Some might say that all those teenagers "wasting time" on Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 are actually the warfighters of tomorrow, training themselves at zero cost to the U.S. taxpayer. In fact, when offered the choice between the traditional airplane controls and gamepad controls, many younger soldiers pick the thumbsticks that are familiar to them. "There is an absolute age difference," says Bigham. "We call it the ‘jihad of game controllers.' You get kids that are in their low 20s that are gamers, and they go right to the game paddle. And they don't know why us old timers like using the F-16 hands-on, throttle-and-stick controllers."
There is, of course, a real concern that appropriating the game interface into the military space will also bring with it an emotional and moral disassociation from the act of fighting wars, and experts say that the answer may be to experiment with even more immersive technologies that allow soldiers to feel the full impact of the battlespace. And it may well be that game system developers will lead the way to such systems. Already, Bigham says that Raytheon has been experimenting with Wii controllers to explore the possibilities for training simulators and other applications that require physical movement. Just think, one day, the R&D that Nintendo put into Wii bowling could end up influencing basic training.
Friday, May 30, 2008