It is now a good two decades since the Sun and SGI ‘mini-computers’ disappeared from I/ITSEC exhibition stands and smaller, more powerful PCs made their way in. At I/ITSEC 2022, you might have come to similar conclusions by looking at the big ‘light gun’ projectors and then glancing at the new even lighter-weights to visually convey virtual content. 

As an example, Finnish company Varjo is in the process of integrating its mixed-reality technology into all Saab Gripen E/F simulators. At I/ITSEC, Varjo introduced its latest headset, the XR-3 Focal Edition, which provides superior visual quality for mixed-reality implementations using real-world objects such as cockpits, car dashboards, mobile phones and kneeboards. 

The XR-3 Focal Edition is best used for interacting with real instruments, gauges, panels, and meters in MR scenarios where the trainee is fully immersed in computer-generated content yet needs to interact with the physical world immediately adjacent to the viewer. The headset provides dual high-resolution, 12-megapixel cameras that are calibrated to provide improved image clarity for the range of 30 cm to 80 cm (12 to 31 inches) from the headset in comparison to a standard XR-3. Seeing crucial dials and knobs in proper focus with content close to the video sensor requires a closer focusing point. The optimised components in the MR camera system change the distance of the focus so the lens brings a sharper depth of field, closer to the user.

In the future, most flight training will take place in an environment combining live aircraft, simulators and computer-generated players controlled by algorithms or artificial intelligence. A new breed of human-machine interfaces will characterise the future generation of aircraft - and their simulators - where immersive screens, motion capture, eye-tracking, voice recognition and other intelligent interfaces will be used instead of keyboard, mouse, joystick, and screen.

Dome projector systems can be used for this purpose only at high cost, if at all. And in the end, cost has always been a deciding factor when using simulation technologies.