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War games

By GeoConnexion - 14th April 2023 - 14:10

War has always brought about innovation. Now playing at war is doing it too

In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Orson Welles’ famous quote from the movie The Third Man embodies a fairly deep concept – conflict causes people and countries to innovate. Radar, penicillin, the flu vaccine and numerous other inventions might only have come about because of war. Indeed, GPS was an invention of the US military, one that has brought about a sea change in the geospatial industry over the past 30+ years.

You could hardly get further away from war than playing games. Yet gaming has had a similar effect – the need to produce high resolution images at speed so that people can play faster, more realistic-looking games has resulted in numerous innovations that have transformed our lives. Now defence and gaming technologies are coming together with a third transformative technology to change the world again: geospatial information. The military needs highly accurate, up-to-date models of the Earth for simulations that use gaming technology to train personnel how to fight.

But as Pete Morrison points out on page 38, surveyors shouldn’t rest on their laurels here – the military is going to be streaking ahead of the industry soon, as its needs are so complex. Capturing data with a UAV and GNSS may give us high resolution images georeferenced to perhaps even 1 or 2cm. But can it spot a landmine underneath vegetation or map the inside of a building that a special forces team must capture?

Eventually, the innovations the military needs will trickle back down to the civilian population. I wonder which of them will transform the geospatial industry next?

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