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The Future Is Now!

The U.S. Armed Forces Are Going To Use Video Games To Teach Sailors Sexual Assault Prevention

The United States are about to start utilizing a technology already being used by the Australian government to train and educate soldiers. While the interactive video game may be used for a wide variety of training, the Navy is thinking of using it to teach sailors about preventing sexual assault. I wonder if this gives gamers in the military an unfair advantage in passing their training? 

Sexual assault within the U.S. Armed Forces has been a hot button topic for a while so is it any wonder the government has started thinking outside the box? discusses the Navy’s plans, “The Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) is giving $83,000 to a game and animation company to develop ’Avatar Based Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Training.’ The company, Organic Motion, Inc., already produces video games for the military, mostly to develop combat readiness.”

The company uses motion capture technology to create their live scenarios. From their website:

The role-player steps into a capture portal and is projected as a high definition LIVE digital character into a live training scenario in real-time. No need to pre-record branching video or animated scenes. The digitally animated character’s movement, speech and gestures exactly mimic the role-player and facilitate an interactive two-way dialogue in a natural and intuitive manner. This is not a recorded character but an actual live person interacting with trainees who view that person as any intended digital character. LIVE uses the latest voice modulation software, projection and targeting technology to create a completely immersive training capability.

You can watch an example of the regular combat training here (warning: some graphic content). According to the official contract (check out the full PDF), this is how it will work:

The system developed by the Contractor will not use pre-programed branching scenarios to determine the responses for the avatar. It will instead animate a human agent/inhabitor using a hardware/software interface, which streams live across the internet. The system shall allow a subject matter expert to determine the appropriate response to both verbal and non-verbal cues so that the student receives improved feedback regarding their actions. It shall also provide the ability to change characters (gender, race) and environments facilitating greater student engagement. Avatars will be uniform in their ability to convey emotion through verbal and nonverbal (facial and body gestures) cues, possessing the level of realism required to create engaging interactive learning sessions.

As of right now, the project is just  in the pilot stage to determine if its use would be beneficial to a wider audience. Recruit Division Commanders, Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, and SAPR Victim Advocates at the Naval Service Training Command located in Great Lakes, Illinois will be testing it first.

(via GameSpot)

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  • eag46

    Can’t they just get the Australian head of the Armed Forces to get the US military heads to tape the same type of messages he made? <— have them make messages like this and beat it into the heads of every single soldier and Dept. of Defense employee.

  • Nick Gaston

    So is…this like an adaptation of one of those Hogan’s Alley “shoot-or-don’t-shoot” simulators?

    Eh…’worked for Dirty Harry, I guess. “I figure he’s not out collecting for the Red Cross.” BLAM.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not quite sure how that works in this particular context though. “Leer-or-don’t-leer”? The participants are going to roleplay interactions with people of different genders and… what exactly? Pass if they don’t grab anyone’s virtual butt? Get five negative points for stealing a glance at some lady’s boobs and two hundred negative points if they assault her in a dark alley? And then what? Are the failing players going to practice until they manage to talk to another person without sexually harassing them?

    I mean, I’m all for fighting against sexual violence in the military (and everywhere else), but A) I honestly don’t see how they’re going to get any usable results from the “players”, and B) if someone needs this kind of exercise to be TAUGHT not to assault people sexually, they have no business being in the military in the first place.

    Unless I misunderstood something? I found no clear mention of the program’s specific goal and the PDF linked in the article was rather vague too.

  • frankenmouse

    I’m of two minds on this one. From a purely tech perspective, it’s a pretty cool idea. Using VG/VR for training purposes is a very promising area. On the other hand, I don’t think it will work particularly well in this case.

    Why? Because not being a dirtbag is something that is a conscious choice, not a trainable response. If this was to, say, help someone with social anxiety learn how to manage their fears/experience “exposure therapy,” I’d say that it would work for sure. For sexual assault training? I’m not sure any amount of tech can fix a problem that primarily exists due to the fact that the aggressor views others as toys or tools that exist only for their pleasure. Reducing someone to an object is what’s at the root of sexual assault, not unconscious reactions or bad “habits.”

