Simulated training solutions are finding their way into new industries every day. So much so that the driver delivering your broadband router may have swotted up on his parking skills in an A3 motion chair!
We’re referring to one of many projects run by our friends at Blueflame Digital. The company makes what they refer to as 'serious games' – programmes and solutions used to provide a legitimate alternative to real-world training.
Novatech often helps Blueflame Digital with development workstations. We spoke to Blueflame Digital owner and director Dan Hatch about the projects they’re currently working on, and the next-generation gear required to bring their ideas to life.
An Openreach driver testing a large delivery vehicle sim, with the help of a full-motion chair
Blueflame Digital is currently working with Openreach providers on a project designed to help teach their drivers how to handle their large delivery vehicles with the help of a full-motion chair, their own in-house product, and a driving simulator.
“We’ve combined a VR headset, motion simulator, force-feedback, steering and pedals into one solution and have created bespoke scenarios for new recruits,” Dan explains.
“Because they’re all drivers but they've never driven these vans before, they're not used to the size of them or the lack of a rearview mirror.”
“We put them through a simulation where they’re put in a very tight spot and they've got to try and reverse park and reverse into a customer's driveway. Because it's VR, they get that feeling of the size of the van and the sense of space. And, of course, if they get it wrong the consequences aren't that bad!”
The setup involves a full-motion Atomic A3 chair, a Valve Index headset and a Fanatec force feedback steering wheel and pedals. It’s all off-the-shelf stuff, which is where Novatech came in. Our industry-leading machine learning and AI rigs are able to generate accurate, real-time simulations that allow for thousands of different outcomes and can work seamlessly with a variety of specialist hardware.
The project’s current rig involves two units installed in the training centre for new recruits to use before hitting the road for the first time. Dan explains that the simulation gives them key feedback points like speeding and whether or not they're looking in the mirrors.
“It’s still in the trial stage at the moment but if the trial goes well then there’s talk on installing a fixed place that people can go, to brush up on specific driving skills or to practise driving a different style of van. There are lots of positive potential ideas being thrown around.”
People respond more naturally to motion cues than they do to physical cues, Dan explains. “If you're reversing and you hit something, obviously, you haven't seen it. Because otherwise, you wouldn't have driven into it. But with motion simulation, you can feel it.”
Training drivers in this way means they feel the consequences of their mistakes with a realistic driving experience but without the usual danger or repair and insurance costs.
Blueflame Digital Intro Video
Blueflame Digital are also working with a Fire and Rescue Service to create an immersive awareness experience using VR and motion controls to teach young drivers.
This project utilises six motion chair and VR headset combinations in a portable van, which they can drive around to various events to teach people about road safety in a more emotional and physical way via mixed reality. Dan describes it as a “Novatech project through and through” that aims to “raise awareness for road safety and engage young people earlier - making them aware of the consequences of dangerous driving.”
It’s a rather complex setup, with each of the six stations controlled by a central PC at the back – one that’s powerful enough to sync the experience across them all so they feel and see the same things at the same time. There are six different scenarios to choose from, each based around a different potential road situation, involving either pedestrians, horses, motorcycles or other cars.
Dan explains: “I've created bespoke motion profiles for all these videos, which I did by watching the videos with a joystick hooked up through our software to move the chairs in real-time. I was able to record those motions so they'll get a headset with audio, video and the motion cues as they're watching. So, if I go around the corners, it's throwing them around and if I stop suddenly, so do they.”
It’s just the latest in a long line of projects that Blueflame Digital have been working on with Novatech. As Dan himself says, “if you're having fun, you'll come back and you'll practice more” – the Blueflame Digital ethos in a nutshell.
Thanks to Dan for taking the time to chat to us.
Images copyright TitanIM
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