I/ITSEC 2012: World's largest simulation conference recognizes Tulsa-area engineers
In case you wondered what I've been up to: I'm on my way back to Tulsa after a week at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The conference brings together the military agencies that need training devices, the companies (big and small) that make them, and the suppliers that provide the new technology that the simulator manufacturers put into their products. The focus is on the U. S. Department of Defense, but the show draws military officials and companies from all over the world. The show combines a 500,000 square foot exhibit floor (bigger than the IPE Building at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds) with a week of presentations of technical papers, tutorials, and workshops.
The Tulsa area's simulation industry was well represented at the conference: FlightSafety, Safety Training Systems, and CymSTAR were all there.
Steven J. Smith and Brad Torgler of FlightSafety Simulation Systems in Broken Arrow were recognized for the best paper in the simulation category -- "Leveraging Technologies to Reverse Engineer a Helicopter for Simulator Development" -- and were one of six finalists for best paper out of 155 presented and more than 600 abstracts that were submitted. The paper described how they went about designing and building an accurate, high fidelity (Level D) simulator for a helicopter despite the lack of design information from the helicopter manufacturer.
Smith also presented "Sideslip Misconceptions in Helicopter Simulators" and a FlightSafety colleague, Andrew Morris, presented "High Fidelity Ballistics and Gunner Training as a Part of Integrated Aircrew Training Simulators." The last paper sounds a bit dry, but it described a very cool idea -- mounting a gunner training station on a motion base with a helicopter cockpit simulator. Morris described the challenges involved in simulating everything from the complex way a round of ammunition flies out of the side of a helicopter to the force the gunner feels on the gun as its pushed by the airstream along the side of the helicopter. The resulting simulator has three visual domes -- a big one for the pilot and copilot, two smaller domes for the gunner and flight engineer -- all mounted together on a 60" electric 6-DOF motion base. I'm happy to see Tulsa-area engineers recognized for technical innovation at a worldwide conference.
Washington journalists are fond of referring to the White House Correspondents' Dinner as "nerd prom" but the real nerd prom was the first Thursday in December in Orlando at the Peabody Hotel, where a couple of thousand simulation industry professionals gathered to recognize the outgoing I/ITSEC conference organizers (volunteers), the incoming leadership, the best papers of the year, and the winners of postgraduate scholarships in modeling and simulation.
The exhibit floor displayed the diversity of the simulation industry -- much broader than pilot training. Medical simulation is a growing part of the industry, and much of the military focus these days is on "dismounts" -- the soldier on foot.
Each conference features "Warfighter's Corner," where U. S. servicemen speak about how simulation has helped them do their jobs more safely and effectively. One of this year's speakers was USAF Capt. Abram "Sole" Burk, an A-10 pilot, who described how the A-10 simulators at his home base helped him and his men familiarize themselves before deployment with the airfields they'd be encountering overseas and allowed them to practice against simulated surface-to-air and air-to-air threats. The Air Force's worldwide fleet of A-10 simulators are operated and maintained by Broken Arrow-based CymSTAR Services, and improvements to the A-10 simulator are being developed at CymSTAR's Tulsa A-10 engineering facility.
The video playlist below will give you an overview of the conference, starting with the process of bringing the exhibit floor to life, followed by highlights of new technologies on display.
A couple of the highlights:
This video of Christie Digital exhibit shows off their 120 Hz projectors and FlightSafety's spectuacular building-by-building visual model of Manhattan I got to try a demo of their visual system that could display two eyepoints with one lens and one screen. Each participant had active glasses that showed one scene and blocked the other. A flip of the switch flipped the scene -- an interesting application of 3D technology.
Rockwell Collins put on a demonstration of "Live, Virtual, and Constructive" (LVC) training. In an LVC exercise, trainees in simulators (the virtual component), trainees in real aircraft, on real ships, or on the ground (the live component), and computer generated forces (friendly, hostile, or neutral) interact to produce a complex environment in which they can prepare themselves for complex real-world missions. For the demo, three simulators in the exhibit hall were "flying" with two real aircraft (Czech-built training jets) flying over Iowa. The real aircraft could see the simulated aircraft on their instruments; the sims could see the real aircraft and each other on their instruments and out-the-window displays.
Elsewhere on the floor: A company called Virtusphere showed off their namesake device, which looks like a giant hamster ball and allows someone wearing a virtual reality visor to walk and run in any direction through the virtual world without restraint. Here's a video of the device from G4TV:
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