Broad Air Force experience. I was first introduced to simulation while studying Operations Research at the Air Force Academy. This led to later work in distributed simulations, much of it Virtual Reality and the broader category of distributed real-time simulations.
I spent my first job in the Air Force working at the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC). I spent my time there developing a infrastructure analysis system. Technically, it was an innovative 3D authoring tool for a strategic domain space. This is were I learned the importance of having a good product manager. Sadly, this was not a good use of taxpayer money.
The most impact project I worked on at NAIC was a utility to translate funny IBM binary data that had been ripped off old tapes. These old tapes where on in long abandoned form-factor. The tapes where still around, but nobody made, nor maintain the tape readers – yikes.
NAIC is on Wright-Patterson AFB, the home of Hanger 18. While living there I, of course, searched for the hanger and discovered the base gym there. I thought this was pretty clever to put a gym right on top of the secret UFO research area.
After NAIC, I went to Los Angeles Air Force Base and worked in a modelling and simulation group to help acquisition trade-off analysis. This is where I learned how real acquisition decisions are made. I can only say that I worked with great, motivated, smart people, but the process still reminded me about the sausage and laws saying. So, acquisition decision making isn’t as bad as sausage making, but maybe it is like how veggie sausage is made – better than sausage, but nothing to be smug about.
After the Air Force, I got a chance to analyze the performance of WarSim simulation, while embedded at Lockheed Martin.
I later had a chance to help write the Simulation Acquisition plan for the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS). Did I ever mention the sausage making process? FCS is a great concept that was meant to follow an acquisition strategy of Simulation Based Acquisition, which means you should simulate your system, work out the various trade-off criteria, and vet competing ideas before ramping up the acquisition spending engine. Like software development, it is logarithmically quicker and cheaper to try alternatives and to fix mistakes early in the development process. I was, technically, the initial lead-author of their Simulation Master Plan – which sounds cooler than it actually was. Before a single work or tactic was committed to paper, the wheels of acquisition were in full swing. Once the the real situation was clear, I found myself in a pretty serious professional and ethical dilemma. I wish that I could say I become a meaningful part of the solution, but I’m grateful that I at least had enough personal flexibility that I didn’t need to contribute to the problem.
I started my professional career as a VR researcher. I used this early 1990s HMD that retailed for about $50k.
Modern VR Development
I’vI’m migrating, and re-imagining, my old PowerNap app. This is my way to really get my feet wet again. I know all of the VR theory, put programming in Unity is very different than working in SGI’s Performer, and there is no substitute for jumping in and just trying to make things work.
I already know the things I would change in the system architecture, mainly around how I would enable loading multiple scenes. And there is certainly a certain zen between getting everything into C# code, which is easier to inspect vs. building for the Unity editor, which is easier to fiddle with. That being said, I’m finding my recent web development and mobile development experience unexpectedly relevant in building this app.