Bin Laden Compound Now a Virtual Training Ground for Commandos

Spencer Ackerman


TAMPA, Florida — To passers-by, T.J., a fit 20-something, is running around a red felt carpet about half the size of a basketball court inside a convention center. In his mind, he’s wearing a full set of body armor, his face obscured by a ski mask with a death’s head silkscreened on it. And he’s just dropped a terrorist inside Osama bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound.

“Pushing out!” he yells, eyes obscured to the outside world by virtual reality goggles. His partner in the simulation, David, nods to acknowledge. It’s time to move past the courtyard to hunt the leader of al-Qaida.

Two ginormous flatscreens just outside the carpet area show the progress of their avatars through the simulation. A technician shows the map of where they are on a computer screen. It’s a trapezoid — a replica, down to all publicly available details, of the most famous Pakistani compound in history. (OK, OK: minus the porn.)

“Open door,” T.J. bellows. “Flow in!”

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