University of Central Florida - Background, Research
and Facilities

CAGE code: 9H673
Place of performance:
Institute for Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida
3100 Technology Pkwy., Orlando, FL 32826
Classified material: Cleared up to Secret (possible Top Secret)

The Institute for Simulation and Training is an institute of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, focused on training and simulation related research. Nationally renowned faculty, pioneering research and a student-centered approach to learning have cemented UCF as a center for academic excellence, attracting students from all 50 states and 138 foreign countries. UCF has 12 colleges and currently offers 92 bachelor’s, 85 master’s, 30 doctoral and four advanced master’s, professional (medical), and specialist degree programs. A multidisciplinary graduate program leading to a master’s and doctoral degree in modeling and simulation is available to students of engineering, computer science, digital media, mathematics, psychology and other related disciplines. The university also offers a two-year program for working professionals: the Modeling and Simulation Professional Science MS Degree, and an online 15-credit-hour certificate program, Modeling & Simulation of Technical Systems.

The university's emphasis on research fosters the creation of intellectual capital that can solve today’s pressing problems, improve the quality of life and provide an engine for economic growth. Research dollars reach far beyond university boundaries to strengthen and diversify the local and state economy. In 2017, $148.8 million came from federal, state and industry partners. Many of the 10,000 employees in the Central Florida Research Park next to the main campus work with UCF researchers and students on projects in the sciences, engineering, photonics and optics, modeling and simulation, and health-related fields.

Founded in 1982, IST is one of the nation’s leading research centers for simulation, training, modeling, virtual, augmented and mixed reality research for both defense and commercial applications. IST employs more than 200 full-time researchers, support personnel and student interns. A growing number of joint faculty appointments with UCF extend the institute’s range of capabilities to a wide spectrum of university disciplines. An aggressive effort to involve students in real-world research has resulted in numerous undergraduate and graduate student research positions. Located in a dynamic, growing field, supported by government and industry sponsors, and charged with identifying new directions for this technology, IST is helping to define the future of simulation and training.

The institute is located in the Central Florida Research Park next to the UCF campus. This location is in the heart of the “Florida High Tech Corridor” between Daytona Beach and Tampa where over 170 companies specialize in simulation- and training-related research. Key Department of Defense training systems developers are co-located in the research park. The Naval Aviation (NAVAIR) Orlando Training Systems Division, U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), US Army Research Development and Engineering Command Simulation and Training Technology Center, Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, U.S. Marine Corps Program Manager for Training Systems, the Army Research Institute Human Research and Engineering Directorate, and the Coast Guard Liaison Office are within walking distance of IST’s facilities.

IST’s laboratories, workspace and administrative offices occupy more than 80,000 sq. ft. at its three Central Florida Research Park locations, the Partnership II and III buildings and the Simulation Training Technology Center. Large portions of the institute’s facilities are configured as laboratories and research workspace. Laboratory space is flexible and reconfigured as projects and programs require. Current laboratories support research in computer generated forces, embedded training, virtual, mixed and augmented reality, computer graphics, high performance parallel processing, interactive entertainment, public safety, advanced distributed learning, computer-controlled robotics, human factors and behavioral science. 25,000 sq. ft. in the Simulation Training Technology Center is principally dedicated to Army simulation training initiatives and the Army Research Institute. IST and UCF research faculty, students, and program managers share this significant laboratory space with the Army and conduct joint research projects. Additional laboratories are available in the Partnership II and III buildings.  These five-story, 191,000 sq. ft. (total) buildings are also home to elements of U.S. Army PEO (STRI), U.S. Marine Corps Program Manager for Training Systems and UCF’s Team Performance and Advanced Distributed Learning Laboratories. Laboratories are equipped with computers, simulators and related equipment interconnected by high speed data transmission lines and fiber optics.

IST is a focal point for research in simulation technology for many groups in the Orlando community and beyond. An example of these partnerships is the BARCO/Lockheed/Quantum3D Augmented Reality Center located for several years in the Partnership II building. The institute’s three major and numerous smaller laboratories provide an optimum environment for students, faculty, research staff and outside organizations wishing to conduct research.

