When film and gaming technology joins forces with military science, amazing things happen.

Bryon J. Young, executive director for the Army Contracting Command -- Aberdeen Proving Ground and Patty Fox, chief of ACC-APG's Research Triangle Park Division, discovered this when they recently traveled to Los Angeles to visit the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies and the Army Research Laboratory West. ICT is a DoD-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center working with ARL to solve problems facing service members, students and society, according to Fox.

"UARCs are aligned with prestigious institutions conducting research at the forefront of science and innovation," said Fox. "ICT brings film and game industry artists together with computer and social scientists to study and develop immersive media for military training, health therapies, education and more. Research projects explore and expand how people engage with computers through virtual characters, video games and simulated scenarios."

ICT is a recognized leader in the development of virtual humans who look, think and behave like real people, according to Fox. ICT prototypes provide engaging experiences to improve skills in decision-making, cultural awareness, leadership and coping, to name a few. They allow veterans to go online and speak anonymously to an interactive virtual coach who can remotely recognize signs of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide risk. The virtual humans provide training in how to address cases of performance or personal issues through practice with a computer-generated virtual human education system. They can simulate what goes wrong when Soldiers don't consider the cultural sensitivities and indirect consequences of even their smallest interactions.