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U.S. Army Employs New Video Game Language Training

A new video game training tool developed by the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute has begun to be used by the US Army and Marine Corps to...
A new video game training tool developed by the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute has begun to be used by the US Army and Marine Corps to teach soldiers about Middle Eastern customs and language. The Tactical Language Program includes titles such as Tactical Iraqi, Tactical Pashto (the primary language of eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan) and Tactical Levantine (the geographical area comprising Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria). Previous interactive language programs have focused solely on spoken language, but the new Tactical Language titles present scenarios including body language and cultural taboos. Around three hundred soldiers have so far been trained by the system, with several thousands expected to have used the program, which the USC Information Sciences Institute refers to as a “game”, by the end of the year. The player is asked to interact with other characters using speech and gestures, while a speech recognition system records and evaluates the responses. Accurate responses allow the soldier to build a rapport with other characters and advance to the next level. In stark contrast to THQ’s Full Spectrum Warrior series, which was also initially developed for the U.S. military, the game contains no weapons or combat situations. Instead it develops similarly to a graphic adventure, in which soldiers must gain the trust of the people they interact with in order to rebuild communities. The technology from the University of Southern California has been licensed by private company Tactical Language Training, who are currently considering releasing a civilian version. In an interview with Wired News, technical director Hannes Vilhjalmsson is quoted as saying, "I don't think people realize what they're missing when they just learn from books. Most of the young troops out there are computer and video-game geniuses," he adds. "This is something they can relate to."

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