iSGTW Feature - edutainatgrid: massively multi-player "killer" grid applications

Feature - Massively multi-player "killer" grid applications

edutain@grid will use grid technologies to create a new class of "killer" applications, designed to provide real-time computation and communication for thousands of concurrently interacting gamers.
Image courtesy of Darkworks

Pac-man, Tetris, Space Invaders...

Super Mario Brothers, Grand Theft Auto, Doom...

Love them or loathe them, computer games have gone hand-in-hand with IT innovation for more than 30 years, capturing the imagination and devotion of millions.

Isn't it time for grid computing to get on board?

edutain@grid is doing just that.

Next-generation grid-powered edutainment

Targeting the online gaming and training communities, edutain@grid aims to extend existing grid technologies to create a next-generation massively multi-player first-person shooter game, based on an existing game created by project partner Darkworks.

Current technology means online multi-player games are either fast, action games with few players, or slower adventure games with thousands of players.

edutain@grid will take the best from both worlds to create a new class of "killer" grid applications, called Real-time Online Interactive Applications, set to provide real-time computation and communication for thousands of concurrently interacting users.

Pushing technology in new directions

Existing grid technology cannot provide the rapid response times and interactivity required for ROIA delivery. Further, current grid security models will be too slow for ROIA applications and do not allow access to ROIAs by unknown third parties.

Solutions must be found, and edutain@grid is already investigating more flexible approaches designed to recognize that some parties may have malicious motives. This analysis involves several possible business models that include a number of different actors within the delivery chain.

Gaming technology designed to provide improved interactivity and real-time communication for thousands of players can be adapted to a number of e-learning applications, including search and rescue training.
Image courtesy of BMT Cordah

Fun and games meets search and rescue

Beyond the fun and games is a more serious motive. edutain@grid also aims to extend this gaming technology to develop an e-learning resource for marine search and rescue applications.

Co-ordination of maritime search and rescue is a highly complex, fast-moving command-and-control environment, where Search and Rescue Officers find themselves fighting against the clock to develop viable and effective plans to rescue survivors missing at sea.

Search and rescue missions are co-ordinated from shore-based Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC) that contain myriad sophisticated software decision support tools and hi-tech radio and satellite communications equipment.

Construction of a simulated MRCC environment to train Search and Rescue Officers can cost in excess of 1.5 million Euros, and even then students are required to move from their workplace to a central location for their training. Further, existing e-learning applications impact on student interactivity and are particularly constraining for crisis management, where high levels of communication and interaction are required.

A real-time and realistic e-learning experience

edutain@grid aims to develop a more interactive and realistic e-learning application, to be based on training applications developed by project partner BMT Cordah.

Tim Parker, marine systems business development manager at BMT Cordah, says edutain@grid has the potential to revolutionise the way in which search and rescue training is managed and conducted.

"Creating a virtual MRCC environment over a grid would provide all the functions of a live MRCC, while allowing access to trainees in different countries and organisations, all without leaving their workplace," Parker says.

"The venue for hosting exercise control would be portable and would not require investment in real-time software and communications systems. The entire learning experience could be divided into concise sessions that trainees could attend with the minimum of disruption. Trainers could then identify learning points and provide student feedback in real-time. The benefits of implementing this type of training are enormous!"

Prototype testing of the grid software is expected to take place in November 2007, with initial results anticipated by 2008 and project completion in 2009.

- Zoe Roberts, BMT Cordah, Southampton, UK