At a small office park on the east side of Orlando, Florida, a group of companies that build simulators and display technology showed off something new. It was a behind-the-scenes look at the technology that produces some of the more impressive visuals that modern training simulators display.
The importance of the realism on displays in virtual trainers cannot be overstated, especially in military training, said Brian Overy of San Francisco-based Aechelon Technology, one of the four companies in the group. “When you put a pilot or warfighter in a simulation, you have to suspend his disbelief,” he said. “He cannot feel that he is in a simulator. You need to put him in an environment where he’s not focused on what is wrong with the simulator but, instead, focused on his mission.”
The showcase came at a time when some of the military’s technology leaders were in Orlando for the industry’s important military-to-business conference, the Training & Simulation Industry Symposium (TSIS). The high-profile show puts military leaders in front of prospective and current contractors to share with them the capabilities and technologies that they might collaborate on.
But before that main event, Aechelon, Norway-based Norxe, Q4 and Scalable Display Technologies held their showcase.
In a darkened warehouse, the companies housed two side-by-side screens that highlighted the differences between current industry display technology and the upgraded tech.
The SupraVue 11-foot collimated visual display, produced by Q4 Services, showed off Aechelon’s computer graphics.
Norxe’s 4k projectors showed off some of the newer tools built by Scalable Display Technologies, which aim to be as accurate as possible for collimated systems.
What this means is that the displays are seamless from all angles.
Q4 hosted the showcase in its Orlando office. “This is like a video game on steroids,” said Raymond Peabody, Q4’s product innovation director.
While this technology has uses in gaming, the military is this group’s prime target for sales. “The fact that we get to be on that cutting edge and deal with the Air Force, for instance, and say, ‘here’s the latest technology you haven’t seen,’ it’s awesome,” Peabody said.
In a program that showed a helicopter floating over a Swiss countryside, you could see the transition from old technology to new technology clearly as the chopper drifted from one screen to the other.
These companies have a steady presence at I/ITSEC, the defense industry’s mega-trade show that also comes to Orlando every November.
“Realism is extremely important for any simulator,” said James Pietsch, Director of Global Accounts for Scalable Display Technologies. “We are always driving for higher resolution. It makes the experience that much better. We are trying to make the most realistic experience that we can.”
The collaboration brings together a handful of technologies that, alone, have been advancing at an exponential rate. Together, however, the fast pace of innovation multiplies. Computers that process visuals have gotten smaller, less expensive and more powerful. The amount of pixels that can be shown and individually displayed on a screen grows every year as well.
The clarity and resolution on projectors have approached a near hyper level of realism and authenticity. “So if you are coming over a mountain or see a drone swarm, you are able to identify them earlier,” Peabody said. “That’s what this technology allows us to provide.”
For the showcase, seeing the movement was critical in selling the improvement, said Sondre Fauskanger, Senior Product Manager for Norxe. “Today, most resolutions are shown on a static image,” he said. “But nobody trains on a static image. It’s not just about more pixels but also higher-quality pixels.”
Fauskanger said what this enables in training simulators is improved target identification that does not lose resolution with movement, something the industry has been looking to improve for years.
He said the collaboration that led to the showcase was critical as well. “In the end, none of us can show the technology without each other,” he said. “This shows off its capability and what is available if budget does not matter.”
“It’s very cool that we can team with people who have the same vision and goal, which is to take care of the warfighter,” said Overy of Aechelon.