Improbable Defence

Pushing the limits: maximising density and accessibility in synthetic training environments

The Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) is an annual event that sees industry, academia and allies come together to help ensure the UK’s resilience in the face of an increasingly complex, fluid and fast moving threat landscape. It’s an opportunity for the Army to explore how best to prepare personnel at every level for future operations.

Working in partnership with both the Army and our partners Discovery Machine, Inc., Bohemia Interactive Simulations, SimCentric, Microsoft, Epic Games and Improbable’s games technology division, a small team from Improbable Defence addressed a series of predefined challenges. In this three-part series, we take a look at each challenge in turn.

Ali Wigham, Senior Account Manager

The potential of synthetic training to help personnel survive and thrive on complex future operations is not in doubt.

It promises to make frequent, effective collective training more economical. For a start, synthetics can reduce the time, cost and logistical challenges that occur when moving a mass amount of people to the same place at the same time. 

And then there’s the question of realism. It’s not possible to create bespoke real-world environments for every exercise – but it is now possible to spin up a synthetic, multidomain one complete with infrastructure systems, simulated enemy forces and vast synthetic civilian populations, and to do it quickly and economically.

Experiment #1 of AWE 21 was all about exploring this potential further, and asked: “Can you accommodate an entire division in a synthetic training scenario?”

The first issue revolved around the question of scale, density and accessibility. Naturally, the more users that exist in a virtual world, the bigger the demand on its network. Increasing the users ten-fold requires 100x more data to be sent from the server out to clients, which usually involves a compromise such as lowering the frame-rate in order to cope with increased demand.

Using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and a specialist studio designed  25 x 25 km map, a team of 12 was able to spin up a technology demonstrator in just 8 weeks

Improbable’s games heritage gave us a head start in tackling this issue. Recent advances made by our Games Technology Unit in the development of ScavLab have extended the technological limits of scale and density, with minimal latency and network burden.

These same technological advances are now available to users of our synthetic environment development platform, Skyral.

By applying this underlying architecture to AWE experiment #1, we were able to demonstrate a first-person simulation with representation of 10,000 simulated users and 1,500 Non-Player Characters.

Unparalleled scale and density: a single, scalable training environment capable of accommodating 10,000 (simulated) real-time users and 1,500 NPCs.

We didn’t see this challenge as simply a technological one. Synthetic training environments – no matter how sophisticated – are of limited use if they’re too slow or too expensive to deliver. Improbable’s open platform, supported by the latest models, AI and synthetic assets from a variety of industry partners, meant that we were perfectly placed to test, tinker, and work at speed. In the end, a team of 12 was able to deliver a high-fidelity, complex, immersive technology demonstrator in less than two months.

“Improbable easily used GDK for Unreal within Unreal Engine and delivered fantastic results for the British Army. Unreal Engine’s power perfectly placed it as the canvas by which Improbable’s platform and technology could achieve massive scale and density involving 10,000 concurrent users, bringing the benefits of games technology to bear on simulated collective training.”
– Epic Games

Minimal latency and bandwidth burden: 10,000 concurrent users can enjoy a low-latency experience across public internet thanks to compression techniques that allow for 300m updates per second for 1/50th of the bandwidth required for a Zoom call.

Preparing more people, more quickly and more effectively for complex future operations

In the face of a fluid, fast-moving threat landscape, the latest multi-domain synthetic environments are a critical capability for defence and security. They can offer a crucial competitive edge to organisations that need to operate effectively in complex, fluid and often highly ambiguous situations.

Events like the Army Warfighting Experiment are testament to the British Army’s enthusiasm to explore opportunities that might give them this edge. It’s an exciting time for us all when this determination comes into contact with the finest minds and innovations from across industry and academia.


For an in-depth demonstration of the technology behind AWE experiment #1 and to discuss how Improbable Defence’s partner network can open up new opportunities for industry, get in touch with defence.enquiries[at]