Orlando, Fla. (March 29, 2013) -- The Federal Virtual Challenge, led by the U.S. Army's Research Laboratory's, Human Research Engineering Directorate, Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC) is an open, global challenge to the world for the most innovative interactive implementations as demonstrated in/or with a virtual environment.

There are two focus areas for the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge; How to conduct critical thinking/adaptability training in an immersive environment and how to improve the navigation interface into a virtual environment. The goal for the critical thinking/adaptability focus area is for entries to demonstrate the use of a virtual environment to build these skills, and measure learners' progress. The navigation interface is an exploration of how the interface into an immersive environment can be improved at low-cost while supporting multiple users.

Careful consideration went into the evaluation of each of the virtual environments and we are excited to announce the finalists for the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge in alphabetical order:

Critical Thinking/Adaptability category:

Virtual World Activities - "Compound" by H2 IT Solutions, Inc.
Compound is a virtual team building game developed for the Air University's Squadron Officer College, Virtual World Activities. Students learn how to lead a team, how to best delegate and communicate tasks and how to work together to analyze and adapt to the situation; making decisions to accomplish a mission. Trainees must be able to communicate effectively with one another and to their Navigator who is the only person with access to the map showing the location of mines.

Data Detectives Game by Kay McLennan, Ph.D., Tulane University & MOSES Developer/Liaison
The Data Detectives School focuses on the critical thinking skills needed to reason about the world and/or a particular environment. The skills taught in the tutorial stations include how to evaluate data, graphs, comparisons, generalizations, and cause and effect. After learning the concepts, the case study provides the learner with an opportunity to use data collected to determine whether the fictional town of New London would be an appropriate location to launch a new product.

Outbreak: Immersive, Interactive Problem Solving by Tech Wizards, Inc.
In a situation which requires careful consideration, critical thinkers establish a goal, recognize and analyze assumptions, reflect on all the information, take action, and evaluate the result of their action to ensure adaptability. It features a scenario that monitors the spread of a virus through a city while participants have the opportunity to work together to combat the virus or to focus on their own challenges independent of their neighbors.

Navigation category:

Analyst Situation Room by Robert Daniel
The Analyst Situation Room is a virtual reality immersive environment. Navigation and interactions are achieved using the brain (cognitive, emotional, facial gestures), voice, and body movements. The devices used cost less than $600 and include the Emotiv Brain Computer Interface and Microsoft's Kinect and Zephyr for voice.

Immersive Collaboration by Three Wire Systems
The demonstration allows a user to have full functionality in the 3-D space without using a traditional mouse and keyboard. The goal for this project was to create a way for people to interact within virtual worlds in a new and exciting way. This goal is met through the implementation of the motion-sensing Microsoft Kinect and the use of the Dance-Dance-Revolution pad for movement.

VIPE Holodeck by Virtual Immersive Training Team Northrop Grumman Technical Services
To reap the full potential and benefits of an immersive environment, the user must be able to intuitively interact with the application so that their state of immersion is not inhibited. This solution explores the use of the low cost, commercial of the shelf motion capture system, Microsoft Kinect linked to the free Unreal Development Kit. The result is a method for the user to easily move through a virtual environment that feels natural and is easy to learn and adapt to.

The awards to the winners will be announced in Orlando either at the Defense Users GameTech Conference or at the STTC. Winners will receive a monetary award, full travel accommodations to Orlando and an invitation for participation at the Defense GameTech User's Conference.