Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator

ARI began developing the Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator (MACS) in 1982, in the era of the first microcomputers. The key discovery in this development process was that a light pen fitted with a converging lens system could be focused to read the raster scan on a video monitor at distances from 4 to 20 ft. This led to the realization that relatively inexpensive trainers could be designed for a variety of weapon systems, by attaching a light pen to a weapon and then engaging microcomputer-controlled targets on a video monitor. In 1986 this training concept was awarded a U.S. patent.30

The very first MACS prototype for M16A1 rifle marksmanship training was configured with a commercially available microcomputer, a pair of external disk drives, video monitor, light pen, and software developed by ARI.3' Corrective lenses were attached to the light pen, which was mounted on a dummy rifle along with an electronic switch attached to the trigger. Major features of early software included automatic zeroing, a variety of scaled targets and backgrounds, an exercise to teach the effects of wind and gravity, auditory and visual feedback on the location of hits and misses, and programs to diagnose errors in marksmanship fundamentals.

Seven Types of MACS Performance Feedback

Over 20 developmental hardware tests, training and cost effectiveness evaluations, and informal field investigations were conducted during the 1980s.3 For example, MACS was not only evaluated for use in BRM, ARM, and unit rifle marksmanship training programs, but its application within U.S. Army ROTC, U.S. Army National Guard, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force training programs was examined as well.3 32133 More experimentation has been conducted with MACS than with most other training devices and simulators for rifle marksmanship training. Several consistent trends from this body of research have been found.3 In particular, MACS training effectiveness appears to be highest for those individuals having a low initial level of ability. In addition, its overall usefulness appears greatest in less extensive training programs having limited training resources. Finally, MACS usage is associated with consistent reductions in the percentage of shooters failing to achieve minimum performance standards and with significant reductions in remedial ammunition expenditures during training.

Compared to other training devices and simulators, MACS remains relatively low in cost, partly from its use of off-the-shelf hardware. The most recently purchased systems have cost under $2,000 per copy.34 A second reason for its low cost is that it doesn't simulate the noise and recoil associated with firing live ammunition. Thus, MACS is considered to be a part-task trainer, well-suited for preparatory marksmanship and dry fire training applications, where levels of performance feedback are typically low.3 Consistent with research findings in the areas of classical conditioning and simulator fidelity, subsequent experimentation found that MACS performance did not change when a recoil component was added to the system.35 This result suggests the accurate reproduction of recoil may be unnecessary in rifle marksmanship simulation, as long as live firing is a substantial part of the overall training strategy.35

Particularly noteworthy are the numerous instructional features embedded within MACS software.33 36 37 For instance, MACS software provides an initial skills test to electronically zero the system and determine the most appropriate starting point for the soldier. There are nine distinct training levels, which vary in difficulty and the amount of performance feedback provided. Specific performance standards were established for each level, such that soldiers do not automatically progress to more difficult tasks without first demonstrating their mastery of more basic ones. Performance feedback is richest at the lowest levels of difficulty, then gradually withdrawn as soldiers progress to more difficult levels. Seven major types of performance feedback are provided.

A variety of other MACS software features are available to instructors, including optional wind effects, moving targets, a "call your shot" feature, and programs to check a soldier's understanding of sight alignment, aiming, and grouping techniques. Five generations of MACS software were developed in the 1980s. The last generation of MACS software has been translated into several programming languages to support training on more contemporary hardware platforms. Currently, the Fielded Devices Division of the U.S. Army Training Support Center (Fort Eustis, VA) is developing a new version of the MACS system. It is called MACS 2000.

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