Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are working on a new videogame designed to help train emergency response personnel more efficiently than current methods, and which they hope will be put to use by the Department of Homeland Security.
Developers are one year into a projected three-year development time and have thus far spent $600,000. The project is being led by Donna Djordjevich, a computer scientist at Sandia Labs, with graduate students at the University of Southern California working on graphics. "I think it's very important to at least get to a certain level of production quality or private industry quality graphics so that way people don't just turn away from it immediately and just dismiss it as old technology, old software. You have to stay relevant," said Djordjevich, who also said she's been playing videogames since she was 6 years old.
"It's a sandbox," she continued. "They're able to play through it and say, 'Well, that idea obviously didn't work out,' but I'd rather have them make the mistake in the videogame than in reality." The game tracks a player's time through an assignment, as well as the number of injuries and deaths resulting from the player's actions.
Sandia National Laboratories was established in 1949 to develop "science-based technologies that support our national security." According to its website, Sandia Labs focuses on five key areas: the safety and security of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, energy and infrastructure, reducing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, defense systems and threat assessments, and protecting against terrorist threats via the Homeland Security Department.
Once the development is complete, the Department of Homeland Security may secure the rights to it for use as a training tool through the U.S., or it could be turned into a commercially available game. "Even now, there are still skeptics," said Djordjevic, "but I think a lot of people are converting into this mindset."