Expensive military hardware like a new tank undergoes rigorous testing before heading to the battlefield. A startup called Istari, backed by Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and chair of Alphabet, reckons some of that work can be done more effectively in the metaverse.
Ishtari uses machine learning to virtually assemble and test war machines from computer models of individual components, such as the chassis and engines, that are usually marooned on separate digital drawing boards. It may sound dull, but Schmidt says it can bring a dose of tech industry innovation to US military engineering. "The Istari team is bringing internet-type usability to models and simulations," he says. "This unlocks the possibility of software-like agility for future physical systems—it is very exciting."
The company reflects Schmidt's unique position as a link between the tech industry and the Pentagon. Virtual replicas known as digital twins are common in manufacturing and could help the Pentagon develop hardware more quickly. And Istari is a building block in a wider project in which Schmidt is attempting to bring Silicon Valley technology and thinking to the US military.
That quest has roots in the shock Schmidt experienced in 2016 when he first glimpsed the state of Pentagon technology up close. He was still chair of Alphabet but accepted an invitation from President Obama's defense secretary Ashton Carter to chair a new Defense Innovation Board trying to modernize the DOD. Schmidt's new post began with an eye-opening tour of US labs and bases.
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