Flight Simulator

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Flight Simulator

A simulated flight environment for pilot training may soon be made more
realistic through the use of eye-tracking technology developed by researchers at
the University of Toronto's Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IMBE). Many
safety and cost benefits are obtained by training aircraft pilots under
simulated conditions, but to be effective the simulation must be convicingly
realistic. At present, th e training facilities use large domes and gimballed
projectors, or an array of video screens, to display computer-generated images.
But these installations are very expensive and image resolution is low. Further,
it would take an enormous amount of addi to improve image quality significantly
throughout the whole viewed scene. However, based on the visual properties of
the eye, realism can be obtained by providing a high-resolution 'area of
interest' insert within a large, low-resolution field of view. If the
image-generating computer 'knows' where the pilot's fixation is, it mage there.
The technology to make this possible was developed by a research team headed by
Professor Richard Frecker and Professor Moshe Eizenman. The work was carried out
in collaboration with CAE Electronics Ltd. of Montreal with financial support
from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Their
eye-tracker can record and analyze accurately up to 500 eye positions per
second. The system works by means of capturing and processing the reflections of
a low-level beam o f invisible infra-red light shone onto the eye. Multi-element
arrays capture the image of the eye and digitize the information, which is then
processed in real time by a fast, dedicated signal processing unit. The
difference in position between the ligh tre of the pupil reveals the
instantaneous direction of gaze. Developments by the IBME team have
significantly increased the speed of signal processing in addition to enhancing
accuracy of eye position estimates. Eizenman believes that "these
improvements make our eye-tracker very effective in monitoring the large G-force
environment where the pilot tends to make larger eye movements because of
contraints which exist on movements of his head". In a new generation of
aircraft simulators, under development by CAE Electronics Ltd. of Montreal, a
head tracker which tells the direction of the pilot's head is mounted on top of
the helmet. The eye tracker is mounted on the front of the helmet, and is ll
exactly where the pilot's eye is fixating. Frecker said that "successful
integration of our eye tracker into the novel helmet-mounted CAE flight
simulator would result in a new generation of simulators that would likely
replace the current large domes and cumbersome video display units."
Initial tests of the integrated system will be carried out in collaboration with
CAE Electronics at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona later this year.