Geospecific vs. geotypical terrain models – which do you need? 

Geospecific and geotypical terrain models are the 2 options for creating training simulations. What’s the difference, and which do you need?

Today’s simulation software allows you to train employees in either geospecific or geotypical environments. What’s the difference, and which is right for your scenario?

At a glance:

  • Geospecific and geotypical terrain models offer different ways of building a simulation environment
  • Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages
  • Learn about the difference between geospecific and geotypical terrain models
  • Find out how technology is making it easier to create geospecific models

Over the past few decades, simulation technologies have transformed the way multiple industries train their employees. From the first flight simulation systems to modern VR-enabled combat environments, the tech makes training safer, faster, more efficient and less expensive. 

When organizations wish to create a simulation environment to train their employees, they usually use simulation software to create a customized virtual ‘world’ where the training takes place. To do this, they have two options: geospecific, or geotypical terrain models. 

Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to carefully consider which is right for your situation. Let’s learn more. 

What are geospecific and geotypical terrain models?

A geospecific terrain model is, quite simply, a rendering of a real world environment for the purposes of training simulation. Whether it’s an entire town, a street, or somewhere in the wilderness, the simulation environment is designed to look like the ‘real thing’, as close as possible. It could be a street in Paris, a village in rural Nigeria, or a grassland in Colombia – wherever it is, it is designed to look as similar as possible to the real place. 
A geotypical terrain model, by contrast, is a rendering of an environment that contains many realistic elements (buildings, roads, trees, hills, rivers…), but which doesn’t correspond with an actual place on the face of the earth. Instead, you specify the kinds of elements you want in the training environment, and you get a custom simulation for your needs.

When would you use a geospecific terrain model for simulations?

A geospecific terrain model is incredibly valuable for many kinds of simulation, including:

  • Military combat preparation: When soldiers are preparing to enter the field of combat, a geospecific terrain model can be invaluable. If you are able to render the exact layout of the place they will soon be fighting in, soldiers will be much better prepared for combat, and less likely to get lost or disorientated. 
  • Disaster relief: Any kind of disaster relief operation can benefit enormously from an up to date terrain model of an environment as it currently is. For example, planning logistics for relief efforts would be much more efficient if you knew a certain bridge had collapsed. 
  • Police training: When training police officers, it’s valuable to conduct simulation training in the actual streets where they will soon be performing their duties. Geospecific terrain models allow you to do training in highly realistic environments. 
  • Urban planning: When urban planners or engineers are looking to test out ideas (e.g., a new traffic flow management system), then using geospecific simulations can provide more accurate ways to test their hypotheses.

Webinar: How TerraSim creates geospecific VBS4 terrains with LuxCarta

Advantages and disadvantages of geospecific terrain models

If you wish to create geospecific terrain models, it’s important to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses:

Pros of geospecific terrains for simulation

  • Provides an accurate, up-to-date view of a real place
  • Reduces risk of mistakes, casualties, or waste
  • Supports mental preparation for soldiers, aid workers, and emergency services
  • Gives you the edge in challenging environments

Cons of geospecific terrains for simulation

  • Traditionally takes much longer to build the environment
  • Traditionally more expensive to build real world simulations
  • Can be challenging to keep up to date
  • May create unintended consequences (e.g., operator expects target structure to have a red roof and in reality it is green)

When would you use a geotypical terrain model for simulations?

Geotypical terrain models can also be very helpful for training simulations. Here are some of the more common scenarios for geotypical terrain models:

  • Basic tactical training: When learning basic tactics, military personnel do not necessarily need to train in an environment that corresponds with an actual place in the real world – a generic environment is fine. 
  • Joint exercises: It is often more palatable to assign fictious names to a training area, so no country needs to see its “city” destroyed in a training exercise
  • First principles: More generally, a geotypical simulation environment is perfectly fine for any ‘first principles’ training – be that for soldiers, the police, ambulance drivers or any other emergency services personnel. If the training is more about the worker’s role or response to a general situation, you don’t need to have a geospecific environment. 
  • Experimental research: Geotypical simulation environments are well suited to many kinds of experimental research. An academic researcher, for instance, might want to perform general experiments around the impacts of cycle paths on traffic flow in cities. They might not necessarily need to try their theories out in a ‘real’ place – but instead use a generic environment for basic research.

Advantages and disadvantages of geotypical terrain models

Until now, most organizations have tended to create geotypical terrain models when building simulations. While they have many advantages, it’s important to be aware of their drawbacks too:

Pros of geotypical terrains for simulation

  • Usually, it is fairly easy to spin up a generic training environment with today’s software packages
  • Relatively affordable and fast way of creating training simulations
  • Flexibility to create and control simulations that are tailored to very specific training scenarios

Cons of geotypical terrains for simulation

Do not correspond to the real world

Limited use cases – only really helpful for basic training

Training can become repetitive 

Simulation environments don’t necessarily keep up with the changing nature of the real world (e.g., changing combat strategies; new technologies, and counter measures)

LuxCarta – making geospecific terrain models accessible

Although there are some circumstances where geotypical terrain models are valuable for training or experimentation, geospecific models are often a more attractive option. By giving your trainees highly realistic, accurate, and up-to-date simulation environments that correspond with the real world, training feels far more realistic and relevant. 

And this is where LuxCarta helps. Our 3D mapping solutions use the latest satellite imagery to quickly and accurately generate up-to-date maps of the real world. Then, using artificial intelligence, it is able to identify building footprints, 3D buildings (with roof type and color), trees, roads, and topographical features to show a place as it really is. Thanks to our partnerships with simulation technology providers, you can then load our maps into their platforms to generate new simulation environments quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. 

Read more: LuxCarta and Thales are collaborating to produce AI-powered military maps

To learn more about our 3D mapping software and find out how it is used to create geospecific terrain models, contact us today


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