Major Research Domains

Virtual Environments
A virtual environment is a computer-generated simulation wherein the user interacts with a 2-D or 3-D representation of reality, reacting and responding to computer-generated sensory stimuli with user-controlled feedback devices. Monitor screens, projection caves, head-mounted displays or similar hardware provide the visual component. Other devices supply surround sound, touch and smell, and relay user interaction back to the simulation. IST research covers various degrees and modes of immersion, from low-level interaction with keyboard and computer screen to augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality.

IST labs support a wide range of display, sensor and input device technologies enabling researchers to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of these various systems as training devices. Research explores multi-modal augmented and virtual environments, innovative display devices and new modalities. Research is also conducted on approaches for linking virtual with live and constructive simulations.

The labs also perform effective research in physically based, multi-user virtual and augmented environments allowing users to interact with each other and the computer-generated environment.

Research includes virtual environment training for navigation in buildings and over outside terrain, development of software infrastructures for collaborative environments providing for a shared experience across all senses, team training in an immersive virtual environment, after action review systems for feedback of performance within a virtual environment, and the use of partial and fully immersive environments for medical procedure simulation. IST researchers created the Virtual Environment Software Sandbox,TM an open source, freely available suite of software libraries designed to simplify and expedite the development of applications that require virtual environments.

Research initiatives include the incorporation of olfaction into virtual and augmented reality environments with scientific studies to confirm the benefits of olfaction for improved immersion and training; investigation of different ways to enhance virtual and augmented reality environments with different haptic/tactile devices; and research into adaptable networking architectures for virtual and augmented environments.

Computer Generated Forces
Computer Generated Forces systems provide opponents and supplemental friendly forces for human trainees in real-time virtual battlefield simulations.  IST-developed computer programs can generate and control simulated ground vehicles, aircraft, and infantry, and other agents autonomously in simulations. Institute scientists are experimenting with voice recognition and natural language commands to coordinate movement of computer generated forces. IST’s research has produced significant results in fast route planning, line of sight determination and reconnaissance planning, cooperative behavior, mission planning, threat analysis and terrain reasoning. The research is relevant and transferable to state and local civil engineering, transportation and other non defense-oriented initiatives.

Training & Education
As a result of studies and initiatives by state and federal governments and the realization that at least 60 percent of jobs in the 21st century will require computer literacy, IST education researchers are working to implement appropriate technology, including simulation technology, into new curricula. Once such project stimulates learning by creating synthetic learning environments wherein students gain exposure to people, places and things with which they are unfamiliar. Researchers hypothesize that an engaging, interactive experience will facilitate the learning process.

Team Training and Human Factors
In collaboration with UCF's Psychology Department, IST conducts research toward better ways to train people to act and interact in complex environments where stress is high and mistakes potentially life threatening. Ongoing research includes cognitive modeling, human factors, mathematical algorithms team training and team dynamics and human performance measurement.

Complex Adaptive Systems Research
The institute developed M&S applications to study complex adaptive systems, some of which are modeling and simulation systems.  The research covers several aspects of complexity including approaches to resiliency to failure and adaptability to changing conditions.  Research involves both reduced complexity modeling paradigms, model pedigrees, and self adaptive software approaches.  Research will help facilitate composition of simulations and reduced development time.

Autonomous Wireless Robots
The institute has conducted research into development of a new generation of autonomous wireless robots designed to carry intelligent sensor agents. These miniature sensors, deposited along the robot’s path, relay data from a remote environment along a distributed ultra wide band sensor web of mobile and stationary devices. The research activity explores creative ways to seamlessly integrate global positioning systems, miniature sensors, laser range finders, gyros, wireless video, continuous localization algorithms and ad-hoc networking on a robotic platform.

IST has gained extensive experience with robotic control applications through the use of genetic algorithms. This technology is useful for controlling teams of both ground and micro-aerial vehicles and ideal for keeping teams and robots operational despite casualties to sensors or individual robot agents. Work is ongoing to improve the effectiveness of generated rule sets by strengthening them with such other machine-learning algorithms as Fuzzy ARTMAP neural networks. Visualization tools aid in evaluating the effectiveness of robot simulations. Advancements pioneered at the institute point to smarter ground vehicles capable of advanced collaboration and team efforts.

