U.S. Army goes Hollywood for high-tech training
August 18, 1999
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Hollywood has dispatched soldiers throughout the world and beyond -- in movies ranging from "Saving Private Ryan" to "Star Wars." Now, the tools of fantasy world combat will be used to train real-life U.S. Army troops.
On Wednesday, the Army signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the University of Southern California to have the school's movie, special-effects and other technology experts help with troop training.
Training programs will include battle scenarios and even simulations in which troops en route to combat zones might wear virtual-reality helmets to train for an upcoming mission, researchers said. Large-scale simulations will create settings such as one similar to that of Operation Desert Storm.
"We have not been able to use this kind of technology in operations -- and did not in 'Operation Allied Force,'" said Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera. "This technology would help you understand the terrain and understand its limits."
Hollywood, which will ultimately gain commercial applications for its cutting-edge technology, has hailed the new partnership.
"The digital world, the world of virtual reality ... is going to be part of the embrace of this great, new cooperative venture," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Some, however, have expressed reservations about the deal and wonder if ethical checks and balances should be put in place. They remember World War II, when Hollywood was called upon to make not only training films, but propaganda material as well.
"What we're witnessing here today is perhaps not only the announcement of a new sort of technological center, but the creation of a military-industrial-media-entertainment complex," said Prof. James Der Derian, who teaches international relations at Brown University. "I think we need to raise questions about: 'To what end? What kind of accountability is there?'"
The Pentagon selected the University of Southern California, in part, because of its proximity to Hollywood.
The Army also hopes the high-tech training will enhance its efforts to recruit new soldiers.
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