Fort planAs a grad student in urban planning, I think about the job market in my future, and where I might expect to end up.  I’ve heard a couple of people recently reference the military as being a likely source of jobs – not what I would have expected coming into this field.  But, when I thought about it, military bases really are master planned cities.  And what with the recent news of the death of Osama bin Laden, my thoughts have strayed to the topic of combat and soliders, a subject I don’t often think about. Today I read an article in the New York Times talking about another trend in the military – the increasing use of smartphones and interactive games for training with virtual and augmented reality.  As usual for government entities, adoption of these new methods is slow, but the Army has already held its own competition among the troops to build applicable applications for iPhone and Android.  The ones I’ve surveyed steer away from their use for interactive training and offer information from the Army’s Blue Book, a prayer book, and a set of training workouts and exercises.

Other uses of these interactive technologies, however, have sprung up that are more relevant to planning.   According to the NYT, in the 1990’s Marines enhanced the popular video game Doom to be more combat-relevant; more recently, soldiers in Fort Lajeune in North Carolina have used a gaming system called VB2 (developed explicitly for the military) that allows soldiers to upload details of their own experiences to make the visuals and storyline more relevant.  According to Lt. Fish, as quoted in the NYT, the simulator training has helped save lives when soldiers are reacting to improvised explosive devices.

The implication for planning is that, if it is possible to simulate a wartime experience so closely that the military is willing to (at least partially) train their soldiers on it, then we must be able to simulate urban life with visuals and other interactive experiences as well.  Will public meetings go the way of virtual reality?  Like the military, if they are to remain attractive to a new generation of tech-savvy, mobile-device glued citizens, they may have to.

-Terra Curtis