Virtual Simulation Tool on Tap

Technology developed for homeland security and disaster response agencies may soon be available to private enterprises.

New modeling and simulation technology developed by Northrop Grumman Corp. for homeland security and disaster response agencies may soon be available to private enterprises for their own security and asset management operations.

Virtual Integrated System of Systems Tool for Analysis provides a realistic visual representation of an environment, with icons serving as portals to detailed information about items in the environment. Like earlier three-dimensional simulation technologies, the system allows a viewer to see the environment from various perspectives. It goes further, however, by providing access to multiple layers of information about the environment and tools to manage it efficiently.

"The military began experimenting with this some time ago, and I think that it is a technology that has come of age," said Milt Tulkoff, director of research and technology for Northrop Grummans Modeling Simulation and Analysis Center, in Arlington, Va. "The whole idea is that you operate on a much more intuitive basis."

The advances result primarily from improvements in how 3-D representations are built, Tulkoff said. Until recently, visual representations took months to develop because they required teams of graphic artists, but a growing volume of geospatial data collected originally for engineering and other purposes can now be used to render a scene without much human intervention, he said. Also, the ability to turn each icon in an environment into a portal gives 3-D renderings additional functions. "Its no longer just pretty pictures," Tulkoff said. "Its the ability to use data in a much more efficient way."