Should you find yourself in the US army with an M198 howitzer to fire, you can be virtually sure that it will not let you down, because it has been designed and tested on a virtual battlefield supplied by Bristol, Avon-based Division Group Plc. The US Army Armament Research Development & Engineering Centre is using […]
Should you find yourself in the US army with an M198 howitzer to fire, you can be virtually sure that it will not let you down, because it has been designed and tested on a virtual battlefield supplied by Bristol, Avon-based Division Group Plc. The US Army Armament Research Development & Engineering Centre is using virtual reality to help it meet the Department of Defense’s mandate for efficient and cost-effective weapons systems design. With its weapons design contractor GDE Systems Inc, subsidiary of Tracor Inc, it has bought Division’s dVS virtual reality run-time system and dVise virtual authoring system to integrate three-dimensional weapons models into a virtual battlefield. The howitzer simulation enables users to evaluate autoloader operations under battlefield-type conditions, the company said, and the army can evaluate the feasibility of various autoloader designs. As well as the howitzer, the hand-held Objective Individual Combat Weapon is also being evaluated. The simulation enables the user to test the weapon in an ‘urban’ setting, to evaluate effectiveness and detect any design flaws. The virtual prototypes of weapons are based on GDE’s three-dimensional models created in Pro-Engineer computer-aided design and manufacturing software, which can be imported into the virtual world using dVise. GDE Systems, which provides computer-based decision support systems for weapons and avionics equipment, has emphasised the real in virtual reality, by downloading satellite and reconnaissance data of actual terrain into the virtual world, giving the simulated battlefields valid, geographical characteristics. The simulations run on a Silicon Graphics Inc workstation, and use immersive virtual reality peripherals such as headsets, which, Division said, were particularly appropriate to this type of application since users could fully experience the use of the weapons in real settings. Division has also sold its virtual reality software to San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp, an international architecture, engineering and construction company. Bechtel is using virtual reality in every phase of a project lifecycle, from conceptual design to marketing and operations, in order to reduce costs and increase value. The company’s first project was a walkthrough of an advanced wind-tunnel facility for testing aircraft. It was implemented by Bechtel’s consultants, Electronic Data Systems Corp, which imported Bechtel’s computer-aided design models into dVise. The company said Division’s recently released multi-user version of its run-time software, dVS 3.0 (CI No 2,698), which enables users to collaborate in a virtual environment over a network, was particularly attractive to an international company working on global projects. The software runs on a variety of hardware including Silicon Graphics Inc and Hewlett-Packard Co workstations, and it costs from ú5,000 to ú30,000.