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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK

World: Americas

US military goes to Hollywood

Looking for new ways to simulate reality

The American armed forces are looking to Hollywood for help in making their training programmes more stimulating and realistic.

The Pentagon has teamed up with the film industry to develop advanced virtual reality simulators.

They will train US soldiers in everything from battlefield manoeuvres to peacekeeping operations.

[ image: Saving Private Ryan: Hollywood-style war]
Saving Private Ryan: Hollywood-style war
The Army and the University of Southern California have set up a new institute harnessing the creative talents of the film industry and computer experts.

The new centre will create life-like situations and characters to help soldiers carry out peacekeeping duties like those in Kosovo and Bosnia.

Simulators will also test weapons prototypes and provide battlefield training.

The US Army already uses simulators but the technology has fallen far behind the fancy tricks developed in films and video games.

[ image: More imaginative technology]
More imaginative technology
Army Secretary, Louis Caldera, said the partnership would give the army benefits it could not achieve alone.

It would also give the entertainment industry a share in technological advances which could be applied to theme park rides, video games and movies.

"The film industry is so important to this nation. Its magic not only touches, entertains and inspires, but it is also a very dynamic growth industry," said Mr Caldera.

"For the army, it is not only the medium that helps tell the story of the American soldier, as in Saving Private Ryan.

"It is also the medium which can revolutionise the way we train, equip and prepare the American soldier."

Hollywood has taken a lot of flak recently over the alleged glamourising of violence in films.

But the President of the Motion Picture Association, Jack Valenti, described the new partnership as a jubilant occasion.

[ image: Theme parks could benefit]
Theme parks could benefit
He hoped the project would lead to a better appreciation of the US armed forces.

"Whatever the motion picture industry can do, we do with great jubilance and great pride," said Mr Valenti.

University of Southern California President, Steven Sample, acknowledged that such research could be a cause of concern at a time when Americans are soul-searching about gun violence and the breakdown of traditional family life.

But he added: "Almost every scientific and technological advance that has ever been developed can be used, and in many cases has been used, for the ill of society as well as for the good of society."

"It is my judgement that virtual reality has a lot more potential for good than it does for harm."

The new institute hopes to employ 50 people from both the technology and entertainment industries.

Its research will be non-classified and will be published in industry journals.

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