Using a Simulator With Eyes Wide Open

By Dr. Alex Speransky, Product Manager for Shiphandling simulators, Transas

High-quality visual presentation systems are critical for successful simulator-based training. Although the existing DNV standards for maritime simulators don't specify detailed requirements for simulator visual systems, experience shows that the latest graphics and computer technology will help greatly to increase the overall knowledge and skill transfer rate of simulator training.

Basic Components of Visual Situation Analysis The navigator visually assesses the surrounding navigational environment based on the following components: • Visibility range, state of the sky and position of stars and planets; • Sea state; • Distance to islands, reefs, drying areas and shallow waters; • Identification of navigational marks, navigational barriers and location of the vessel relative to these objects; • Motion elements of other vessels in the area and collision danger.

The importance of the correct assessment by the navigator of the situation around the vessel can hardly be overestimated. Often, a wrong decision taken based on unprofessional conclusions made on the assessment of the above-mentioned checkpoints, leads to the loss of money, property and sometimes, even lives. Simulator training already is and should be used to train future masters and officers of the watch in all kinds of difficult situations they may encounter onboard. And the quality of the visual image used in the simulator is one of the most vital elements that make this training truly efficient.

In the first half of 2002, Transas introduced the next generation of its visual presentation system, signifying a breakthrough in the quality of such systems used in marine simulators. The new Transas visualization software, named SeagullJVis 4000, represents the synthetic environment with a formally unachievable level of realism and includes a number of advanced effects designed specifically for marine applications and developed to further improve the efficiency of simulator- based training.

These advanced new features include: • New textures of fog and clouds; Visible positions of the sun and moon in the true phase on the sky, positions of stars and planets; • Visual effects of horizon lighting; • Sun and moon lighting paths on the water surface; • Rain and snow precipitations dynamically changing their direction depending on the vessel's speed and course.

All these visual effects, when encountered in real life at sea, can help to or prevent the navigator from assessing properly other components of the navigational situation.

Availability of the new sea wave texture and especially, the white caps now shown by the simulator, as well as new algorithms of showing pitching and rolling of other vessels in the area, allow judging of the wave direction and wave height with more realism than ever before.

Moreover, the realistic spreading of water over dry- ing areas during high and low tides with dynamically changing color palette of the water surface is extremely helpful for the professional assessment of distance to islands, reefs, drying and shallow waters.

Other unique visual effects of the Transas system, such as highlighting of moving and fixed object edges either in the light or in shadow, as well as glare from the sun's rays, can hinder or help to correctly discern the color, numbers and top figures on various navigational aids (lighthouses, buoys and beacons). The same is true for the presentation of lights in fog.

The new quality level of displaying three-dimensional bow waves and wakes that change their intensity and geometry depending on the vessel's speed and sea state are important for the assessment of movement of surrounding vessels and the danger of collision.

It should also be noted that the advanced modeling of the stars' globe incorporated in the Transas visual image modeling system, satisfies the task of Seagoing Astronomy training that can also be provided using the Navi-Trainer shiphandling simulator from Transas.

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Other stories from August 2002 issue


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