Koman: So, at a strategic level there's war gaming, where you're planning out the whole thing, but what you're talking about is sort of 10 minutes before the battle, let's just plot out what we think we're going to do and what the likely outcome is.
Macedonia: That's right. And go virtually fight it.
Koman: Well, that's pretty amazing.
Macedonia: That's called "simulation on demand."
Koman: So what's the input from field commanders?
Macedonia: They love the idea. Essentially the folks who'll have the edge anywhere are the folks that not only have the best talent, but they have the best talent that have worked together and experienced whatever it is that they do in training and preparation, and to the highest state possible. Desert Storm was a good example of that. We sent 500,000 people and only 250 Americans died. We won in four days and I forget how many Iraqis died; most were poorly trained draftees from within Iraq.
Now I'm going to tell you a true story. Two years ago, this Navy pilot shows up at Pensacola Naval Air Station. That's where they teach the new recruits how to fly. And actually he was an ensign; a brand new Navy aviator. So he goes out and they take them all on a check ride, and he maxes every check ride. Well, they hadn't had that happen in years, so they said, "How come you're so good? How long have you been flying?"
He says "I've never flown a plane in my life until I got here."
And they said, "Come on. What's your secret?"
"Microsoft Flight Simulator." He had hacked a database and built a database of Pensacola, and so before he goes out on his check ride, he goes and flies in Microsoft Flight Simulator. It's only $69, and the new version of Flight Simulator is really, really good. Now I get all these debates stating that the dynamics aren't right. I say, "B.S." The program manager behind Microsoft Flight Simulator program was a program manager at Boeing. The dynamics in these systems are alright. There's a GAO report that says, "Microsoft Flight Simulator is appropriate for training people, particularly in basic instruction in aircraft."
Koman: So sitting in front of a piece of software on a laptop is just as good as being in a million-dollar flight simulator or a 35 million-dollar flight simulator?
Macedonia: For certain things, and they're primarily what we call "command and control skills" or "situational awareness skills," which is navigating. It turns out that one of the big reasons pilots get confused is navigation. It turns out Microsoft Flight Simulator is actually very good for those type of skills, and GAO wrote a big report up and the FAA approved Microsoft Flight Simulator for use in flight schools. So we've gone from $35 million to a PC game, and in a couple of years we'll be able to have that level of software on very portable devices that we can walk around with all the time.
Koman: I could imagine that the military could have a contract with Microsoft to build a database of aircraft carriers and military landing strips?
Macedonia: They're not interested. We've tried that. They don't want to get into custom work for the military. But the bottom line is that you can now have very powerful simulations on very powerful but small computers tied to the Net, and have people interact. One of the big things that's coming out today, or for the last two years, has been EverQuest, which is a 3-D virtual reality game. There are other ones called Asheron's Call and Altima Online.
Basically they're virtual environments or simulations that you get immersed into online. I think this is the real revolution, because for Microsoft the persistence is in the database that they give you on your individual PC with the CD-ROM. These games connect to servers, so it's not pure peer-to-peer, but it's interesting that people are already hacking them so that they run servers on their local machines. But basically they're persistent virtual worlds. That is when you come back to your PC and get online, the house that you built virtually still exists out there in the world, and all the other players see the house that you built, or that the person you killed is still dead.