game engine shows vast potential for computer simulations
RALEIGH, N.C., January 11, 2001 - The same technologies that power
interactive 3D games might save lives. NDL's (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
NetImmerse 3D game engine, used to create more than two dozen game
titles worldwide, has been licensed by Applied Research Associates (ARA)
to develop a
computer-animated training environment for emergency response
ARA's Southeast Division office in Raleigh, N.C., is currently
developing the simulated environment for a chemical manufacturer.
But the CD-ROM program might eventually be used by HazMat teams
worldwide to practice for and
respond efficiently to hazardous materials accidents, according to
Phil Egly, ARA's project manager.
A Perfect Fit
"The concept of creating a computer training and planning tool
for HazMat teams is not unusual, but the use of a game engine to power
it is," says Graham Rhodes, ARA's project engineer. From
Rhodes' perspective, the NetImmerse game engine is a perfect fit for
the environments that ARA wants to create.
"The gaming industry is the driving force in 3D real-time
technology," says Rhodes. "We need to create the same
type of environment that one would experience in a great 3D game:
realistic scenes that users can interact with just as they would in
real-life situations. NetImmerse allows us to create a visual tool
that HazMat teams can use to manage the resources at their disposal to
mitigate a disaster."
In a game environment, NetImmerse's real-time 3D graphics allow
players to navigate lushly textured scenes and immerse themselves in
the action of the game. In an emergency response situation, the
game engine will serve a much more serious purpose: It will
allow HazMat teams to simulate moves
inside and outside the accident site and to anticipate where danger
might be after an accident. All this can be done in a computer
environment that looks and feels like the real thing.
"Our environment will allow HazMat response teams to visualize,
communicate and rehearse," says Egly. "They will be
able to discern instantly the source of danger, where evacuation
should occur, and if there is a possibility for casualties. They
can then react quickly to manage the situation."
A New Way to Simulate
General-purpose game engines such as NetImmerse have the potential to
revolutionize computer-simulated training and response applications,
according to John Austin, NDL's president. In the past, these
applications required virtual-reality software that used special
equipment such as headsets and
ran on graphics supercomputers costing $100,000 or more. With 3D
game engines, the applications can be developed and used on PCs and
"The result is cheaper development and operational costs,"
says Austin. "Emergency response preparedness is just the
beginning. There are scores of potential applications for
NetImmerse in such areas as military, aviation, automotive and
new-product simulations; visualization of large-scale properties and
buildings; interactive 3D environments on the web; and many