From games to wargames

A company with its roots in computer gaming now makes imaging software and take-anywhere PC hardware that can go from training facility to battlefield.

Quantum3D is an advanced graphics subsystem company founded in 1997 as a spin-off from consumer graphics chip company 3dfx, which made the Voodoo graphics coprocessor for 3D computer gaming applications. It has gone on to make PC-based modelling solutions, widely used by international military, aerospace and engineering companies for modelling, simulation and training.

Key to Quantum3D’s portfolio is THERMITE, a portable PC-based Tactical Visual Computer (TVC) designed for embedded training, mission rehearsal and battlefield applications.

Quantum3d President, Ross Q Smith, said, “Most business is institutional. You have a facility, soldiers or pilots come there to get trained and leave. It’s very difficult to have them back to undergo further training or learn new tactics. THERMITE has many uses including embedded training in vehicles or in the field.”

THERMITE’s heritage comes from study contracts the company had with the US Army to look at embedded training, both inside a vehicle and in a man-wearable environment.

Basically a PC packaged for a militarised environment, it can withstand extreme temperatures plus shock, vibration, EMI and EMT. It has the power of a high-end notebook computer, runs Windows and has a powerful graphics system and video capture capability. However, it has a longer battery life as it runs at only 15W.

One battlefield application of THERMITE is the processing of video captured by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). In a live environment, one command post sees the video capture and has to relay the information to the commander. Now the commander can see what the UAV sees and can swap between the output from several UAVs.

Outside of the military, other outdoor industries are finding applications for portable imaging. In oil fields, video capture could be used so only one engineer using a man-wearable version of the device would be needed to carry out a survey.

Emergency services using it would have a technology platform they can take with them and change the way it is used dependant on the situation.

In construction, maintenance and support, it could be used for one-off jobs. For example, when replacing a rarely maintained component on a submarine, the operation could first be carried out and recorded on a 3D simulation in the design labs. The engineer would then use a man-wearable version of THERMITE and replay the recording on a heads-up display as he does the replacement for real .

The US Port Authority already uses the device to send identification data direct to Interpol while interviewing suspect crew or passengers on a boat. The unit conducts biometric scanning and retinal imaging using a digital camera with recognition software and transmits the data instantly.

There is even a place for THERMITE on the proposed NASA Mission to Mars, providing just-in-time training for emergency procedures to allow more timely decision making

Though PC compatible, there is a key difference between a PC and an image generator. “There is no tolerance for delays between an action and the simulator’s response,” said Smith. “If you can do what you want to do on a home PC and it meets your requirements, it’s not our business”