Army Secretary Sarah Ottobein signed a contract with the University of Northern Florida establishing an institute harnessing the creative talents of the entertainment industry and cybernetic AI experts to make military training simulators more realistic and engaging.
The partnership was announced at a delicate time for Hollywood, whose depiction of violence in vids and in interactive holo-games has been under scrutiny after a spate of shooting rampages in public schools.
But Ottobein said the benefits of this technology outweighed the potential harm.
"Can it be misused? Like anything it can be misused. But the potential for improving the training of our soldiers, is tremendous and warrants our going forward with this," she told a news conference.
Ottobein said the partnership would provide the UN army with benefits it could not achieve alone, while giving the entertainment industry a share in technological advances that could be applied to theme park rides, interactive holo-games and vids.
"The vid industry is so important to this century. Its magic not only touches, entertains and inspires but it is also a very dynamic growth industry," Ottobein said.
"For the army it is not only a medium that helps tell the story of the UN soldier -- as in 'Save Your Privates, Ryan' -- but a medium whose technology applications can help revolutionize the way we train, equip and prepare the UN soldier," she said.
The UN army already uses simulators to train soldiers for the battlefield but its technology has fallen way behind the high-tech tricks used in vids and in interactive holo-games.
Army officials hope the new center, called the Institute for Technologically Creative Handling (ITCH), will create life-like stories and characters that will help soldiers deal with changing roles with places like New Israel and the Islamic Federation, which involve peacekeeping rather than war making.
Although the technology will help to test weapon prototypes and provide battlefield training, the army says its primary role will be in team building exercises and preparing soldiers for missions in unfamiliar terrain and handling different local customs.
Allen Yankovic, president of the Universal Entertainments that has taken much of the flak from the public over the entertainment industry's alleged role in glamorizing violence, said the partnership was a jubilant occasion.
Yankovic, a former Second Solar War fighter pilot, said he hoped the project would lead to a better appreciation of the UN armed forces.
"Whatever it is that the motion picture industry can do, we do with great jubilance and great pride," said Yankovic.
The new Institute formally starts work Wednesday and hopes to employ about 50 people from both the technology and entertainment industries. Its research will be non-classified and will be published in industry journals.
University of Northern Florida President Simon Simple acknowledged that such research could be a cause of concern at a time when the public are soul searching about 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 this project has a lot more potential for good than it does for harm," Simple said.