A Conversation with Anna Griffith of Discovery Machine

The other day I had a chance to catch up with Anna Griffith with whom I attended High School–small world. She is the co-Founder and CEO of Discovery Machine, Inc, and has spent her career making cognitive science and artificial intelligence research usable and understandable for organizations and…she is wicked smart.

Anna’s primary interest is in enabling people to transfer their experience to others. With the broad acceptance of virtual simulation for entertainment and training, she has pioneered products that enable transfer of knowledge through this medium. The Discovery Machine mission is to provide a methodology, technology and supporting services to enable organizations to capture and deploy expertise for better decisions and actions. The company has many direct implications to the world of learning and development and they’ve created a really interesting simulation program. You can find out more here.

Here is some of our discussion.

Kapp: You are co-founder of a company called Discovery Machine, can you tell me a little about the company?

Griffith: Discovery Machine grew from the idea that every organization has experts with lots of stories to tell, but often lack the right context to tell the story. This fundamental concept led to a company focused on introspection and articulation of expertise. Through years of research with the US Department of Defense, Discovery Machine has perfected our approach to capturing and deploying the knowledge assets of subject matter experts. Now, our company focus is to transition our simulated training successes with the US Department of Defense to the commercial sector. We are doing that by leveraging our proven techniques to create simulation authoring tools that are easy for everyone to use. These tools remain true to our core goal of enabling knowledge transfer.

Kapp: Can you tell me about Rapid Simulation Authoring with RESITE?

Griffith: Discovery Machine developed core technology through years of providing artificial intelligence technology to DoD clients. RESITE is the transition of our core technology into a suite of tools geared towards telling stories through virtual simulation. RESITE lets users capture their expertise and create their own unique 3D training simulations using their knowledge and experience. In developing RESITE, we focused on ease of use. We incorporated drag and drop interfaces and many visual displays to streamline storytelling. With RESITE, users can drag devices needed for training onto a virtual scene, define objectives for students to accomplish, construct dialog for students to complete with simulated role players, and publish functional 3D simulations in minutes.

In our constantly evolving world, situations change and new experiences become important. The RESITE authoring environment enables training simulations to be quickly be adapted without lengthy development cycles. Much like a living document, the RESITE Suite allows users to continually evolve their own training scenarios.

The first product in the RESITE family is WellSITE, which is dedicated to providing users with a way to quickly create training simulations for the oil and gas industry. WellSITE includes 3D graphics, functional equipment models, scenes, and underlying artificial intelligence models specific to simulated training for a well site. We are expanding the content library for WellSITE as we speak. Beyond the content included, we are also adding content specific to individual company specifications to create exact replicas of operating facilities. Additional products to address specific training needs in other industries such as healthcare and business situations are also in development.

Kapp: How did this product come about?

Griffith: The natural gas boom in our region (North Eastern Pennsylvania) presented itself as a great initial opportunity for development. Discovery Machine initially worked with Pennsylvania College of Technology and the ShaleNET program to create a working WellSITE simulation.

In the oil and gas market situations often arose which were not covered in traditional training. On-the-job training could be effective, but there was often not enough time to cover all of the safety, weather, personnel, and equipment-related experiences that an expert would acquire after decades of experience. WellSITE was specifically built to address these types of concerns by letting instructors and mentors recreate a virtual facility using drag and drop interfaces without the overhead of an extensive production team. With WellSITE, operators in the gas and oil industry can simulate their entire process, complete with appropriate devices and human operators, to create a truly realistic environment.

Kapp: What are some examples of the product in action?

Griffith: WellSITE is currently being incorporated into the curriculum for academic institutions in the ShaleNET program. A number of companies are also investigating the product for use at their facilities. To see an example of this product in action, check out a video demonstration of our capabilities here.

Discovery Machine will also be hosting a webinar on March 18th at 11 AM Eastern Time which will highlight our WellSITE capabilities. You can register for that event at and learn how your experiences can become training simulations in minutes. Register for the webinar here.

Discovery Machine technology is currently in use in a variety of branches of the US Department of Defense for their synthetic training efforts. Outside of the US, many international military organizations and other types of organizations are incorporating Discovery Machine technology into their training offerings.

Kapp: Any advice for students in the field of instructional technology?

Griffith: Always welcome the opportunity to expand your instructional design toolbox. The tools and skill-sets you have gained as instructional design students are very powerful, but there will always be a new app, technology, strategy, or even a partner company that can give you the edge over the competitor. Some of life’s greatest lessons come from stories, so consider giving the power of story to the expert, allowing them to voluntarily articulate their knowledge to you accurately, with context and meaning.

Posted in: Out and About

Leave a Comment (3) ↓


  1. Kurt Melander March 11, 2015

    Hi Karl,
    As always – SPOT ON! What Anna and Todd are doing at Discovery Machine (discoverymachine.com) is exactly the technologies needed to bridge the chasm that still exists between designers and developers of these experiences. Having a toolset that is easy to articulate to an SME, and being able to create expert models in a consistent manner that can translate to learning objectives that bring novice to expert as quickly as possible, has extremely broad implications and opportunities for the use of this medium for task-oriented training. I applaud their efforts, and thanks for bringing these technologies to the forefront, through blogs of industry leaders such as yourself, to let new or more traditional ISDs know where things are going.

    • Karl Kapp March 13, 2015


      Thanks. I thing what they are doing is very impressive and the company is lead by an impressive team. I’m looking for really good things coming from them in the future (there are doing really good things now, even better stuff in the future).

      It is fun to get to work with them and have them so close by.

      Take care,

  2. Jonathan March 10, 2015

    Exciting stuff Karl. Thank you for sharing. And, congratulations to Anna and Discovery Machine on their rapid simulation tools.

Karl Kapp
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