Something new on the horizon or another package with simulated co-pilot or ??????? It’s always difficult to check or to figure out, but probably the Flight1 website helps me in figuring out what it really is.
Cockpit Chatter is used to control FSX and your aircraft through the use of your voice by means of an advanced user independent speech recognition engine. You can control aircraft systems, talk to a virtual copilot, interactively run aircraft checklists, and enhance your flight experience with just your voice. With no training required, Cockpit Chatter represents the most advanced speech recognition platform for use with Flight Simulator.
Flying in Flight Simulator X becomes a completely new experience with the wonders of your virtual copilot. Speak to your copilot just like you would on a real aircraft, telling him to set the flaps, raise the gear, tune the radios, or set the autopilot functions. Interactively run a checklist with command and response; just like a real aircraft captain. Natural speech phraseology and speaker independent technology will never leave you feeling alone in the cockpit again.
Never be stuck with a rigid script again. Speak like you would in a real aircraft to your copilot. Each command in Cockpit Chatter comes pre-designed to be spoken like it is in the real world. Want to set the radios to 121.90? Say it like a pilot would to their copilot, "21 9 on the radio." Every command comes with many different grammars to suit your natural tendency. "1 2 1 decimal niner on comm one" will work as well. Still not the way you might say it? No problem, Cockpit Chatter allows for complete modification of any command using a powerful, and easy, scripting format.
Looking into detail, it seems that FeelThere does the same with Call! and what about the FS2Crew programs or Voice Buddy and probably many others. Lucky for me I don’t own the other programs but on the other hand, I need to know if this program is really different. One thing is for sure, when you operate Cockpit Chatter, it’s not only a co-pilot who talks to you but it also performs the necessary actions you requested, like setting a radio or navigation frequency, flap retraction/extension, gear UP/DOWN selection and so many more commands.
I need a little more background, so let’s see what the developer, Tom Main, can say about this product. "Cockpit Chatter allows the user to control all actions in FSX via voice. If a gauge or keyboard action can be done, you can now do it via voice. This includes such items as direct input of frequencies (a first for FS), direct input of autopilot settings (another first), full engine system manipulation, etc. Also, CC allows for dynamic checklist activity with the copilot. Everything that you can say to CC is also variable (such as saying Gear Up or Positive climb lets get the gear up) so you are not tied to single phrase vocabulary. All of the vocabulary can be modified to your own style as well.
CC is also designed to do what you ask it to do, instead of virtually pressing a key for you. As an example, in some products if the gear is already down and you say Gear Down, they will just press the G key (cycling your gear up). Cockpit Chatter will verify gear position for you and put the gear down if needed or will leave it alone if already down."
Ok, so much for the introduction. Let’s quickly continue with the installation and documentation.
Installation and Documentation
Before starting the installation, first some important items to keep in mind. This program needs either Windows XP or Vista, so no limitations here and of course FSX itself, preferable with SP2 or the Acceleration pack installed. Furthermore, you need a full duplex sound card available and of course a headset with microphone or just a separate microphone.
Do you like an American or British accent? It’s up to you since you can chose between either of the two installers. For the created Flight1 key, it doesn’t make any difference. So, that brings me to the famous Flight1 Wrapper installer.
The Flight1 Wrapper is a way of protecting your software and preventing piracy, although this last item is only applicable for Flight1 and the developers themselves. Since I have the key already in house, it’s always a re-installation but nonetheless, it’s straightforward without any problems. There’s really no need to add screenshots here since you can’t make any mistakes. Even the FSX directory is automatically detected. Still I’ve decided to add some screenshots for those who are not that familiar with the Flight1 Wrapper.
The installation process is divided into two installations; the Cockpit Chatter program itself and afterwards, the Text-to-Speech Voice setup. Finally, when both are done, we’ve got one Cockpit Chatter shortcut on your desktop and a new entry under the Windows Start button.
I would like to bring one thing to your attention and that’s the first time you start Cockpit Chatter. All the Cockpit Chatter built-in checklists are automatically uploaded to the default FSX airplanes. I repeat, default FSX airplanes. Non-default airplanes are not yet supported. Tom Main reported to me that they are working on it but it will cost some time. Can you bypass this problem when flying with modern high realistic add-on airplanes? Of course you can; just simple make your own CC checklists but that’s for later.
When you’re looking for an Acrobat or Word document, you can look in every corner of your PC, but there’s nothing. Is there then no manual available? Why yes there is, and it's a beautiful one to be honest.
