Aside from building high-end gaming systems for the enthusiast community, or top-of-the-line workstations for businesses, for more than 20 years we have been designing and deploying a wide range of training and simulation hardware for the defence industry; specifically for driving synthetic training environments. From full-mission navigational bridges to part-task fast jet maintenance trainers, we've been fortunate enough to work on some very exciting projects.
One thing we have noticed over the years, however, is that the line between gaming and serious training and simulation is rapidly beginning to blur in terms of hardware requirements.
The Warsash Maritime Academy - The UK's largest maritime simulation centre
With the divide that once existed between game development and Mil-Sim, and the even larger disparity between military applications and those used on the 'civvy' side of things, many technology providers went one way or the other when it came to their tech offerings. Alongside hardware limitations of the time, this meant that for many years these military-grade systems were often built from proprietary hardware, custom-made from concept to end product, running all manner of idiosyncratic software - with everything purpose-built and platform-dependent. This locked-in users to that particular company's hardware and software, causing all manner of issues when updates and changes were required. This often meant new contractors would need to rebuild the entire set-up from scratch or else purchase and import existing system set-ups from an alternative source.
However, with time and progression, the development tools, game engines, and hardware used in the gaming industry have started to become increasingly ubiquitous within the defence sector. As the gaming industry has grown and evolved, many Mil-sim developers are finding that game development tools could now be the way to go – they have better graphics, equally complex engines, a plethora of plugins and most of the groundwork is already working out of the box.
Novatech Image Generator production
Arguably, these tools are becoming more and more the industry-standard for developers from all walks of life. In fact, the DVS framework which provides inter-operable, accessible and deployable simulation capabilities, is delivered by Bohemia Interactive Simulations in the form of Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3), which originated from the popular video game ARMA II, a first-person tactical military shooter. Bohemia Interactive are still leading the way with VBS4, which compared to VBS3, offers unprecedented compatibility with industry-standard tools and engines from the gaming scene. Plus, with the likes of Epic's new defence focused developer team, among others, gaming-originated middleware is looking to become even more prevalent than it already is now.
What's more, with further advancements in realistic controls, motion platforms, and VR/XR possibilities from the likes of Varjo, users are recognising the benefits that simulation can offer as an accompaniment to real-world training, helping to limit skill fade. We’ve seen this first hand, after working with the Royal Navy, where we developed a cost-effective, first-of-its-kind portable 3-DoF RHIB platform, allowing RNR members to train within realistic and challenging environmental conditions within a safe classroom environment. Numerous individuals have also cited the usefulness in simulation training at all levels and in all areas of the Armed Services, from General Infantry and Aircraft Pilots to Maintenance and Engineering.
British Army tests innovative virtual reality training. BiSim copyright.
"It enables you to have practical training immediately after a theory lesson which is brilliant – sometimes that gap you get between a theory lesson and putting it into practice doesn't help in terms of skill fade." – Trooper Jacob Hunt, of the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry on VBS.
Combine this with the fact that "gaming-grade" components are now more powerful and reliable than ever before, plus the fact that most industry-standard software is optimised perfectly to run on these very components, consumer COTS-based computing is definitely the way forward. Bohemia Interactive themselves have openly admitted that there is no performance gained from using expensive professional graphics cards (designed for CAD, CGI or complex calculations), instead recommending GPUs that are designed for gaming.
Of course, there are often subtle differences between your standard gaming PC and high-fidelity Image Generators (besides the lack of RGB). Thermals, acoustics, portability and environmental factors all need to be considered, as well as life-cycle and obsolescence management. And having built thousands of PCs for gamers and businesses alike, we know what works and what doesn't at the hardware level.
Novatech Rack Integration.
From small budgets to large, independent, small-scale consumer to commercial servers – you name it, and we've planned, designed, built and installed it. Using our own huge database detailing information on return of sales and failure rate reports covering hundreds of these "gaming-grade" components, alongside access to vendor roadmaps, we can assure the highest reliability components in every build. And of course, our experience working within the Defence Sector has given us invaluable insight into the needs and wants of various training units. Investing in military-grade COTS hardware has never been easier or more cost-effective.
Images copyright TitanIM
Novatech supply custom, purpose-built hardware to some of the biggest names in the Security, Aviation, Defence and Marine industries.
If you have a project you'd like to discuss, please contact our dedicated Simulation and Training team using the form below, or call us on 02392 322500.