Unreal games engine licensed to FBI and other US agencies

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The Unreal computer games engine is being licensed to the FBI and other US government agencies.

The software - which powers titles including Batman: Arkham City, Mass Effect 3 and Infinity Blade - will be used for training programmes.

Developer Epic Games and its partner Virtual Heroes described the deal as a "long-term" agreement to support the technology on web browsers, consoles and handheld devices.

Full financial terms were not revealed.

However, a statement said that an agreement to provide the tech to one of the agencies involved - the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) - was worth more than $10m (£6.3m).

IARPA will use the engine to build what it calls "Serious Games", designed to help intelligence analysts tackle instinctual biases that might colour their findings.

Other planned uses for the "Unreal Government Network" include:

  • The FBI Academy using the tech to develop a virtual multiplayer crime scene in which its agents can carry out training simulations
  • US army medics practicing their skills on an anaesthesiology training application
  • Weapons researchers using the engine as a "visualisation tool"

Virtual Heroes has previously used the Unreal engine to develop America's Army 3, a first-person Call of Duty-style video game designed to promote recruitment to the armed services, and Zero Hour, a title used to help emergency service workers train for terror attacks and other mass casualty incidents.

Cost savings
HumanSim screenshot Virtual Heroes is developing the Unreal-based HumanSim to help train hospital staff

The announcement follows a speech given earlier this week by Colonel Robert "Pat" White, the deputy commander of the US Army's Combined Arms Center-Training, in which he highlighted gaming's importance to the military.

"Every leader struggles with limited time, dollars and resources," he said.

"Those same leaders know it's better to practice something first before you do it for real in live training. Live training is where our highest risk and greatest expense comes from."

The UK's Ministry of Defence admitted in December that it was also looking to upgrade its computer simulation equipment.

The leader of "Project Kite" told the Guardian: "Military-built simulators were state of the art, but now, for £50, you can buy a commercial game that will be far more realistic than the sorts of tools we were using."

He said he planned to recommend buying in technology from the big gaming companies as part of the solution.

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