When you open Cockpit Chatter (CC) the first button on top “learning center” tells you everything about this program. Ranging from what it really can do for you and what's an interface. The interface is the CC program itself, grammar scripting and how to handle CC including a tutorial of making or modifying new/own checklists and not unimportant, the use within Flight Simulator X. I’m really impressed by this manual.
Is there any more to write or to explain about the digital manuals? Not really. What I wrote before is awesome and as a technical writer for my profession, including writing different kind of manuals for several add-on vendors within the MSFS, I really like the way they did it including the contents. A big plus for this part!
Last incoming note for printed grammar list. When you want the complete grammar list available on paper, just follow the screenshot steps below.
Testing .. testing … testing
Or is it say again … say again? When you don’t put your microphone in the correct position, this could happen.
What could happen; the CC voice machine does not understand what you’re saying or you didn’t read the manual or you’ve spoken the wrong words. OK, lots of negative things but believe me, it’s isn’t. After my first attempt I was a little disappointed, but I didn’t read the manual correctly and my headset with microphone was not really in a very good position.
The next day I read the manual and started again and yes, it all worked. Ok, there’s still one figure that doesn’t work and that's the number “2”. Let’s keep in mind for the moment that my pronunciation is not what it should be.
Back to my 2nd flight impression with CC. When you start FSX via the CC window, it tells you that CC is initialized, so you know it's working. Once in the air, I try it and it works. Believe me, it’s so strange that with your aircraft trimmed, Saitek flight sim yoke connected – for the control of the microphone – you can control almost everything. So "THROTTLES FULL" and full throttle is applied, "POWER DECREASE" and the thrust is reduced. "AUTO PILOT ENGAGE" and instantly the AP is connected.
First of all, a male or female voice confirms the request and then it’s done automatically. A connected AP is not enough; I want a heading hold and altitude with vertical speed. Here we go again, sit back and concentrate on what you’re going to say. I start first with the heading; "SET 330 HEADING" and yes, it's set, followed by "HEADING ON". One step back; what we’ve done is this. We have set the heading bug on a specific position, either the same as our current heading or on a different value and by speaking the command "HEADING ON", we connect the AP to the HDG mode. Automatically it’s repeated and done. The aircraft is connected to the selected HDG.
Altitude is done in the same way, so here we go …. "SET 05000 ALTITUDE". Read back is done and altitude is set to 5000 feet in the auto pilot control panel. That means we now add a vertical speed to it like …. "SET 500 VERTICAL SPEED" and when CC understood it correctly, 500 feet VS is set in the window and there we go with 500 VS UP to 5000 feet altitude. Amazing, it works!
Now it's time for some examples. Although I’m aware of the fact that static pictures can't show you the real power of this voice controlled program, but I’ll try. Important to know that with each screenshot, is the used written Cockpit Chatter grammar list command code. That means, the grammar code is the one that listens and implements what you’re saying. When the voice computer – Cockpit Chatter – has no clue what you’re saying, it will respond with “say again”, but when it understands you, it will repeat more or less what you’ve said and set a mode, change the eye view, select a certain speed, heading, altitude and so many more actions that it can perform.
Ok, let’s first have a look to some screenshots with there belonging grammar list code.
Say again … preflight checklist … say again
Under the testing …. testing ….. testing chapter, I tried to explain something of the non checklist items. This chapter deals with checklist items and the read back belonging to it. Difficult or different?
Not really since there’s always a read back. The only difference is that during the checklist actions it could be that I need to say a specific word or else my co-pilot will say “say again”. By the way, in the beginning you will hear this many times since it’s a totally different way of approaching the aircraft. Although I’m really impressed about the huge amount of possibilities, it will never be a real person, who is sitting next to you and saying something else then “say again”, when he/she doesn’t understand it.
In the following examples I will try it with the default Beechcraft 58 and see if I can deal with the installed co-pilot. The results are based on hours of frustration since I needed to learn what I had to say, then my co-pilot can correctly continue with the checklist.
An important thing to keep in mind is this it’s only applicable for default FSX aircrafts. Non-default aircraft are not yet supported. This can be seen in the following screenshots. Basically, when you’ve no add-on aircraft installed like the ones from CLS, PMDG, Wilco Publishing, Just flight, PSS, Aerosoft, Carenado, Dreamfleet, Eaglesoft, Lionheart Creations, RealAir Simulations, or Overland, for example.
