There have been plenty of times when we wished that we had a second pair of hands while pushing our Level_D through her paces. The aircraft comes with her own A/I Co-Pilot but wouldn’t it be nice to actually talk to that guy without having to click this or set-up that. What? There is a voice module for the Level_D that will allow us to do this? Enter the FS2Crew Voice Commander. A FSX/FS9 add-on that will allow us to do just that…..talk to our crew, without too many clicks, to accomplish our desired goal.
I invite you to join me now as we get it installed and see if it really is the answer we have been looking for.
Installation and Documentation
We start out by visiting the FS2Crew website. We have paid $25.99 and start our download which goes rather quickly and without a hitch. Ok, now we unzip the file and begin our installation. After the installation completes the operators’ manual comes up. The manual is well written and contains all of the information needed for a successful set-up and flight. FS2Crew really wants us to read this thing so we decide to do just that.
Reading the introduction we find that FS2Crew Level-D 767 Voice Commander Edition is a re-make of the original FS2Crew 767 edition which was released several years ago and that this newer version is built upon the latest “Voice Control” technology. We also find that this newer version’s standard operating procedure is very similar to the old 767 “button control” version. On to the meat of things.
VERY IMPORTANT ………I think we better read this one. Vista/Win 7 users: The Windows Speech Recognition system must be OFF/UNCHECKED prior to loading FS2Crew or you WILL experience problems! I have also highlighted the language drop down because it is important that it be set to “English-US”. This is covered in the tutorial which is our next stop.
We have already touched on part of Step 1 of the tutorial, which is to make sure that the English-US drop down is selected in speech properties. We now need to run the voice training module in the Microsoft speech recognition program. A word to the wise. Run this training multiple times as it is where the computer learns the sound of your voice and the way you pronounce words. Another really good point here is microphone quality.
I tried running this program with a number of desktop microphones and the result was never very good. I finally wound up buying a USB headset, which has a good quality microphone, before I obtained a satisfactory result. If you have to buy a USB headset, your cost to use FS2Crew has just jumped to around $75.00 depending on the headset that you purchase.
Step 2 of the tutorial takes us through adding FS2Crew to the panel configuration. Please read this carefully as it will make the difference between having access to the necessary menus for FS2Crew or not having the menus at all. Another point, for those that run Acars, is that you will have to edit the Panel configuration file to have the Acars shim/gauge appear on the instrument panel.
Steps 3 - 8 of the tutorial gets us ready to fly. This is where you set up the options for FS2Crew before each flight. This is also where you will learn the operation of each switch, what it does, and how it will affect your flight. That’s about it. We are ready to fly with the installation having been completed.
At this time I’d like to apologize for the lengthy coverage of the installation process. The point I am trying to make here is that FS2Crew is not the type of software that you can install and then just use right away. The setup is lengthy but very important if you wish to enjoy this product.
All in all FS2Crew is definitely a fun thing to have to break up the monotonous routine of simulated flight. Being greeted by your Co-Pilot or having to call operations for your zero fuel weight adds to the realism of a carefully planned, and executed trip. Being able to call for gear up or to have the flaps set is something that has improved the way I fly. But there are some hiccups that you must pay attention to.
Voice recognition is still not an exact science. Because of this you can expect FS2Crew to be quirky or as Bryan said “Remember that speech recognition is not always 100 percent perfect... it can sometimes, for example, misinterpret a yawn or a door closing as a legitimate command “. This being said you can expect to have little problems crop up such as your Co-Pilot turning things off or on without your giving a command. The best way to combat this is “If you don't need speech recognition during long stretches of the flight, I suggest enabling Hard Mute during those periods”. The other option would be a USB headset that allows you to mute the mic with a switch.
I was curious to see if there were any improvements planned and asked Bryan if there are any being contemplated. I also asked if this was a finished product and this was his response to those two questions. “The product is basically completed, but if bugs are discovered that I can fix I'll release updates”.
I was disappointed to find that the Level_D version does not incorporate some of the amenities that are included in other versions. An example of this would be the option to have the Co-Pilot take off or land the aircraft. The reason being for this “ Until I can figure out a way to get the FO to hold the centerline in a cross wind and fly the airplane better, I won't include it”.
The panels are easy to work with. Bryan has done a very good job at making the interface as simple to operate as possible. The crew voices are excellent which makes their dialog easy to understand. Even the radio communications with operations sounds realistic.
Altogether the package is very good and operates well within the limitations of the technology.
The Panels are well thought-out and very easy to use. I found them to be very easy on the eyes as well.
SoundsThe sounds are above average. There has been a lot of thought put into making crew responses as real as possible. Kudos to the “FS2Crew beta and voice acting team”. I would list them but the manual does not say who they are.
Summary / Closing RemarksI found FS2Crew to be very worth the price but lacking in a few areas. It is a well thought out package and is a joy to work with. The interfaces are great as well as the interaction with the crew. The quirks are tolerable within reason but must be closely monitored in case the speech engine decides to send an errant command. It would be a big plus to see some of the options from other FS2Crew packages incorporated into FS2Crew Level_D 767.
I would recommend the package with the following admonishments: be prepared to deal with the quirks that are inherent to the technology; and do not expect the package to have the same operations as other FS2Crew packages.
What I Like About FS2Crew for Level D 767
What I Don't Like About FS2Crew for Level D 767
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