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VR Pilot training now comes with sense of touch

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Interesting article in Wired. Strange that they feature Flyinside sim, which isn't even out yet!




Aviation simulators—the most valuable training tool pilots have—have to get things right. The instrument panel. The wind and the rain. The response of the aircraft when you flip a switch or pull on the yoke. It all must be as high fidelity, as true to life, as possible. Otherwise, pilots risk uncertainty or disorientation when transferring their simulated experience to the real world.

With the rise of virtual reality-based simulation, in which users wear headsets instead of sitting in a cockpit where everything is real but the view out the windshield, the challenge of maintaining that verisimilitude has really taken off. These systems cost just a few thousand dollars, instead of the tens or hundreds of thousands you pay for a full-size cockpit mockup. They’re smaller and more portable too, a plus for clients like militaries who like the option of training pilots in remote locations.

The downside is that in today’s systems, beside the joystick, rudder pedals, and maybe a throttle lever, all the controls are digital renderings. You “activate” the switches and dials by poking and jabbing into thin air. That amplifies the challenge of VR-based training, where the nuances of touch and movement are essential to programming the pilot’s brain.

One solution—long pursued across many virtual-reality applications, from gaming and design to sex—is haptic feedback. Mechanical actuators placed in contact with different areas of the user’s body, most notably the hands and fingertips, add the sensation of touch to these computer-generated worlds. Now, a French company called Go Touch VR is putting it into action.

Working with US virtual-reality simulation software developer FlyInside, Go Touch VR has adapted its fingertip-mounted technology for aviation. The goal is to give pilots using virtual-reality flight simulators that touch-based confirmation with every switch and dial used on their flights, just as they would experience in the kind of full-sized cockpit mockups found in large, commercial multimillion-dollar motion simulators.

“You should only have to give a glance to button that you need to press during an operation, while all the rest of the action is confirmed by the touch sensation—the ‘click’ that you have from the virtual switch,” says Eric Vezzoli, Go Touch’s co-founder and CEO. “Without that fundamental confirmation, you must look back and check if the action was performed, and spend precious time and attention that you need to dedicate to flying operations.”



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