s only technology addressing cultural training.

Leveraging Lessons Learned

Made aware of the cultural disconnect by an interpreter, the commander realizes other units could be making similar mistakes that potentially decrease trust within the community, thereby compromising their intelligence gathering with locals.

Once back on base, the soldier creates a dramatization of the incident using the ABCD software’s drag-and-drop interface to develop characters, imbue them with gestures, and fill in dialogue. To facilitate scenario-creation, ABCD includes a library of culturally-relevant assets, including physical locations, avatars, and props.

When the storyboard is complete, ABCD’s AI-based cinematographic software renders the vignette in an artificial 3D environment. This machine-generated animated scenario, or “machinima,” can run on any gaming engine. The soldier can also specify branching interactions that involve choice and consequence for a more interactive training experience for the game-player.

“Warfighters continually face trial and error in the field, but that doesn’t mean they have to repeat the same mistakes in situations with little margin for error,” said Webb Stacy, Aptima Corporate Fellow and ABCD project lead. “Now, those on the front-line, or their instructors, can take these experiences and insights and quickly transform them into learning moments. ABCD lowers the technical hurdle and provides the means to crowd-source these lessons from the field to easily create training that can benefit others.”

ABCD’s animated story-telling techniques, which illustrate human interaction, can be applied to other skills training, such as leadership and negotiation.

To learn more, watch the ABCD demo video.