Monday, May 02, 2011

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US Army Project Simulates Real World Afghanistan Terrain Data in MOSES, Military OpenSimulator Enterprise Strategy

OpenSim Afghan Simulation

What you’re looking at above is an OpenSim recreation of Kamdesh, of Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan, the site of a fierce 2009 battle that took place at American Combat Outpost (COP) Keating. It was developed by Douglas Maxwell (Second Life name: Maccus McCullough), a federal employee who specializes in modeling and simulation technology at the Army Research Lab Simulation and Training Technology Center in Orlando.

The Afghan terrain is created from unclassified DTED (digital terrain elevation data) databases. “We have developed a tool that will ingest the DTED data for a given region and produce RAW files for SL/OS systems.” He says there's no current plans to release the conversion technology to other OpenSim/SL developers, "but that could change if a compelling reason is made." (I bet someone could use it to quickly simulate the compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden just met his end.)

And while much of the world’s attention is on the firefight in Pakistan that ended with bin Laden’s death, the US Army is sponsoring the use of OpenSimulator to recreate this recent firefight next door, in Afghanistan, for MOSES, i.e., Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy. “The MOSES is running on US Army-owned hardware,” Maxwell tells me. “[T]he section of Afghanistan depicted in the 36 regions are a recreation (1:1) of the COP Keating and will create a sample training area for individuals to experience key parts of the Battle of Kamdesh from 2009.

Significantly, the MOSES project was originally developed on Second Life Enterprise, but when that was closed down last August, “We had to find a viable alternative or risk losing significant investments made in time and content.” Which is how it transitioned to an OpenSimulator-based project.

While it has a theoretical real world training purpose, this specific MOSES project is purely experimental. “We currently do not recommend Second Life or OpenSimulator technology for operational usage at this time," says Maxwell. "We believe that there is value in this technology and we can learn lessons from its unique features that can be used in future virtual trainers.” Consequently, it doesn’t include classified data.

That also means it’s open to the public: Go here to create an account and explore what Maxwell and his team (which includes active duty personnel) are building in their virtual Afghanistan. Go here to create an account and check out MOSES first hand.


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Ann Otoole InSL

pretty darn neat. :)

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

This says it all:

" 'We had to find a viable alternative or risk losing significant investments made in time and content.' Which is how it transitioned to an OpenSimulator-based project."

Dusan Writer told our educators' group as much a few weeks ago. In search of short-term profits, the Lab pissed away the good will of 2 dozen DoD groups using SL Enterprise.

And they'll never come back to SL, with their uber-deep pockets.

Well, I feel safer having the US military flounder with me over in the, what did you call it, Hamlet? "shoals of OpenSim," where I, and other educators who have lost faith in the Lab, now spend our time and money.

Timo Gufler

I am fed up with this Bin Laden stuff already. Many SL groups in SL already send noticed about the death of this arab, even if that's not related to the contexts of the groups at all. I start to be ready to leave all the groups and feeds that continue "celebrating" the revenge day after day...


I've messed around with using elevation data from Google earth to reproduce terrain in Second Life (see my Everest here -

It's a pretty kludgy process, but it can be done.


Oh, and completely agree Timo.

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Arcadia Codesmith

The takeaway for me is that if Linden Lab alienates existing user communities, we have options; the options are more customizable to our specific needs; the options are more cost-effective than Second Life; the only reason we haven't exercised those options to date is the strength of the player community and organizational inertia.

I'm laying the groundwork for my own virtual world, and I will not even consider Second Life to host it. Not only is the platform slow and antiquated in many ways, they've priced themselves completely out of the range of hobbyist or small studio development.

Why would I pay super-premium rates to LL (or worse, to a third-party MIDDLEMAN, of all things!!!) for last-generation technology? I'd sooner code the whole thing from scratch.

Oriella Charik

This is a lot cheaper than what the Chinese army did; they built a RL scale model of part of Tibet to play wargames on equivalent to TWELVE SL Regions! See for a description and map references.


I found a DTED DVDR with all kinds of Afghaninstan and Iraq references. I found this disk in an old, abandoned shack next to an old HLZ here in Afghanistan. The disk does not have any classification marking and is labled in handwritten black marker as: "Don't fly without DTED".

Does this sound like it should be classified?

I had no idea what DTED was until Google helped me learn...

Susannah Avonside

It's a pity that the tool for the creation of RAW terrain files isn't being released to the community, as it would make the work of those who wish to re-create historical sites in OpenSim much easier. I'm looking for such a tool as I am planning to build several OpenSim regions representing a castle site in Wales over history.

Oh, well, I guess it's back to perusing Ordnance Survey maps and working out ways of converting contour lines to a greyscale map :)

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