Games Soldiers Play

Computer games and virtual reality are radically altering the way the military prepares for war

11 min read
Illustration of a soldier
Illustration: Steven Belcher

Weeks before U.S. pilots took to the skies above Afghanistan last October, they had a pretty good idea what they would see there. Already they had logged many hours doing virtual fly-throughs over the rugged mountain terrain, using a mission rehearsal system known as Topscene (for tactical operational scene). Built for the U.S. Department of Defense by Anteon Corp., Fairfax, Va., Topscene combines aerial photos, satellite images, and intelligence data to create high-resolution three-dimensional databases of a region.

Seated at computer consoles running on Silicon Graphics Onyx processors, pilots could visualize flying from ground level up to 12 000 meters, at speeds up to 2250 km/h. The detailed renderings, showing roads, buildings, and even vehicles, helped them plot the best approach, scout for landmarks, and identify designated targets.

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How to Turn the Lights Back on After a Blackout

Restarting the grid after a total failure is trickier than it may appear

4 min read
​A grid operator works in a control room.
Jacob Hannah/The New York Times/Redux

Restoring power quickly after a major blackout can mean the difference between life and death, but cold starting an entire electrical grid is a complex and delicate process. A hybrid computer model from Sandia National Laboratories that combines optimization, physical simulations and cognitive models of grid operators promises to come up with a fast and reliable plan to get the lights back on.

While power outages are always disruptive, they typically only impact smaller portions of the overall grid. A complete loss of power over the entire network is much more serious, and requires operators to effectively jump start the grid with so-called “black start” generators. This involves a complicated balancing act to avoid mismatches between energy generation and consumption, as different sections of the grid are gradually brought back online. Get it wrong and the grid can collapse again.

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Building the Future of Smart Home Security

Engineers must invent new technology to enhance security products’ abilities

4 min read
One engineer peers into a microscope to work on a small circuit while another engineer looks on

In this article, SimpliSafe’s VP of Software Engineering discusses his team’s focus on creating a safer future through enhanced technology.

SimpliSafe

This is a sponsored article brought to you by SimpliSafe.

It’s nearly impossible to find a household today that doesn’t have at least one connected smart home device installed. From video doorbells to robot vacuums, automated lighting, and voice assistants, smart home technology has invaded consumers’ homes and shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. Indeed, according to a study conducted by consulting firm Parks Associates, smart home device adoption has increased by more than 64 percent in the past two years, with 23 percent of households owning three or more smart home devices. This is particularly true for devices that provide security with 38 percent of Americans owning a home security product. This percentage is likely to increase as 7 in 10 homebuyers claimed that safety and security was the primary reason, after convenience, that they would be seeking out smart homes, according to a report published by Security.org last year.

As the demand for smart home security grows, it’s pertinent that the engineers who build the products and services that keep millions of customers safe continue to experiment with new technologies that could enhance overall security and accessibility. At SimpliSafe, an award-winning home security company based in Boston, Mass., it is the pursuit of industry-leading protection that drives the entire organization to continue innovating.

In this article, Nate Wilfert, VP of Software Engineering at SimpliSafe, discusses the complex puzzles his team is solving on a daily basis—such as applying artificial intelligence (AI) technology into cameras and building load-balancing solutions to handle server traffic—to push forward the company’s mission to make every home secure and advance the home security industry as a whole.

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