Table of Contents
- Why is training realism so important?
- What are the differences between a live fire range and a simulator?
- What is 300 degree training?
- Why does VirTra use both video and CGI for scenarios?
- How does VirTra’s tracking calibration work?
- Why do some simulators give people vertigo and others don’t?
- Young people today are so accustomed to video games, won’t they be able to handle training that is more like a video game than real life?
One critical component of quality simulator training is the ‘realism’ it provides. Real-world performance is often directly related to the realism and intensity of training. Said another way, the more realistic the training exercise, the more skills are transferable to a real-world situation. Thus, realism is critically important to any close combat tactical trainer.
One of VirTra’s primary missions is to make simulated training as realistic as humanly possible. VirTra goes to great lengths to recreate the real-world in the simulator: from incredibly realistic 3D audio and special effects to realistic recoil training firearms and shoot back capabilities – just to name a few.
VirTra’s attention to detail and higher standard for realism in military engagement skills simulation training leads to improved real-world skills for the trainees. Below is a chart that graphically shows the expected normal value relationship between simulation realism and real-world improvement.
What are the differences between a live fire rang
e and a simulator?
VirTra considers live fire range training to be irreplaceable in the process of firearm training. However, firearm training simulators are now able to greatly compliment the training on a live fire range. VirTra provides a long list of recoil kits for various model firearms which permits realistic operation of the firearm with good recoil, but without a live bullet traveling downrange. The lack of a live round enables entirely new ways to train.
The addition of a firearm simulator provides:
- Judgment training – Advanced judgment or critical thinking skills (decision-making is required as to if/when you shoot or with what level of force you should use).
- Threats during training – The stress of receiving return fire can be safely simulated with the Threat-Fire in the simulator.
- 300-degree training – Due to the safety requirements, trainees are forced to focus directly in front of them on a live fire range. A trainee cannot train to shoot in different directions, shoot off-balance, or instantly spin 180 degrees to look for and engage the threat.
- Moving target – Most real life engagements involve shooting at moving targets. This requires expensive and specific equipment to accomplish on a live fire range.
- Safety – The use of live ammunition requires extensive safety requirements that reduce the ability of real-world training on a range.
- Cost and access – Live ammunition is expensive and at times not even available due to worldwideshortages out of your control.
- Environmental agency – Many shooting ranges are closed every year due to environmental concerns; with a simulator there is zero environmental impact, zero lead in the air, zero chance of shutting down training.
- Operation – An indoor firearm simulator can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of weather.
The next real-world engagement will most certainly occur in a 360-degree environment. When training on a single-screen simulator, the trainee is only utilizing 60 degrees field of view, and never has to turn to face a potential theat. A single-screen simulator further reinforces tunnel vision, “training with blinders on”. It is difficult to maintain situational awareness throughout a real world engagement, but is critical for survival. This type of training can be implemented on a multi-screen video simulator such as the V-180™ MIL or V-300™ MIL simulator.
Field of View comparison between a single-screen simulator vs a multi-screen simulator
For simulated training exercises to be realistic and have valid psychological impact, the trainee must consider the people in the scenario to be ‘human.’ The human brain is exceptional at detecting a ‘fake’ person when they are closer than about 30 meters (100 feet). The look and movement of people is perfectly captured by high quality video, but CGI creates ‘approximations’ of people. Even with the latest CGI technology, ‘generated’ CGI humans do not look and move like real people when viewing them at distances closer than about 30 meters (100 feet).
At the most basic level, a simulator is a combination of a projection on a screen (displaying a target) and a shot-detection camera (detecting a laser fired at the screen). Calibration is the process whereby the projected image is aligned with the shot detection camera.
One of the oldest approaches to calibration was to a 9 or 16 point approach. In this method, the user must shoot targets or walk up to the screen and position a wand on a dot on the screen, then walks back to click ‘next’ and does the next spot and continues until all dots have been completed. This has a number of problems:
- Accuracy is somewhat determined by how careful and meticulous the user is with positioning on each dot – which changes from person-to-person and from calibration to calibration.
- The computer, using the data with inaccuracies as described above, then ‘approximates’ or ‘guesses’ at the alignment of all other points on the screen. However, the only points the system has truly calibrated are those 16 spots where a human has tried to hold a wand in the correct position – with unknown and changing results each time.
- Not user friendly, must use wand on screen or use a simulated firearm as a mouse pointer.
