Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Second Life in the Air Force

A lifetime ago I participated as a cadet for three years in Air Force ROTC.  Though I did not go through with earning my commission as an Air Force officer upon graduation from UCLA, I still have fond memories of my experiences with military training. Twenty years later, although separated by many miles and separate lives, I've maintained contact with friends from my Air Force ROTC days.  It's interesting to note that the company I work for is currently seeking to develop business relationships with the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command (AETC), specifically exploring their training needs for Airmen.

Just this week I've read a few headlines and articles about the AETC's launch of their virtual world on SecondLife called MyBase. For a brief listing of articles see the end of this article for some reference links to articles that you can read.

MyBase is public domain land in Second Life. It's purpose is to educate people about the Air Force and to provide information about Air Force life and careers to potential recruits. The Air Force's future plans to develop virtual worlds for training, learning, and performance include acquiring secure domains for Airmen to receive training.

So I created an account in Second Life to explore MyBase and get a few screenshots for this article.  Once I figured out how to Teleport to various locations in Second Life, I set my destination for MyBase, and landed at the virtual base.

One of the first things you see is the base map, which shows you the various areas to explore on base and the things you can learn about Air Force life.

The first thing I did was to explore the Visitor Center. When I entered, one of the things you notice is the large Air Force emblem on the floor. The Visitor's Center has a few desk with people there to help guide your visit and give you tips for what to explore.

One of the cool things in the Visitor Center is an Opportunities desk where you can see a computer monitor. When you click on the monitor, you are given a new browser that opens the Air Force web site. Another kiosk in the center provides visitors with another Air Force web site based on their latest marketing/recruiting theme: "Do Something Amazing". On the Do Something Amazing web site you can watch numerous cool videos of various people performing their jobs in the Air Force, such as security detail guards or fighter pilots.

You can literally spend all night exploring MyBase. One of the last things I explored was a boot camp-like area called "Confidence Course & Deployed Camp" where new recruits can simulate activities done during boot camp. Inside the virtual boot camp are obstacle courses where recruits do physical training. There's also a virtual shooting range with weapons you can acquire and shoot.

MyBase on Second Life has a lot of potential. It's a very fitting learning environment for the most high-tech branch of the Armed Forces. There's much potential for developing training on the this platform. It poses new challenges for instructional designers who have to make technical limitations a strong consideration for how training is delivered in a virtual world. But that discussion is probably best saved for a different class and a different topic than games.

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