Four innovators whose ‘wrong’ ideas shaped simulation

Have you ever wondered who are the innovators behind simulation?

At a recent discussion I was asked by a reader “who has made it ‘big’ in simulation?” Just as we think about Gates, Jobs, Branson and Zuckerberg as the entrepreneurs of today, these innovators have contributed essential know-how to simulations, and made a name for themselves despite being ‘wrong’.

Ralph Baer was an avid video game inventor in a time when game development was frowned upon, and was the primary creator behind the popular 1970’s electronic game, Simon. After creating the ‘Brown Box’ console for defense-electronics company Sanders Associates in 1966, Baer created a game expansion pack for home television use, known as the ‘Shooting Gallery’. This game pack featured the very first peripheral for a video game console – a light gun, which allowed gamers to point and shoot at the screen.

In 1822 Charles Babbage had a vision of replacing human labor with mechanical computers. Flash forward to the twenty-first century and Babbage is recognized as the inventor of the first mechanical computer, paving the way for the technological world as we know it. His initial aim was to create a machine that could efficiently perform calculations that had previously been calculated by humans. This view on computer possibilities allowed Babbage to go on to create even more powerful mechanical computers for the time.

After John Alan Lasseter was fired from The Walt Disney Company for promoting computer animation, his passion for groundbreaking technologies in the field of animation inspired projects with other innovators in CGI animation technology at Lucasfilm and later catapulted him to successful roles producing and directing for film giant Pixar. Ironically, Lasseter
is now chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He is also currently the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering.

Lieutenant General Paul van Riper created a name for himself during the Millennium Challenge in 2002, a war game which simulates US Navy troops battling an unnamed Middle-Eastern team. As the commander of this opposing team, Gen van Riper raised his concerns that the game was fixed for a US win as the game was restarted with different parameters soon after he lead his opposing team to small victories within the first two days of game play. His critical view on the disillusion of US Navy simulation training has sparked his influence in the defense simulation industry.

 Words: Deanna Hutchinson and Panayiota Toumbas

Want to read more?
This story appears in the May 2014
print edition of Simpublica Magazine.
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