Many of us are quite familiar with the name Level D Simulations. For a little over a year they have been one of the leading developers of aircraft add-on packages for Microsoft Flight Simulator and are well established as award winners with their 767-300 simulation. Level D incorporated a variety of new and innovative solutions in the 767 that made it stand out in the crowd. Things like interactive ground crews, flight attendants, multiple systems simulations, and a complex system for simulating failures. One feature that really made the Level D 767-300 fun to fly was the inclusion of a co-pilot to assist in flap extension and retraction, raising and lowering the landing gear, and speed call outs. Of course, the included co-pilot was quite limited in what it could do to help with flying the aircraft, until now.
For several years flight simulation enthusiasts have been playing with the idea of using voice recognition software to assist them in flying with Flight Simulator, however, there has been a lack of success in getting the programs to work correctly and efficiently to suit the user’s needs since they can only control default flight simulator commands and not those of third party add-ons.
Upon its release, the Level D Simulations 767-300 included a special SDK that allowed additional third party developers the ability to integrate their products into the Level D 767. One company has done just that and in an innovative way as well. Left Seat Simulations has developed an add-on package for the Level D Simulations 767-300 enthusiast who is looking to expand their flying experience to a whole new level.
Left Seat Simulations Copilot: 767 Edition is a stand alone package developed to bring an added sense of realism to flying the Level D 767-300 using voice recognition technology. What makes this voice recognition program different from others that are available for flight simulator, is the fact that Copilot: 767 Edition will control most of the major functions of the Level D 767-300 by making use of the Level D SDK. Let’s take an in depth look at the features and functions of Copilot: 767 Edition.
Installation and Documentation
Copilot: 767 Edition is available directly from Left Seat Simulations as a downloadable product that weighs in at 52MB and is contained in the industry standard Flight1 Wrapper. Purchase and registration is quite simple to complete by following the on-screen instructions. Upon completing the installation of the necessary files, you will be prompted to read the instruction manual. This step is quite critical to follow as there are a few steps that need to be completed in order for you to begin using your copilot. Also included in the instruction manual is a complete list of the commands used in operation of the voice recognition software. I found it quite handy to print these commands as you will need to say the phrases correctly in order for the command to be completed successfully.
Training Your Computer
After reading through the instruction manual for Copilot: 767 Edition, you will note some key steps that need to be taken before you can begin flying with your copilot. The most important step is training Microsoft’s Voice Recognition Software to listen and follow the commands of your voice. To begin anything, you need to make sure you have microphone connected to your computer. I have, and personally recommend, a Sennheiser stereo gaming headset with a built in microphone boom as it can also come in handy for flying with online ATC and for use in other online game play where vocal interaction is supported.
Once you have your headset or microphone set up and ready to go you may begin the process of training the Voice Recognition system. To set up your speech system you will need to go to the control panel of your computer. Make sure you are in category view and select “Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices”. Under this menu you will need to go into the speech options. From here you can begin training the system to recognize your voice and also adjust the settings to what voice the system will use to respond to your commands.
The speech training comprises of a series of excerpts from stories and poems written by various authors, all of which you will read out loud to your microphone and the computer will follow along by highlighting the words you have read. If you mispronounce a word or loose your place the voice recognition system will stop and start from a point that it left off before the error. The more exercises you complete the better your voice recognition system will be in recognizing your commands. Completing the voice training should take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and once you are done you are ready to fly with your copilot.
Flying With A Co-Pilot
With your voice recognition training complete, you are now ready to fly anywhere in the world with your copilot assisting you. Using the copilot is quite simple. Begin by loading your flight in Flight Simulator and once this is complete, the only step left is to launch the Copilot: 767 Edition program. The program will start with the copilot in standby mode. To activate the copilot from standby mode speak into your microphone “Wake up” in which the copilot will respond “Awake”. The wake up command is the only command in which the copilot program will respond to while it is in standby or “sleep” mode. When you do not need the copilot you put him to sleep by speaking the words “go to sleep” in which the copilot will respond “sleeping” and will go into standby mode.
The copilot can control a number of commands, most of which are used to control functions on the main panel. These commands are used to control functions like the landing gear, flaps, radios, autopilot, flight director, autothrottles, autobrakes, radios, aircraft lighting, and more. All spoken commands are repeated by the copilot to confirm that the command has been received after the action is carried out, which simulates real world operating procedures.
After just a few minutes of flight it became increasingly clear just how handy this utility is. Those of us that have flown commercial airliners in Microsoft Flight Simulator know just how crazy things can get in the takeoff and approach portions of a flight. Real world commercial flights always have two pilots controlling the aircraft at any time. This is different in the simulation world since we have to do all of these tasks by ourselves. This gives us quite a bit of work to do in a small amount of time. In complex simulations like the Level D Simulations 767-300 there are many buttons to push and knobs to turn as well as fly the aircraft and handle communications. The Copilot: 767 Edition utility allows you to speak to your computer as if you have an actual copilot on board and perform the necessary action you need at any given time of flight. This gives you more time to concentrate on more important things, like flying the plane.
While this package makes use of new and innovative technology, there are a few limitations to it. First and foremost is what you hear. The copilot’s voice is essentially the voices that are included with the current version of Microsoft’s speech engine. They sound very synthetic and computerized and there are only three to choose from, one female and two male voices. Copilot: 767 Edition uses these voice profiles for the responses you hear from your said commands. While this is not a terrible thing, it does distract from the realism a bit and is not in any way Left Seat Simulations' fault.
This is an issue with the current technology that is available and it will get better over time. Another thing to be aware of is the ambient sound in the room or area where you are flying. Depending on the sensitivity of your microphone and your sound card setup, you may run into an occasional time where you need to command your copilot but ATC is talking. This will confuse the speech engine and it will not obey your commands. This also holds true if there is another person in the room and they are talking to you while you are using your voice recognition software. So you may have to be careful of your timing on the use of the copilot if your computer is located in a busy area.
Level D Simulations released the 767-300 to the simulation community,
it featured an array of new technologies that extended
its usability. Now, with the inclusion of programs like Copilot:
767 Edition, we can take full advantage of that technology and put
it to even better use, giving us a more realistic flying experience.
Copilot: 767 Edition is an excellent utility for the avid Level D
767 pilot who wants to further their realism and get the most from
their flying experience without sacrificing computer performance.
|What I Like About the Co-Pilot: 767 Edition|
|What I Don't Like About the Co-Pilot: 767 Edition|
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