Senator doles out $1 million grant to UNC

Research to improve combat simulations

Greg Margolis, Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Updated: Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The University’s Department of Computer Science recently received a $1 million grant to continue researching urban combat simulation programs.

The grant, announced Monday, was secured by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C, and comes from the past fiscal year’s federal budget.

The funds were slated to be returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury before Dole secured the dollars for research at UNC, said Amy Auth, Dole’s deputy press secretary.

“She believed it was an excelled fit, rather than let (the funds) go back to the Treasury,” Auth said.

The grant will fund the third year of a program designed to revolutionize military combat simulations to include factors such as weather and more realistic urban environments.

The technology will allow the software to run on fewer computers – making it easier to use, said Allison Rosenberg, associate vice chancellor for research and federal affairs.

For its first two years the program was funded by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, an agency that funds military technology projects across the country.

But because of budget cuts, the organization was not able to fund the third year of the project.

The project is led by Dinesh Manocha and Ming Lin, professors of computer science, and focuses on improving the computing power and visual quality of the combat simulation systems used to train soldiers.

“These are systems that are used to train war fighters and tactical leadership in the military to familiarize them with complex urban environments,” Rosenberg said.

Soldiers might face wind, ice, snow or sand on the battlefield and, hopefully, the new simulations can help prepare soldiers for these obstacles, Lin said.

“In the current simulation, (the weather’s) not being simulated,” she said. “With the extra funding, we’re looking into that.”

The ability to provide enhanced simulations hinges on the capability of the graphics processor in the computer, Lin said.

Most desktop computers come with two processors, one of which is a graphics processor that can be used in computer games.

By developing new algorithms and software, the combat simulation programs could build off the graphics-processing technology, Lin said.

“The graphics processors are really dedicated … and are also being used for playing computer games so they can render very high fidelity graphic images on the screen,” she said.

“We are exploiting the capability … to perform this simulation.”

Lin and Manocha said they are excited that Dole was able to locate additional funding because the program showed potential during its first two years in operation.

“The funding is actually going to improve the fidelity of simulation framework for the Army to train their infantry (and) to be more effective on the battlefield,” Lin said.

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