SimCentric is showcasing the capabilities of Sri Lankan talent with its world-class solutions in Defense Simulation technology. As a pioneering product development company, its products enhance the training of soldiers in several areas, from firearms assembly to strategic planning and many more. Moreover, its expertise in utilizing the famed Unreal Engine has allowed it to create realistic virtual experiences. Today, SimCentric’s products play an integral role in the training regimens of the world’s powerful militaries.
In conversation with Arteculate Asia, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director at SimCentric, Haridhu Abeygoonaratne, shares the story of SimCentric. It’s the tale of a tech startup that leveraged cutting-edge technology and rose to become a pioneer in the field of defense simulations and Mixed Reality (MR) experiences. In doing so, he intends to inspire more youngsters from Sri Lanka to pursue their love for gaming into lucrative careers beyond traditional IT roles.
What Makes SimCentric So Powerful?
SimCentric specializes in developing Simulation Software products for militaries and industry partners across the globe. In catering to this niche market vertical, it is the only company to do so operating out of Sri Lanka. The team at SimCentric is leaving its mark in the world by collaborating with one of the biggest names in the virtual simulation space. The company’s solutions allow militaries to create safer and more efficient training programs.
The pioneers that brought Unreal Engine to the defense sector
SimCentric began its journey building products through VBS3, a commonly used military simulation engine. “Later, we opened up discussions with Epic Games to bring their powerful Unreal Engine platform to the defense industry,” Haridhu conveys. Working closely with the gaming megacompany, SimCentric built its simulation engine off Unreal Engine to bring military training as close to the real thing. As a result, the company now has an array of off-the-shelf solutions for joint fires training, range safety and fratricide prevention, virtual reality and virtual training environments.
SimCentric’s products are now utilized by the militaries of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Singapore, to name a few. Notably, in the UK, after a series of successful trials, the British Government attested, “SimCentric has been awarded £300,000 by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to develop and trial the simulator in 2019, and further tests with the British Army, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines will take place later that year.” Furthermore, for its success and progressive work, SimCentric was the recipient of the Epic Games Mega Grant in 2020.
The impact of SimCentric’s products on the defense sector
SimCentric effectively bridges the gap between theory and practical application of military training. The company ensures that all its products closely mimic real-world experiences. “Our virtual environments allow the trainees to make mistakes without the risk of consequences. So they know what to do when it comes to the real deal,” explains Haridhu. While minimizing collateral damage, SimCentric’s innovations allow militaries also to conduct training programs cost-effectively.
Research has found that it costs $36,000 for the US military to train an individual soldier until their first operational assignment. Similarly, the cost of a fighter jet in the air varies from $11,000 to $35,000 per hour. The latter is a critical element in the training of pilots. In large-scale training exercises involving legions of soldiers and vehicles, these heavy costs can easily balloon into the tens of millions. Thus, SimCentric solves a critical issue faced by militaries everywhere.
By conducting training exercises in a virtual environment, the need for large open spaces is reduced. Terrain from anywhere in the world can be easily imported and modeled on SimCentric platforms. Thus, enabling the creation of realistic 1:1 scale virtual environments. Thus, removing the need for travel and equipment logistics. Further, SimCentric also has realistic models of military aircraft and vehicles. Depending on the exercise, the operation of these vehicles can be operated manually by trainees or autonomously by AI. “With MR and our 3D printed items such as binos and laser range finders, soldiers get a real feel to work on their muscle memory before going to the field,” Haridhu highlights. However, he emphasizes that the technology is in no way a replacement for actual training – it is only a powerful tool for better preparation.
Where SimCentric stands today
SimCentric came to life in 2009 as a startup and has grown into an industry leader with a team of over 100+ skilled professionals. While its engineering arm is based in Sri Lanka, it has established sales offices in the UK and Australia to amplify its global footprint. Today, it possesses a vast pool of specialized knowledge and experience within its team from different technical backgrounds. “We showcase our strength through our capabilities and the value of the IP we have created,” shares Haridhu.
Being a member of the Co-Founding team, Haridhu observes that a constant from its early days has been that recruits are always excited to work with Unreal Engine and its vast array of gadgets. Currently, the SimCentric office at Orion City hosts the latest MR & VR technology on the island. Additionally, SimCentric remains a pioneer in the enormous open-source ecosystem on Unreal Engine. “In doing so, we have been able to elevate ourselves to the next level by creating platforms that cannot be benchmarked with similar products in the market despite being built from scratch,” conveys Haridhu.
A glimpse inside the culture of SimCentric
At the heart of SimCentric lies its core development team with a vast support system. Management purposes aside, a flat hierarchy exists across its teams to create a collaborative and agile work environment. “In product development, we cannot work as individuals. Therefore, being able to work in a team is a must at SimCentric,” Haridhu emphasizes. As a result, all employees are free to express themselves while working together as a family to achieve one target or solve problems.
“With this, we also have our support departments like Finance and HR, whose roles are to make sure that the development team is in the right headspace to do their job,” he adds. Accordingly, these departments developed new initiatives to fight ongoing issues in the county, such as the pandemic, power crises, and brain drain. Remarkably, Haridhu states that the efforts of these teams have ensured that none of SimCentric’s deadlines have been missed, given any situation in the country.
Giving back to Sri Lanka in Knowledge
Haridhu and the management at SimCentric have also instilled a strong culture for knowledge-sharing at the company. “We believe in giving back to the community as a thank you to the country’s free education system. Therefore, we have curated well-defined internship programs to give the best training possible to school leavers and undergraduates as our form of CSR,” Haridhu expresses. This is done by approaching schools and universities to donate upcycled computers and promote the IT industry to students and their parents.
The internships offered by SimCentric are on par with world-class programs and cover areas such as agile development, continuous improvement, quality assurance, automation, and more. The objective of conducting programs in these areas has been to create awareness of new industry roles and encourage students to explore these fields. Similarly, the company conducts structured upskilling programs such as monthly technical training, specialized external workshops, and educational sponsorships for its employees. Thereby, it not only increases the technical competencies of its team; but also creates complete individuals with sessions covering soft skills and personal finance.
What does the future hold for SimCentric?
Looking toward the future, Haridhu shares, “The immediate plan of SimCentric is to climb the simulation pyramid and bring tech to the defense industries of many more countries.” Realizing this vision includes working on their products to build more realistic training experiences.
To do so, it will continue its strong collaborative efforts with partners such as Epic Games to bridge existing gaps in the digitization of militaries. Thus, SimCentric continues to realize its vision and mission statements in leveraging the power of innovation and transforming training experiences as a trusted technology provider. With the upcoming release of Unreal Engine 5, the team is now also working on converting their platforms to match the newest features of the simulation engine.
In closing, Haridhu reflects on the 13-year journey of SimCentric with some advice for the next generation of tech professionals, “It’s no longer a 9-5 job but rather a lifestyle where we are committed to innovation. Technology evolves rapidly. It changes practically every day! In this fast-paced world, you need a curious mindset for learning to succeed in life.” Therefore, he urges undergraduates to pursue work in an exciting environment at companies like SimCentric, which continue to build globally renowned products amidst all the temporary chaos taking place on the island.