Human-Robot Interface
Through its Central Florida Collaboration for Advanced Research on Agents and Teams (CARAT), IST and UCF combined the efforts of a variety of university researchers, departments and institutes to focus on human-agent team research, training and evaluation. Research is in response to military plans to field semi-autonomous systems, including highly automated ships, agent-based decision systems and mobile land-, air- and sea-based robots.

Embedded Simulation and Training
Working with the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC), the institute developed a variety of reconfigurable embedded training and mission rehearsal testbeds. These testbeds replicate in simulation the interaction between crew members and their systems. One of these, an infantry carrier vehicle testbed patterned after the Army Future Combat System, is interoperable with four different dismounted infantry embedded training systems. Included in the STTC research are efforts involving after action review, mission rehearsal, intelligent tutoring for use cases in robotics management and dismounted infantry, and investigation of the One Semi-Automated Force (OneSAF) Objective System as a human-in-the-loop simulation engine.

IST participates in a variety of research with these testbed to include experimentation with the Army Research Laboratory on human-computer interaction and robotic management workload. These testbeds provide an ideal context in which to study operator interface design, training techniques and workload implications of changing tactics and techniques.

Parallel Computing
Use of parallel processing to speed program execution promises to improve simulation performance. The institute employs an IBM-designed High Performance Computing Cluster dedicated to research in parallel and distributed computing. IST has made this resource available to the university and local research community for a variety of applications requiring high computing capabilities and minimum turnaround times.

IST joined with UCF’s Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) to solve computationally intensive parallel image processing and optical coherence tomography simulation problems. Use of the High Performance Cluster cut processing time from days and weeks to a few hours or days.

Mathematical Models for Crowd Behavior
On-going research at UCF is aimed at developing advanced computational-simulation models that increase understanding and ability to predict the behavior of organisms interacting within complex environments. Tools are being developed that provide an infrastructure for modeling and simulation of the collective behavior of pedestrians in the street or of people finding their way inside a building or a room. These simulations are used to understand and modify crowd behavior, thereby identifying strategies to reduce fatalities during emergencies such as nightclub fires, stadium accidents, and subway bombings and other terrorist acts.

This scientific computing infrastructure will be further developed to simulate behavior of other mobile animals. For example, models can be developed to predict the movement of animals through an ecopassage, the outcome of complex interactions along environmental gradients, and the effects of point-source pollution on larval settlement in marine communities. This advanced computing infrastructure, based on the Helbing-Moln´ar-Farkas-Vicsek model as modified by Lakoba, Kaup and Finkelstein, will thus empower interdisciplinary behavioral and biological research communities to achieve computational discovery.

IST's medical-related simulation research has ranged from development of algorithms for 3-D endoscopic surgery simulation to the use of interactive virtual and mixed reality simulation for rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries. Related research in human factors adds a psychological dimension and expertise in human-machine interface.

Information Technology
As simulation and training communities become more diverse and geographically dispersed, IT developments and services provided from the institute have played a major role in allowing those community members to share their knowledge, reduce coordination and staffing time and generally increase productivity.

The institute’s Department of Information Systems Technology offers information technology consulting, application development and systems services.  Advanced applications may be developed to support data manipulation, workflow and decision-making. The department offers products and services that facilitate communication and information sharing; assist with information storage and retrieval; and automate business processes for improved efficiency and reduced costs. The department can assist clients in development of collaborative information environments and applications and advise on future developments to capitalize on distributed information technologies.

Focused on facilitating process automation across any content domain where collaboration, communication and knowledge management may provide increased effectiveness and efficiency, IST’s information systems staff develops innovative knowledge management systems for reconfigurable, enterprise-wide applications.

Information technology administrators use many unique features pioneered by the institute’s team to enhance information sharing. Such items as electronic conferencing, web newsletters, what’s new, who’s who, FTP for downloading and uploading files, and data mining via powerful search engine capabilities are widely used. By employing the latest database-to-web connectivity tools and developing problem-solving applications, IST has become a leader in this new information technology field. New techniques for data mining, knowledge management and network design are currently under study.

Operational Neurosensing
IST has adapted portable, wearable, unobtrusive psychophysiological sensing devices to measure both behavioral and psychophysiological changes that result from learning and retraining in real world environments. Resulting measures of workload, engagement, effort and emotion will be critical for creating the next generation of adaptive and augmented cognition systems for medical and military applications.

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