University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies has just moved into 72,000-square feet of shiny new facilities in Playa Vista, California -- on the same grounds which once served as the headquarters for Howard Hughes' aircraft company. Funded by the US Army to develop virtual reality technology, the ICT's work is now found on 65 military sites across the country. Before your brain starts wandering towards thoughts of Call of Duty on military-grade steroids though, keep in mind that much of the institute's innovations revolve around simulating surrogate interactions with so-called "virtual humans". For example, thanks to advanced AI language programming, soldier patients projected on life size semi-transparent screens help teach doctors about treating combat trauma, while virtual Army personnel characters such as Sergeant Star can interact naturally with soldiers in leadership training exercises.

Still, that shouldn't imply ITC doesn't dabble in good ole' fashion combat simulation work. In fact, it's currently running a training exercise on three military bases designed to prepare soldiers for an insurgent ambush within a highly-realistic virtual town reconstructed from satellite imagery. No, it may not sound as wild as robotic exoskeletons, flying Humvees or ultrasound-based mind control, but it does make your life on The Sims seem totally fake. To judge for yourself, check out the video overview on the next page.


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USC Institute for Creative Technologies gets new building to amp up its military VR work