- Accuracy becomes variable as it provides reasonably good tracking near the center of the screen, but is inaccurate for much of the screen space. Some companies compensate by having all scenarios keep the action in the very center of the screen so customers don’t notice the inaccuracy. However, this reinforces tunnel vision and lowers the level of challenge for all trainees. See real-world training.
- As the computer has no idea of where exactly the human positioned the wand, the system has no mathematical idea of accuracy; in other words, the wand could be off to the right of the calibration point and no one knows. Without numeric calibration data (and with variable accuracy as described above), the system is mathematically incapable of permitting verified marksmanship training. It can still be a helpful tool for firearms training, but to accurately qualify or to truly simulate an outdoor shooting range is technically unknown and mathematically out-of-reach for this approach.
To compound the accuracy problem, the older point-based calibration approach uses math to approximate all locations on the screen and it assumes the projector and camera are linear. This makes the mathematics much simpler, but at the cost of accuracy throughout the entire screen.
Below is an artistic rendering to visualize possible assumptions made by this point-based method; please note that as each company has their own proprietary formulas, this rendering may not be accurate to all point-based tracking methods.
Below is an actual image taken from VirTra’s unique calibration process which maps the entire projected surface to the entire active camera sensor. Yes, every pixel is accurately mapped creating the most precise and automatic calibration method in the world.
Why do you need to calibrate every pixel? Well, each projector and camera is not only unique but also surprisingly complex, usually they are composed of several lens that modify the incoming or outgoing light. Instead of allowing for approximations with simple math, they are composed of multiple 3-dimensional lens in both the projector and the camera, especially as you move towards the sides. Below is a sample diagram of the lens for a common projector, which gives some idea of the complexity of the light path through just one sample component of a standard simulator.
Even if it was possible to implement all the advanced mathematics needed to accurately calibrate the entire projected screen to the shot-detection camera with multiple lens, it is still best (as each camera and projector are slightly different) to use VirTra’s direct calibration. For VirTra’s calibration process, you simply remove the filter on the camera and then you click to have the computer start the calibration. The computer then automatically has the projector display a graphic that moves across the screen, while the camera detects the graphic the projector is displaying. It is basically that simple, no approximations or guessing, and no standing around with a wand or using a firearm to try to ‘shoot’ calibration targets. VirTra’s calibration has the following advantages:
- No human wand or other human-error prone approach is used.
- Easier for the operator (click a button) than manual calibration.
- Far higher accuracy across the entire screen as no ‘guessing’ or approximations are used in calibration.
Vertigo occurs when conflicting stimuli is processed by the brain. For a simulator, vertigo is often the result of a mismatch, the simulator video shows one thing, but the inner ear senses something different. If a mismatch exists, then the larger the field of view of the simulator, the greater the vertigo impact.
Vertigo is not a problem with VirTra’s dismounted simulators as the simulated world around the trainee is static and the trainee moves naturally to any position they desire within the training area, avoiding any stimuli mismatch. Special care must be taken in the design of vehicle simulators to minimize vertigo as the simulated world moves around the trainee when inside a vehicle.
Vertigo is usually the result of improper simulator design or implementation. Some other simulator companies actually reduce the size of the screens or even have breaks between the screens in an attempt to reduce vertigo problems in their simulator- this is tragic and avoidable. VirTra’s simulator industry veterans are able to avoid vertigo while maintaining a completely immersive training environment through proper simulator and scenario design.
Young people today are so accustomed to video games, won’t they be able to handle training that is more like a video game than real life?
It is true that video game players can more readily control ‘computer game’ style training. However, we must not confuse the ability of a game player to ‘pick up’ the controls of a CGI-based simulator as a sign that valid training is taking place. It is well understood that the more different a simulator becomes from the real world, the less the trainee is acquiring skills they can use in the real world – it is a linear relationship.
One large drawback of training using human characters that don’t look and feel real, is the lack of any real psychological impact. A trainee must learn that when the situation requires lethal force and the taking of another human life, they must pull the trigger without hesitation – which clearly does not come natural to most people. This type of training requires human realism during training, realism that is outside the abilities of current CGI capabilities. With CGI training, the trainee only engages ‘game characters,’ computer-generated ‘fake’ humans, so the stakes are virtually zero. When a trainee only practices with paper targets or non-realistic simulation, they are often unprepared for the psychological shock of a real life event. They often hesitate, demonstrating a lack of mental preparedness for the encounter. VirTra’s photorealistic simulation and 300-degree training world is designed to replicate the real world as closely as possible. Simulated return fire (see Threat-Fire™) can even be added to generate stress, instilling real-world skills during training.