Future spies and CIA agents just may be better at their jobs due to some 3D virtual reality training based on technology from two Triangle firms.
Epic Games is teaming up with Raleigh-based Virtual Heroes for a combined set of services and licensing that target government and military markets as part of the “serious games” training industry.
Epic, one of the world’s leading videogame developers that has game development engine technology used across multiple platforms, and Virtual Heroes have established the Unreal Government Network.
Virtual Heroes has utilized the partnership already to win a contract valued at more than $10 million to develop “serious games” training programs for the government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, and its Sirius program. The IARPA is part of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, which oversees U.S. spy and intelligence gathering operations such as the CIA.
At the center of the effort is Epic’s Unreal game engine, which is used by many of the world’s top gaming companies as well as for Epic’s own multi-million copy selling “Gears of War” and “Unreal Tournament” franchises.
Epic also recently has branched into development for Apple mobile (iOS) devices, and its “Infinity Blade” games have proved to be big sellers. Apple has touted Epic in its last two iPad release announcements and in promotional materials.
Virtual Heroes, a 10-year-old firm that is now part of Applied Research Associates, is a major player in the so-called “serious games” space where gaming and virtual reality technology is used for training and other applications. Its clients are primarily government and defense agencies. Projects include a Moonbase game developed for NASA and human simulation done in connection with Duke University.
By setting up the Unreal Government Network, the two firms will offer licensing and other support services. Virtual Heroes will work directly with clients to develop and support Unreal-based programs.
Financial terms were not disclosed. However, Jerry Heneghan, a former Apache attack helicopter pilot and founder of Virtual Games, said the companies would work on a revenue sharing basis.
The two companies already are working with the FBI on a multiplayer crime scene training simulation that relies on Unreal Engine 3 (UE 3) technology. The companies also said a “top five” defense contractor and a “national laboratory” have licensed UE 3 for other projects.
A third project involves Duke University’s Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center and is focused on development of a training application for U.S. Army physicians.
Through the UGN, agencies can license Unreal technology for tool development and call on Virtual Heroes for advice and support.
Virtual Heroes also provides technology that enables project information to run over multiple web browsers and be transmitted over networks that meet government security requirements, Heneghan said.