Staring death in the face is the key to learning

Higher quality simulation is the key to building skills affordably. But the quality has to be way higher than we are accustomed to.

For aviators in a simulator, until a misjudgement followed by impending impact with a mountainside or runway surface strikes terror into the heart of the trainee, its value is limited.

The key is high quality visual presentation, which has improved massively over the last 30 years but still has a long way to go. The visual sense dominates in human beings, but the brain still looks for sensory backup from other bodily sources.

So the answer is not visual alone. The terror threshold – and therefore the usefulness threshold – will be crossed when the visual sense is fully satisfied, but backed up by rotation, vibration and sound cues. G would be nice, but it’s difficult to put in a box, and its importance is over-hyped. Smell would be fantastic.

Rockwell Collins, traditionally an avionics and communication manufacturer, is going at this objective hell for leather. A few years ago it decided to enter the world of simulation, a crowded market full of well-established brands all of whom are constantly pushing the boundaries outward.

It decided to do this on the grounds that virtual training is the future, so market growth is guaranteed. More than that, as a long-time builder of real cockpits, Rockwell Collins reckoned it has the skills and even the codes and algorithms to create simulated cockpits that feel real.

So today Rockwell Collins launched its ProSim visual projector. Sound like a yawn to you? But it’s kit like this that makes blacks blacker and whites lighter than previously possible, and so pushes the boundaries of visual realism, which is the holy grail for simulation.

Also today, Rockwell Collins held an open day at its Burgess Hill, UK base. That’s where I came in for updates. I saw so much stuff my brain hurts, but watch this space.

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