If modeling, simulation, and gaming truly reflect the future of geospatial intelligence, then highlighting the perspectives of GEOINT’s next generation is crucial in advancing the tradecraft. The second day of USGIF’s 2021 GEOINT Community Forum, The Geospatial Metaverse – Infrastructure, Tradecraft, and Applications, featured a panel entitled “Power of Perspective: Future of GEOINT Metaverse Leaders.” This panel brought together young professionals and students from USGIF GEOINT-accredited programs to share their perspectives on modeling, simulation, and gaming.

Led by Susan Kamei, the Managing Director of the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, the panelists reflected the diverse academic and professional backgrounds that comprise GEOINT. 

Michael Naber is a graduate student at the University of Southern California who is launching Simerse, a startup focused on synthetic data for computer vision. Yinan Wang, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, studies applications of traditional geospatial technologies in paleontology. The study of data and statistical analysis as it relates to AI is what fascinates Virginia Tech doctoral student Andreea Sistrunk, who is also a research scientist at the U.S. Army Geospatial Research Laboratory. Rounding out the panel was Derek Johnson, the Applied Technology Branch Chief of the Analysis Directorate at NGA. 

“This panel… it’s a way to show how people across the board are putting their input, their background around a certain problem, but each one of us has a different take on it,” Sistrunk said. “The collaboration of all of this information, it’s something that can take us to the next stage of the simulation.” 

On the topic of the future of 3D technologies, Johnson noted that the government sector is beginning to focus on that realm. This shift comes with distinct challenges and also opens the door for increased collaboration with industry.

“We’re finding with 3D the scale of data you need to bring in, the processing you need to have is just a whole other level,” Johnson said. “As someone who is trying to find the right places to work with industry, I found there’s a lot of people who’ve been working with 3D capture systems [in industry].”

In academia, young professionals are using technologies of the future to study the past. Wang uses drones, 3D modeling and other methods to analyze paleontological sites. He noted that studying the natural world feels old but can be incredibly predictive of our future. 

“The past is very informative, and so we want to be able to capture the past and get as much data from the past as possible,” Wang said. 

The panelists discussed how this proliferation of 3D data is not only taking place in government and industry, but in everyday life as well. Young professionals tend to be much more 3D-literate because they have grown up with this technology. 

“When I was young, my parents would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re wasting your time playing video games,’” Naber said. “But, if you have an understanding of how 3D video games work, that has applications in simulation and modeling beyond just entertainment. The biggest challenge the community is going to face is how do you communicate that? You have these cool technologies, but how do you communicate to young people there’s an opportunity to bring these technologies into real applications?” 

The panel concluded by highlighting the breadth of career possibilities for a young professional interested in modeling, simulation, and gaming. 

“You can have a successful career here, and it pretty much can touch any industry in the world using 3D,” Johnson said. “Whether its fossils like Yinan, or satellite imagery for national security, and everything in between.”

USGIF thanks Susan Kamei for leading this insightful conversation and Derek Johnson, Michael Naber, Andreea Sistrunk, and Yinan Wang for their fresh perspectives in the 2021 GEOINT Community Forum.

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Posted by Christine MacKrell