• REVIEW - Airbus X Voice Control by FS2Crew


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    Airbus X Voice Control by FS2Crew

    A review by Aamir Thacker

    Introduction

    Before I start this review, there is one thing I need to get out of the way. Considering the fact that this review is pertaining to a product that relies on speech recognition software, I feel it important to establish the fact that my accent is quite garbled. It’s a British, Indian, American mix, if you can believe it. The other thing you may find hard pressed to believe, is that FS2Crew’s Airbus X Voice Edition managed to understand me. Color me pleasantly surprised.

     

    Here’s a quick look at what FS2Crew: Aerosoft Airbus X Voice Control has to offer, from the product page itself.

    Features:
    • Procedures modeled on real-world Airbus Standard Operator Procedures (SOPs)
    • Direct and seamless integration owing to Aerosoft's very powerful SDK.
    • Normal Checklists
    • Airbus specific Crew flows (Captain and FO, PF and PM)
    • FA interaction
    • Start Crew/Pushback interaction
    • Cabin announcements
    • Captain PAs
    • Bleeds off takeoffs 
    • Various approach profiles and Missed Approaches
    • Turn-arounds/Thru-Flights
    • De-Icing at the gate or pad
    • Circuits/Touch and Go's
    • External GPU handling (Engine Start and Pushback/ Gate Arrival)
    • Free version of FS Video Marshaller (a 14 EUR value). 
    FS2Crew Website

     

    Setup

    Weighing in at 268MB, this download only product should be a fairly quick and effortless download for anyone with a decent broadband connection. With a connection speed of 4MB/s I was able to complete the download in approximately 13 minutes; FS2Crew’s download servers are zippy!

     

    It’s very important to note that this product is not one where a simple execution of the installer will enable immediate use of the software. Owing to the “voice commander” aspect of this product, customers will be required to “train” their computers to recognize their accents, by using Windows’ default speech recognition software. Beyond that, a complete and proper install will also require certain options selected in Aerosoft’s Airbus X Configurator. This was no problem whatsoever, as FS2Crew have very helpfully included extremely comprehensive documentation covering the entire installation process. While the installation process may initially seem lengthy, I was able to get all of it completed and done in less than 15 minutes, including training the computer to recognize my voice. It is important to once again stress on reading the supplied documentation, as without it, the installation process may seem moderately confusing.

     

    Using the Product

     

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    Prior to acquiring the product for review, I had spent multiple hours operating the A320 as a single pilot aircraft, performing the duties of both the Pilot-Flying, and the Pilot-not-Flying. Throw in VATSIM and the inherent need to handle the radios, and it all became a bit much. Simmers are often quite limited with regard to their multi-tasking capabilities as we only have one “hand” in the virtual cockpit, being our mouse cursor. This is where I think FS2Crew begins to shine, as you can now bark commands at your First Officer while performing various duties of your own. Calling out for a heading change, a speed change, and autopilot engagement, all while being able to keep tabs on the aircraft and radios is an invaluable asset in creating a sense of immersion beyond what I have been able to experience in-sim thus far. This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg! The Airbus X Extended comes with virtual PnF performing checklist duties and aiding (if required to) in flicking the switches that exist in the realm of first officers. FS2Crew takes this a whole step further by allowing you to interact with your virtual co-pilot using your voice. You cannot beat the immersion of having to read back certain checklist items, or calling “Check!”, in response.

     

    I cannot imagine flying the aircraft without this addon any longer, it has simply added too much to the overall experience!

     

    The most pleasant surprise was, in fact, the auxiliary interactions between myself and the ground crew. Saying a quick “Thank You” while receiving the load-sheet for your flight, or contacting ground for push and start is instrumental in creating a believable, immersive environment which we simmers yearn for. I, personally, was very impressed with the option to perform departure and arrival briefings, as it added another layer of immersion (you may choose to have it read out for you, or you may choose to read it out yourself). Of course, being software, your virtual co-pilot does have certain limitations, chief of which is the rigidity of the flows and procedures required to advance FS2Crew into the next “stage” of flight. This strict format will, of course, require you to bury your head in the manual for some bedtime reading, as seamless operation of the software will require some familiarization, and mostly, time spent using the product. Once this familiarization is achieved, and you are able to respond to your co-pilot without having to refer to the manuals, operation of the aircraft is a huge pleasure, and truly creates the illusion of flying in a multi-pilot environment.

     

    The UI of the software is suitably pleasant, however the various acronyms on the numerous buttons will, again, require reference to the manual. FS2Crew have quite nicely matched the UI of the software with the color of the Airbus cockpit, allowing it to not look too out of place in your peripheral vision. The panel itself has click-button options for various typical airline announcements one may come across while flying the “line”. These will then play in the background, adding another layer to the illusion of being an airline pilot. I can, however, imagine these getting slightly tiring the 5th or 6th time they are played over the course of a few flights.

     

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    Final Thoughts & Acknowledgements

    If you happen to fly the Airbus X religiously, this is a must-have product for you. It adds so much to the simulation experience that its EUR30 value belies its true worth. I cannot imagine flying the aircraft without this addon any longer, it has simply added too much to the overall experience!

     

    I’d like to go ahead and thank the folks at FS2Crew for providing me with a copy of this product for review.

     

     

    Not so Positives

    • Steep learning curve. The rigid procedures and checklist items will take some getting used to before your interactions are silky-smooth
    • Only western (US, UK, EU) voice-packs included, however this can easily be fixed by visiting the FS2Crew forums in search of new voice-packs.


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