Why the U.S. army wants to build an avatar for every soldier.

The American military’s long and much-discussed use of videogames for training, public relations, and (arguably) recruitment strategies have reached a new level of immersive virtualization, Wired reports:

“You design an avatar that has the individual facial features of a soldier,” James Blake, the Army’s program executive officer for simulation, training and instrumentation, tells National Defense. “Then you add more of what he looks like, physical attributes. When you’re in your game environment, you’d like to have the physical and mental attributes of that individual reflected in that virtual world.”

But the avatars would be much more comprehensive than simple lookalikes. A soldier’s performance during physical training, for example, would be inputted into the digital replica’s athletic abilities. So unlike super-charged videogame operatives, soldiers who huff and puff running an 11-minute mile won’t see their avatars do much better. Likewise, soldiers with crappy real-life shooting skills will be liabilities to their virtual units during group training sessions.

Rather than fulfilling the awesome fantasies of empowerment many commercial games offer for players, these avatars have real human weaknesses their users must recognize and improve upon. But is this just introducing office exercise games like Keas to military training?  

Yannick LeJacq

[via Wired and National Defense][Image via Army.mil]