America's Cops Are Coming to DFW to Learn How "Avatar" Technology Can Keep Cities Safe

In its own words, Raytheon is "a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security, and other government markets," which is a fancy way of saying "We make a lot of money making military shit so the U.S. government doesn't have to."

But with the war in Iraq officially over, the one in Afghanistan winding down and, whatever some might hope, no new combat action on the immediate horizon, the Bush-era bonanza for defense contractors looks to be pared down to a moderately less lucrative bonanza.

Which is presumably why Raytheon has invited more than 500 state, local, and federal law enforcement officials to Plano next month for daylong demonstrations of VIRTSIM, a virtual reality training system used to train soldiers.

Says Raytheon:

"VIRTSIM employs licensed motion-capture technology similar to that used in movies such as "Lord of the Rings," "Avatar" and, most recently, "The Avengers." It is being offered to the law enforcement community as an affordable, 21st century alternative to outdated training practices that do little to replicate real-life situations."

Real-life situations, like being transmogrified into a blue humanoid and protecting an alien planet's vast stores of unobtanium from an evil corporation in an overwrought allegory of corporate greed and imperial overreach or embarking as a wee Hobbit on a perilous journey through Middle-earth, battling forces marshaled by the Dark Lord Sauron at every step, in an improbable tale of endurance and the power of good?

Yep, that'll help at the next traffic stop.

The system works with reflective markers placed on users' bodies that track their movements along a basketball court-sized "field." Wearing lightweight goggles, participants are completely immersed in a highly realistic virtual scenario, such as a hostage rescue or a variety of other incidents. The goal is to re-create on-the-job, realistic challenges so that officers can be better prepared and equipped to deal with them.

The VIRTSIM system applies Motion Reality's patented motion capture technology to allow a tactical team of up to 13 individuals to interactively train with complete freedom of motion. Unencumbered by wires or cables in a 360-degree virtual environment, trainees experience realistic sensory feedback as they interact with live people or avatars. The fully immersive technology can also be networked to allow for larger, simultaneous interactions.

Raytheon doesn't mention DPD, but DMN says they'll be there. I've asked if and how the department might incorporate the technology into their training. I haven't heard back. I'll just assume that the organization will soon be replaced by a motley collection of seven superheroes enlisted by Samuel L. Jackson to stop an evil supervillian from subjugating the world.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson