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Germany’s DLR research centre installs Virtalis cockpit simulator

Germany’s national aeronautics and space research centre, DLR, required a new virtual reality solution for its cockpit simulator within The Institute of Flight Guidance.

Germany’s national aeronautics and space research centre, DLR, turned to virtual reality specilalist Virtalis for the upgrade of its cockpit simulator within The Institute of Flight Guidance training facility.

DLR has approximately 7,400 employees, with 16 bases in Germany, as well as offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.

Virtalis installed three Projection Design F35 WQXGA (2560 x 1600 pixels) projectors which project virtual exterior views on a mirror system with a 6m diameter part of a sphere. This collimated visual system allows an area of 180° by 40° to be displayed, giving a realistic depth perception. To cope with the complicated blending and warping required by the simulator, Virtalis chose the projector auto-alignment technology from the Fraunhofer Institute FOKUS.

The helicopter and fixed wing simulator, which had previously used analogue projectors with manual calibration, is used by both military and civil pilots. DLR researchers carry out human factors analyses to evaluate new assistance systems such as helmet mounted displays (HMDs). Currently, the team is looking at the performance of an HMD with an ultra-wide field of view (80°x40°) and a resolution of 2250×1200 pixels. The projected view outside the simulator can even be altered to simulate brownout and whiteout conditions, leaving the pilots dependent on the augmented reality HMD.

As well as the three projectors, DLR’s simulator now boasts an auto-calibration camera, so that the projectors can be calibrated daily before the research team arrives. The projectors display a series of stripe patterns, akin to a barcode and the camera records them. The Fraunhofer auto-alignment system then analyses the stripes and corrects any distortions and misalignments in the projection. At the same time, it corrects the brightness so there are no gaps or areas where it is too bright, owing to projector overlap or the screen shape. The result is one seamless image on the simulator’s display.

Manuel Schiewe, business developer of media technology at the Visual Computing (VISCOM) department of the Fraunhofer Institute FOKUS, commented: “DLR’s simulator also used our Configurator software which helps in the planning and configuration of the whole multi-projection setup. In addition, as DLR has two rendering engines, so we were able to deploy both our Desktop Warping technology, which warps and blends arbitrary Windows applications within the graphics card’s driver, and our Integration Variant, which combines our SDK files to enable warping and blending within DLR’s own visualisation renderer”.