Video Game to Help U.S. Troops Wins New Award

Honor is Arts and Technology Research Project’s Third National Honor in 2 Years

For the third time in two years, the First Person Cultural Trainer (FPCT), a research project from the UT Dallas Arts and Technology(ATEC) program, has won a national award for serious gaming.

The First Person Cultural Trainer game designed by ATEC simulates the challenges a soldier might encounter on patrol in a village.

FPCT received the Best Game award in the Government Category of the 2011 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge. FPCT is sponsored by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command G-2 Intelligence Support (TRADOC).  The Serious Games Showcase is part of the Interservice/Interindustry Training and Simulation Education Conference (I/ITSEC), and was held in Orlando, Fla., from November 28 through December 1.

Earlier in 2011, FPCT earned first place in the Innovations in DoD Gaming Competition at the GameTech Users’ Conference  in Orlando. In 2010, FPCT won the cross-function award from the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA).

FPCT is a four-level immersive game that allows Army leaders and other appropriate personnel to practice culturally correct ways of interacting with different populations around the world.  The game features a variety of innovations, like a branching conversation system and methods for displaying nonverbal communication and environmental perception. The program can also be ported to different game engines with minimal redevelopment.

The video game simulates conversations with people that a soldier might meet, in this case a village elder.

More than 50 games were entered in the I/ITSEC Serious Games contest, which had five categories – government, business, student, mobile and a special category, adaptive stance.  The work was reviewed by a panel of military, academic and industry gaming experts.  About 20,000 government, business, military and academic total registrants attend I/ITSEC every year. The conference is widely considered to be the largest and most competitive worldwide in modeling and simulation.

“This honor and the overall visibility that FPCT, UT Dallas and ATEC received at I/ITSEC this year is a real tribute to our sponsors at TRADOC, students,  faculty, project staff and administrators who have nurtured this project for going on four years,” said Dr. Marjorie Zielke, ATEC assistant professor.

Zielke is the associate director of the Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering (IIAE) and principal investigator of the FPCT project.  Other faculty co-investigators on the project include Dr. Frank Dufour, assistant professor and director of the ATEC PhD program; Dr. Gopal Gupta, professor and head of the UT Dallas computer science department; and Dr. Thomas Linehan, professor and director of ATEC and the IIAE.  More than 20 students,  staff and faculty worked on the project for this development phase. The project has employed many more undergraduate, masters and PhD student developers over its four-year life cycle.

The FPCT captures the sights and sounds of life in a specific deployment area.

As part of the award, the development team received a kiosk display area at the conference where live gameplay was demonstrated to the large conference delegation.  Key developers from ATEC serious games projects gave demonstrations throughout the entire conference.

The developers were able to show the game to key government and business entities involved in modeling and simulation, including a representative from the White House, who visited the Serious Games pavilion to learn about national and international research in serious games.

In addition to winning the award, Zielke, Dufour and ATEC  Research Manager Gary Hardee presented a paper titled  “Creating Micro-expressions and Nuanced Nonverbal Communication in Synthetic Cultural Characters and Environments,” which highlighted some of the new FPCT development recently completed in October.

Exhibit to Examine Sound as Art and Image

The School of Arts and Humanities opens its spring season by examining the relationship between sound and art with the mixed-media exhibit Sonic Architectonic.

Parts by exhibit artist Derrick Buisch is made in oil paint, enamel, spray paint on canvas, wood panel and multi-density fiberboard.

Curated by visual arts faculty member Lorraine Tady, the exhibit features both local and national artists who work directly with noise or frequency, examining what is heard or felt through sound waves, and some who work with images that suggest sound. Other artists in the exhibit anticipate our relationship to sound by addressing our expectations and cognitive reflexes.

“In contemporary art, sound is a medium used as a separate tool, or is intertwined with other mediums,” said Tady. “Some artists infuse their own open, hybrid visual forms and multimedia explorations with sound. This exhibit considers these approaches and more.”

Artists utilizing real sound with their visual works or as their artwork include Jill Auckenthaler, who, in collaboration with Sarah Phillips, will display What My Schedule Sounds Like. The work is both an instrumental score for an atonal sound piece and a watercolor and graphite work on paper.

Brad Tucker is creating Bagdad Bass Club, an interactive sound and object installation that combines videotaped music performance, customized audio equipment, handmade plastic records, ambient music and thumping intermittent bass sounds.

96-Tears no. 3 by John Pomara, professor of visual arts in the School of Arts and Humanities

Dr. Frank Dufour, assistant professor of sound design at UT Dallas, and adjunct art professor Stephen Lapthisophon, will, in separate works of art, direct sound into the gallery to inhabit and transform the architectural space of the gallery. Lapthisophon interprets Karl Marx through a disembodied voice reminiscent of German lieder. Dufour collaborates with David Searcy and Nancy Rebal to create an interactive soundscape alluding to world peace.

Paul Slocum offers his iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch app Magic Carpet. Visitors are invited to install the free app “carpet lite” to experience the hypnotic and meditative graphics in synchronization with the app’s generative music synthesizer.

Artists who will study sound in various visual ways using painting, drawing, and sculpture include John Pomara, professor of visual arts in the School of Arts and Humanities. Included are computer ink jet drawings by Robert Ortega, who is interested in patterns and “how to graphically relate light wavelength to audio frequency,” and Diane Fitch’s realist paintings of casual living room musicians.

what my schedule sounds like is both an instrumental score for an atonal sound piece and a watercolor and graphite work on paper. The work was created by Jill Auckenthaler in collaboration with Sarah Phillips.

The show opens with a reception on Friday, Jan. 27 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. in the Visual Arts Building. Visiting artist Brad Tucker will share a lecture of his work Friday Jan. 27at 10 a.m. in AS 1.116. The group exhibit will on display until Feb. 18, 2012.