Are iPods too perfect?

The X-box warrior: My New York Times Magazine article

The New York Times Magazine just published a piece I wrote about the military’s increasing use of off-the-shelf video-game technology to train soldiers. It talks about how they’re using There, an online multiplayer world, to model a Baghdad-like city; it also talks about Full Spectrum Warrior, a game the military designed to help soldiers practise urban-warfare strategic movement. A sample of the piece:

In fact, the virtual world offers some unequalled ways of visualizing a battlefield. Consider how the game faciliates ”after-action review,” a key part of training. After soldiers practice a technique, they talk about it to analyze what went wrong. Typically, soldiers will argue about precisely what happened on the field. With video games, however, they can literally replay the scene to find out.

Cummings showed me a game called Full Spectrum Command, currently in use at Fort Benning, Ga., in which you control a company of up to 150 people. For my benefit, he had a staff member run a mission infiltrating a building where terrorists were holed up. The soldiers advanced, blowing a hole in the gate, and terrorists began firing back. All of a sudden, Cummings froze the scene, as in a ”bullet time” moment in ”The Matrix.” Red lines onscreen showed the flight paths of enemy bullets. The camera zoomed along one of the lines, showing us what the bullets ”saw” as they raced toward the soldiers. With another keystroke, Cummings made the walls on the buildings vanish so we could see where the enemy had been crouching.

He pointed to a red line that showed where one of the soldiers was hit. ”See that?” he said. ”That was our vulnerability.”

You can read the whole thing online for free at the Times’ web site!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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