The Canadian Department of National Defense: Training in 3-D
September 26, 2006
The state of the modern business calls for proactive — not reactive — measures from the learning organization. Often it’s necessary to anticipate what might be required to meet future demands based on existing demands, and vendors can come in handy when time is of the essence, and resources are scarce or limited.
Such is the case with the Canadian Department of National Defense. The department contracted with NGRAIN, which specializes in interactive, 3-D training solutions, to provide its National Defense Mine/Countermine Information Center and the Canadian Forces Landmine Database.
“We see on the news today that one of the huge problems around the world is mines, countermines and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and the challenges associated with the identification and disarming of these devices,” said Gabe Batston, vice president of marketing and business development, NGRAIN. “The Canadian Department of National Defense has really taken a leading role in the world in producing a National Defense Landmine/Countermine database, cataloging different types of mines and explosive devices with the objective of being able to better train soldiers in the field to allow them to identify these, so they can get themselves out of harm’s way and know the proper procedure associated with potentially disarming them or alerting the appropriate authorities as to what the next steps would be.”
NGRAIN offers an interactive, 3-D capability in which trainees or users get a virtual experience with a landmine, which allows people to learn, practice and understand the behavior of a landmine safely.
“Tom Stewart (Canadian Forces, J3 Engineer Operations), who is leading this initiative from the Department of National Defense perspective, is a bit of a visionary,” Batstone said. “He said, ‘I want this to be on our R-PDA,’ which is a ruggedized personal digital assistant. He said, ‘I want this in the field, there not only when they’re trained at a home base or trained somewhere, but when they’re actually in the field to have access to a database of 3-D knowledge objects and other information associated with these mines in real time.’”
Using NGRAIN increased the speed at which interactive, 3-D content could be produced, distributed and viewed by Canadian Forces personnel, Stewart said. Contracting a vendor also enabled multiple points of access and helped to close potential learning gaps that often occur naturally between home and field offices by creating a single training network that functions in the same manner across borders.
“The NGRAIN software provides a cost-effective addition to the modeling and simulation programs being developed,” Stewart said. “The ability to run the applications on standard desktop and notebook computers puts the capability where it’s needed without relying on specialized expensive platforms that can’t survive in operational environments.
“As more personnel are introduced to the various products, we’re noticing an increased awareness, as it pertains to the subjects of interest. Personnel are enjoying the learning process, and their individual knowledge levels are increasing faster due in part to their access to very detailed models that provide visual access to mechanical components that were previously unattainable. In the near future, as more modeling solutions are produced, we’ll see a greater number of soldiers with a level of technical competency far surpassing what we have now.”
Batstone said there is an ongoing trend to transform training and the way that it’s delivered while still meeting high performance standards, and this often has to be done in less time because of the operational tempo that exists today.
“They don’t have time for soldiers to sit in classrooms, and you have to provide up-to-date information that contains interactive, rich media content that will enhance knowledge retention and comprehension,” Baston said. “Those are the three key pillars that you have to build from, and in the defense space, the two reasons you want to do that are associated with safety and operational readiness — ‘operational readiness’ is a military term for ‘productivity.’”
Including the right vendor in an organization’s learning network can aid productivity and influence cost by reducing the development cycle for learning programs and products.
“We allow companies to have interactive, 3-D running in real time on a standard computer that was created by a subject matter expert, the person who knows the most about a piece of landing gear or, in this case a landmine, and that really lowers the cost,” Baston said. “It also speeds creation because another huge issue that’s associated with training that we heard when we went out and did our market analysis was, ‘We can’t wait 12 or 18 months to get this course.’ It boils down to being economical, effective and expedient, and we achieved those three objectives with an easy-to-use software tool that eliminates the need for high-end graphics or high-end engineers and puts the power of 3-D into the hands of people who know training the best.”
Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org