  • Dessa Brewington

    Not everyone is raised knowing what is right and wrong. Some folks think certain behavior is okay when it isn’t. Like “Mr. Hugs-a-lot” might think he’s being friendly while everyone else around feels intensely uncomfortable about it. In some circumstances, hugging can qualify as sexual assault.

  • Zarvox

    Given what the Navy’s current SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) training looks like, it will probably center around policing your shipmates: learning to recognize warning signs of possible future sexual assault, and when to step in and say something, either to your shipmate or to a superior.

    “Huh, have you noticed that Petty Officer Smith has been acting a little sketch with the new mechanic? Maybe we should have a few words with him.”

    “Hey, you guys know how Jones gets when he has a few beers. We’re pulling into Singapore on Tuesday; let’s make sure we all keep an eye on him, OK?”

  • Anonymous

    See, that’s where they lose me. For me the only acceptable response to a member of armed forces acting like this Smith or Jones you mention is “who the hell gave this creep a gun, kick him out right now!”. This is one of those places where the standards should be as high as they possibly can and the idea of “reeducating” sexual predators in the military is unacceptable for me.

  • Zarvox

    That’s not what I said.

    This is about preventing a situation while it’s still in the “Hm, maybe this will be a problem down the line” phase. Cut if off before anything happens.

    If you noticed Smith is more friendly than he should be with a female mechanic, let him know that he’s acting a touch sketch and should knock it off before he does anything he might regret. If you know Jones gets grabby when he’s drunk, keep him from getting in a situation where he might get grabby, or encourage him to drink a little less.

    Most sexual assaults aren’t done by motivated sexual predators. They’re done by people who made a mistake. SAPR training teaches folks to watch their shipmates and make sure those mistakes don’t get made.

    Is it 100% effective? Hardly. But it takes time to change the culture of an organization, especially one as large as the Navy. I know this isn’t the answer you’re hoping for, but there just isn’t a magic switch that you can flip to make people realize that their behavior is unprofessional and immoral. This isn’t a problem that can be solved overnight.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, I suppose I was thinking about more serious offenses here than the ones you’re mentioning and which can really be classified as “making a mistake”. That line is hard to pin down though – what should be classified as “made a mistake, show them the error of their ways” and what falls into an “unacceptableeeeee (hundred years dungeoooooon!)” category? I just think that the members of the military should be held to a higher standard than regular people when it comes to human interaction. The whole point of military is protecting the people and they are allowed to use some extreme measures to do it, so if they harm people instead, it should result in the strictest punishment the law permits.

    And one more thing – what about the victims of those minor offenses that are not followed by extreme disciplinary action (like dismissal or even criminal charges)? Because I think the focus should be on the ladies or gents this grabby Jones grabs, not on his/her poor understanding of social norms and helping him/her gain some basic human decency, while providing him/her access to deadly weapons.

  • Zarvox

    I can’t speak to what happens in other branches of the Service, but in the Navy, every command has a SAPR Liason, a Victim Advocate, and (of course) the Chaplain, any of whom a victim can speak to at any time without disclosing the reason of why they’re doing so.

    Depending on whom the victim talks to, they have the option of making a restricted report (the commanding officer is notified that a sexual assault occurred, but not by whom or against whom), an unrestricted report (the commanding officer is notified of exactly what happened), or make no report at all.

  • Diaspora

    They ought to have a leaderboard for this, and whoever does worst gets publicly waterboarded until the very idea of sex makes them scream.

  • Mark Brown

    Because gamers have proven so effective at avoiding rape culture.

  • Dessa Brewington

    That was awesome.

  • dorothy_notgale

    Because this will be so much more effective than normal training. The answer to harassment and rape in the military is clearly that they haven’t invested enough in expensive video games. Not that it’s tacitly condoned, swept under the rug, etc.