Networks / Cyber, Space


The theme of this year’s annual GEOINT conference: “From Maps to Metaverse.” (Image credit: USGIF)

GEOINT 2023 – While Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft may have already done so abandoned the metaverse As yesterday’s news reported, the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies continue to support the concept — with this year’s annual US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) theme here in St. Louis: “GEOINT: From Maps to Metaverse.”

The only problem is that no one seems to have exactly the same definition of what the metaverse is, how exactly you get there, or what to do once you’re in it. As officials say here and in the past, sometimes it’s just about the data, the data fusion, and how data is provided. Sometimes it’s about the interaction of man and machine in real time. And while for some the term is most closely associated with the creation of realistic synthetic training environments, for others it’s a kind of digital “theory of everything” at the heart of the future kind of war.

Here, even those with a clearer idea of ​​what the metaverse might be have been wary of calling it a panacea for next-gen problems — and, in one instance, reluctant to call it anything more than a “buzzword.” Rather, officials suggested that the real value, for now, is in taking each piece of technology involved and, from there, slowly developing something that more closely resembles the sci-fi vision of the future battlefield.

“While we think of the metaverse as little dragon avatars running through little digital block worlds, the reality is that in the military context, and I would argue in the corporate context, the metaverse is more about the integration of environments, the ability to embrace open standards to exchange data in real-time so that we can share and operate in a co-simulated, distributed, synthetic environment,” said Michael Torres, Head of Digital Infrastructure and SpaceVerse at Space Force’s Chief Technology and Innovation Office during a panel discussion on May 21.

RELATED: Into the Military Metaverse: An Empty Slogan or Virtual Resource for the Pentagon?

However, he said, “I would probably even say that Metaverse itself is an exaggeration.” It’s a construct. It really detracts in many cases from what we are trying to achieve, which is how we are creating and at the same time enabling a unified training and, more importantly, operational landscape across multiple domains, both military domains as well as industrial domains and academic domains it is important to us to enforce security as much as possible, but especially to be able to enable live, dynamic, operational and training experiences on any platform, with any technology and for any purpose.”

Christopher Johnson, deputy chief technology officer for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, was more critical.

“It’s a buzzword,” he said. “The Metaverse has been around for a while. It’s about everything from how we interact with people online, from the dawn of massively multiplayer online gaming, to wearable technology today, and as we move into the era of smart glasses to interact to be able to… to the further fringes of science fiction, to the holodecks we all remember watching Star Trek as kids, right?”

However, he added, “There is an infinite combination of use cases that you could potentially pull from the metaverse and related technologies.”

The endgame, Torres said, is going from training individuals to perform a task in a simulator “to establishing an integrated experiential experience that evolves with the important data in time or the sensor data generated in real-time and ultimately takes the lead .” to what we call “more cognitively elastic” individuals. The idea is that they not only learn to perform a function in a sim for a specific purpose – pilot, play fighter jets – but also be able to combine land, sea, air and space across multiple platforms into one common sim So they can… act on decisions in real time, regardless of where the data is happening.”

And finally, he added, it was about moving from simply setting up training environments to using similar immersive tools in the real world.

Col. Molly Solsbury, commander of the Army’s 513th MI Brigade, which provides intelligence to US Central Command, told the same panel that for operators like her, the metaverse “means, ‘What is in the art of the possible that’s going to help us ?'” Do you envision the future in both human and virtual ways?'”

She explained that commanders would like to see an evolution from today’s three-dimensional GEOINT models, which can be used for training in one area, to something “multi-int and multi-domain” that supports decision-making on the ground and maybe can even enable cooperation with allies in different locations around the world.

“It’s about decision-making, and decision-making is beneficial to us. And so the metaverse should help us make decisions,” she said.

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