U.S. Army Chief of Public Affairs Brig. Gen. Gary J. Volesky toured the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies to learn how this University Affiliated Research Center is advancing interactive digital media to improve education, training and therapy throughout the Army and beyond.

The ICT works in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. During his visit, Volesky saw examples of how Army-funded research in virtual reality, computer graphics and learning sciences is leading to the development of powerful tools for behavior change, including reducing stigma around post-traumatic stress, improving counseling skills and building resilience.

"There is lots of amazing work going on here," said Volesky. "I see this work as game-changing in terms of providing examples of how we can leverage technology in a way that resonates with the (current) generation of young people."

Researchers and project leaders at the Los Angeles-based institute demonstrated several ICT prototypes that leverage both science and story as instruments to improve human interactions --something Volesky said was important in addressing the issues around Health of the Force, the Army's holistic approach to total healthcare for its Soldiers, family members and civilians, both on and off the battlefield.

ICT scientists treated Volesky to the debut of a project called "Talking Through Time" featuring Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. Ty Carter. The vision is to use advanced projection techniques and natural language technologies to create an interactive video version of Carter that can be projected as a life-sized hologram and can answer questions about post-traumatic stress and how to provide support for those who may be suffering.

Volesky tried out the ELITE, or Emergent Leader Immersive Training Environment, which uses a virtual human role-player to help train interpersonal communication skills for counseling. Scenarios include helping people deal with financial problems, post-deployment readjustment and alcohol-related performance issues. ELITE was first installed at the Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia and a laptop version will soon be available at the Army's MilGaming web portal.

Researchers showed Volesky a real-time demonstration of ICT's virtual human toolkit, a set of institute-developed downloadable technologies for creating computer-generated characters that can gesture, speak and understand. In addition, Volesky saw advances in creating animated versions of individuals that can be placed in video games or simulated training environments. He also experienced ICT's Stress Resilience in Virtual Environments, or STRIVE, which is a set of virtual reality simulations that provides for the experiential learning of emotional coping strategies prior to deployment.

"It was an honor to host Brigadier General Volesky here," said Randall W. Hill, Jr., executive director of ICT. "We want to make people aware that as an Army UARC we exist to help advance their simulation and training capabilities. Showcasing some of our technology solutions for the Chief of Public Affairs provided a great opportunity for us to introduce the work we do across the Army and DOD."