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.