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Air Force opens bidding for virtual air base

The Air Force plans to award a contract by Oct. 3 to create its first virtual training space where airmen will attend class as avatars-3-D representations of themselves -- in full uniform.

Comment on this article in The Forum.According to the request for proposals published Sept. 3, the service wants to buy a software platform that course builders with the Air Force Training and Education Command can use to build MyBase, a "persistent, three-dimensional virtual world where . . . instructors, learners and visitors train, collaborate and communicate over networks."

The command plans to test MyBase by offering two courses there. The first course, Windows 2003 Server With Active Directory, currently is taught off-site by a mobile training team from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. The Information Protection Boundary course, which teaches network security, is conducted in classrooms at Keesler.

The Air Force requires the 3-D environment to accommodate 75 simultaneous users worldwide, with access provided to a total of 600 users. The platform must provide a geospatially accurate, real-time experience in a typical Air Force training room and allow instructors to teach both technical classes and flying missions.

The service initially hopes to create two furnished virtual classrooms that can stream audio and video, and to allow users to design their own avatars in uniform with a variety of physical attributes and appropriate rank. The synthetic base also must include buildings, vegetation, signage, roads, security, a flight line with planes and the ability to exchange documents, photographs and video. Once it buys the software and training, the Air Force expects delivery within two weeks.

The Air Force posted a YouTube video describing MyBase:

MyBase originally was described in a white paper titled "On Learning: the Future of Air Force Education and Training." The paper called for an overhaul of the service's training programs to counter "digital warriors who are highly educated and capable of leveraging our open information architecture[ and who] will make every attempt to capture or destroy our information networks and thereby our knowledge."

In the paper, MyBase is envisioned as the portal to all things Air Force, from lectures by avatars who look and talk like long-dead flying aces to in-world collaboration and cooperation within the Air Force and across the military and other institutions.

The paper includes imaginary scenarios displaying the hoped-for[[desired?]] capabilities of MyBase. In one, a Capt. Wilson spends lunch hours and evenings as an avatar attending a lecture at the University of Texas and participating as an Abrams tank driver in a joint exercise teaching air-to-ground combat coordination.

In another, a promising high school student is hooked when he stays up all night flying a virtual plane in the interactive MyBase game "Air Force Warrior." A recruiter avatar calls up the youngster's school transcripts via Facebook and offers him three career fields with associated bonuses on the spot. In the third vignette, Lt. Maria Stringer jumps into the virtual base to find a mentor to help her thwart a Soviet-trained hacker's attack on critical U.S. infrastructure.

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