Award allows for continued university-based research and development of interactive media for military training, health therapies and more.
Sept.1, 2011 – The Department of Defense announced this week that the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) has been given a contract extension through 2014. The extension allows the Army to fund up to an additional $135 million dollars of research and prototype development over the next three years.
The Army looks to the institute to provide a vision for the future of training. The contract extension is an indication that ICT helps today’s military meet its goal of staying on the cutting-edge. The institutes’ research and development of effective training technologies reach larger groups of soldiers, reducing the need for expensive live simulations and human role-players.
“ICT brings USC’s computer scientists together with artists, writers and cinematographers, creating compelling and immersive training systems. It exemplifies how USC is able to bring disciplines together in highly creative research,” said Randolph Hall, USC’s vice president of research.
“We are thankful for the opportunity to continue to serve the men and women in the U.S. Army and all the military services,” said Randall W. Hill Jr., ICT’s executive director. “This extension is a strong endorsement of the institute’s success in developing immersive technologies that have led to effective prototypes for training, leader development and physical rehabilitation. And the impact has gone beyond the military to society at large.”
ICT was founded with an initial five-year contract in 1999, when USC was selected as the site for a new research institute with a mandate to bring film and game industry artists together with computer and social scientists to develop engaging simulations that would transform training and improve performance across a wide variety of subject areas related to critical thinking and decision-making.
“ICT will be a joint effort of the Army, the entertainment industry and academe – an innovative team to advance dazzling new media and ultimately benefit training and education for everyone in America,” said then-Secretary of the United States Army, Louis Caldera, at the time.
A second five-year contract was awarded in 2004 and extended again for five years in 2009. The latter extension was implemented in two phases, one through 2011 and the new one just signed by the Pentagon.
ICT estimates that over 75,000 soldiers have trained with technologies from the institute, which specializes in using virtual humans and storytelling to enhance learning. ICT has developed virtual reality systems that offer accessible care for troops suffering from post-traumatic stress and brain injuries that are being used and evaluated at close to 60 sites across the country, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Interactive virtual human role-players now provide practice in how to lead, negotiate and diagnose and have been incorporated into portable video games, mixed reality-training installations at U.S. bases and the curriculum at the USC School of Social Work as part of their specialized training in military social work.
Additional projects include a virtual human museum exhibit for science education, 3-D displays for video teleconferencing and game-based based systems for physical therapy.
The institute is also a recognized leader in several areas of academic research. ICT scientists serve of the faculty of the computer science department of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the Interactive Media Division of USC School for Cinematic Arts and the USC Davis School of Gerontology. They have been recognized as the top in their fields in graphics and virtual humans research, cognitive architectures, contributions to the AI community, emotion modeling and social simulation. One even received an Academy Award. In addition to their research at ICT, they teach courses on the USC campus and publish regularly in leading international journals and present at major conferences related to their subject areas.
“This combination of scientists and storytellers is what makes ICT so unique,” said John Hart, program manager at the U.S. Army’s Simulation and Training Technology Center, which oversees ICT’s Army contract. “We look forward to continuing our successful collaboration with USC.”