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Will the US Army, Not Meta, Build an 'Open' Metaverse

Published by Slashdot on Mon, 01 Aug 2022

Just five weeks before his death in 2001, Douglas Adams made a mind-boggling pronouncement. "We are participating in a 3.5 billion-year program to turn dumb matter into smart matter..."He gave the keynote address for an embedded systems conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center... Adams dazzled the audience with a vision of a world where information devices are ultimately "as plentiful as chairs...." When the devices of the world were networked together, they could create a "soft earth"a shared software model of the world assembled from all the bits of data. Communicating in real time, the soft earth would be alive and developingand with the right instruments, humankind could just as easily tap into a soft solar system. It's 21 years later, in a world where the long-time global software company Bohemia Interactive Simulations claims to be "at the forefront of simulation training solutions for defense and civilian organizations." And writing in VentureBeat, their chief commercial officer argues that "We do not yet have a shared imagination for the metaverse and the technology required to build it," complaining that big-tech companies "want to keep users reliant on their tech within a closed, commercialized ecosystem."I envision an open virtual world that supports thousands of simultaneous players and offers valuable, immersive use cases. The scope of this vision requires an open cloud architecture with native support for cloud scalability. By prioritizing cloud development and clear goal-setting, military organizations have taken significant leaps toward building an actual realization of this metaverse. In terms of industry progress towards the cloud-supported, scalable metaverse, no organization has come further than the U.S. Army. Their Synthetic Training Environment (STE) has been in development since 2017. The STE aims to replace all legacy simulation programs and integrate different systems into a single, connected system for combined arms and joint training. The STE fundamentally differs from traditional, server-based approaches. For example, it will host a 1:1 digital twin of the Earth on a cloud architecture that will stream high fidelity (photo-realistic) terrain data to connected simulations. New terrain management platforms such as Mantle ETM will ensure that all connected systems operate on exactly the same terrain data. For example, trainees in a tank simulator will see the same trees, bushes and buildings as the pilot in a connected flight simulator, facilitating combined arms operations. Cloud scalability (that is, scaling with available computational power) will allow for a better real-world representation of essential details such as population density and terrain complexity that traditional servers could not support. The ambition of STE is to automatically pull from available data resources to render millions of simulated entities, such as AI-based vehicles or pedestrians, all at once.... [D]evelopers are creating a high-fidelity, digital twin of the entire planet. Commercial metaverses created for entertainment or commercial uses may not require an accurate representation of the earth.... Still, the military metaverse could be a microcosm of what may soon be a large-scale, open-source digital world that is not controlled or dominated by a few commercial entities.... STE success will pave the way for any cloud-based, open-source worlds that come after it, and will help prove that the metaverse's value extends far beyond that of a marketing gimmick.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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