Cockpit Chatter offers every default aircraft a voice controlled checklist. When you’ve got an add-on aircraft installed like what can be seen in screenshot III (Just flight/CLS DC-10 Series), then there’s no voice controlled checklist available or connected to it. Therefore you will see all red crosses in this aircraft type.
Cockpit Chatter program
I don’t want to explain everything here regarding the program and all its options but I think it’s useful to pick out a few things. The only way to use the program as a standalone or in combination with FSX, is starting it via the shortcut on your desktop. It’s not possible to start Cockpit Chatter from within FSX. However, if you started FSX without Cockpit Chatter, you are always able to start CC separately and once CC is running, it will automatically initialize itself into FSX. This can be seen in the FSX menu bar. Under Add-ons there’s an item added namely “STOP Cockpit Chatter”. So even if CC wasn’t started before FSX, it’s now ready for use.
Ok, by knowing this, you simply use CC to start FSX from now on. It also gives you the opportunity to make some last minute modifications before using the “Launch FSX” button. Before I continue, the other way works as well. The other way means that once FSX is running, you can easily make changes into the CC program and, when saved, it will reinitialize itself and implement into the running FSX version.
Lots of words but it simply means … once FSX is running, you’re still able to make changes. Like if you want a female or male co-pilot or one with a English or British accent etc. Not only this but you can also make checklist changes, add new commands and many more things can be changed afterwards. When making changes you need to save it but then you’re done. Either you leave the window on your desktop or you click the minimize button. It will, by the way, not minimize to the task bar but as a small icon in the right hand side of the task bar Complicated? No, its straightforward!
Ok, now its time to look to the different buttons, which CC offers. Find below the six different items including the “Launch FSX” button. I think this one is the easiest button you can imagine. It simply starts FSX while CC is initialized. That’s it, so no further explanation is needed. It’s difficult for me what to write down here since the manual is really so impressive and in-depth, that I’m wondering where and how I shall start but I will find something that helps you.
This brings me more or less to the end of this Cockpit Chatter program. Ok, once more. You can see the Cockpit Chatter program as follows; one part is related to available checklists or new checklists created by yourself or others. The other part is related to all voice commands not related to the checklist, so think about GEAR UP/DOWN, FLAPS RETRACT/EXTEND, VOR 1 FREQUENCY, ILS SET, ZOOM IN/OUT, SWAP 2D/VC COCKPIT grammar list commands and many others.
Last incoming note from Tom Main regarding dedicated add-on checklists and others;"We are going to be creating plug-ins for various add-ons that include SDK's to access their functions and checklists for those aircraft as well."
Tom’s answer was based on my questions …. “are there plans or work on its way to create checklists for add-on aircraft like the ones from PMDG, ATR 72, Level-D etc. and what about the grammar lost commands? Will a simple grammar list command like SET HEADING 330 or GEAR DOWN work in a non default aircraft? So, you need to wait a while but then your favorite add-on aircraft is also Cockpit Chatter controlled.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Is there much to say about this remarkable product? No, I don’t think so. Oh yes, it cost you $39.95 or £20.70 or for all other European countries €25.77. Is that a lot of money? That depends on your wallet but more important on your interest and if you like voice controlled programs.
There are many MSFS programs where one way or another you are able to control something with your voice, but this program really the pushes limit. If you’re willing, you could taxi to the runway, put everything in position, line up and do the rest via your voice. You don’t need to touch any selector, switch or set frequencies. All – ok, let’s say 99% - cockpit handlings can be done via your voice.
You want to experience an extraordinary ILS landing; you can do it with Cockpit Chatter. Not only an ILS landing via the instruments but additionally you can set, adjust and insert all the settings by voice needed to make that easy ILS landing.
When you’re really looking for something special and unique, then I think this is it. Is it then so easy that, after the installation, you can go and fly? Yes, you can, except then for the microphone adjustment. However, I strongly advice you to read or at least have a look at the good looking and comprehensive digital manual, which is a part of the Cockpit Chatter module. Then, after reading the important pages, the voice control will give you the FSX boost towards the reality.
So, my next to last words are …. Awesome product.
Personally, I’m always very skeptical with these kinds of products. But I faced the same enthusiastic feeling as when I reviewed the CATIII software, FSCheckride. These kinds of products are as they say “the crème de la crème”. Controlling your aircraft only by voice is really something unique and an extraordinary experience. If you’ve become interested in this Flight1 product, just have a look at the dedicated Cockpit Chatter forum.
Before I really end, here is a summary
of the notes from Tom Main, the developer
of this product;
What I Like About Cockpit Chatter
What I Don't Like About Cockpit Chatter
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