US Air Force Recognizes Alelo VCAT Courses As An SBIR Success Story

Alelo_SBIR_VCATThe U.S. Air Force recently recognized Alelo’s Virtual Cultural Awareness Trainers (VCATs) as a success story funded by its Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, and produced a video showcasing the success. The SBIR program is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization.

In 2007 the Air Force awarded Alelo an initial Phase I SBIR contract to develop a “multimedia approach to realistic social and cultural skills training”. The goal was to provide U.S. service members with true intercultural competence for conducting successful operations and obtaining the highest level of cooperation with partner foreign forces. The Air Force awarded Phase II and Phase III contracts in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

The project’s outcome was technology and methods for creating and delivering VCATs, which teach critically important cultural awareness and language skills that personnel deploying to different regions of the world need to conduct their missions successfully and safely. A key learning objective is how to quickly develop deep trust and cooperation from local armed forces and civilian populations.
Since the original Air Force SBIR grant in 2007, Alelo has developed VCATs for over 85 countries that have been used by 90,000 members of the U.S. and allied armed forces. The projects have generated over $23M in revenue for Alelo.

The latest round of VCAT contracts was awarded in early 2016 for the development of courses to cover joint training with the military of host nations, providing humanitarian assistance, and participating in leadership engagements in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Languages covered are Modern Standard Arabic, Urdu, Pashtu and Dari.

Dr. Lewis Johnson, Alelo’s CEO, explains, “We have translated our highly successful VCAT projects into the foundation for our new generation of products that we are deploying into non-military markets. Specifically, our virtual role-playing, speech-driven courses deliver personalized learning interactions with artificially-intelligent, computer-based characters programmed to teach, challenge, encourage and engage in life-like scenarios. These simulations of real-world conversational tasks and situations provide learners with opportunities to practice and explore alternatives in a safe environment, building the confidence that is required for rapid learning and long-term retention.”

The U.S. Air Force SBIR/STTR program is a key component of the Air Force’s effort to identify and provide advanced, affordable and integrated technologies that keep it as the best air force in the world.

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