For those who assumed that army coaching simulators had been solely made doable with the arrival of 3D graphics and digital actuality, Tom Scott is right here to show you incorrect as he take a look at drives an enchanting ‘70s-era tank simulator that depends on a tiny digicam exploring an in depth mannequin of a miniature European countryside.
Trendy simulators, whether or not they recreate the expertise of driving a beastly automobile or flying an plane, use a mix of real-time laptop graphics and full-size cockpit recreations that transfer and shake and vibrate in good sync with what a pilot or driver is seeing on a display or inside a digital actuality headset. The expertise is extremely convincing, and an efficient technique to give a trainee a whole bunch of hours of expertise with a automobile with out placing them, or the true factor, in danger.
Army gear has all the time been innovative and really costly, so simulators have lengthy been a helpful coaching software, however earlier than computer systems had been highly effective sufficient to generate convincing 3D graphics, constructing a convincing simulator required a wholly completely different strategy, as Tom Scott found whereas visiting the Swiss Army Museum in Switzerland.
Trainees (or vacationers, as of late) climb right into a recreation of a tank cockpit, that includes all of the controls you’d discover in the true factor, which sits atop a motorized base that may transfer the cockpit round in all instructions. When searching the tiny entrance window of the tank, the driving force doesn’t see the true world, however a display displaying a stay video feed from a tiny digicam that explores a close-by miniature recreation of the rolling countryside, with the digicam’s actions managed by the tank cockpit.
The simulator is a marvel of brute power engineering, nevertheless it’s the small issues that assist actually promote the impact that the particular person within the tank cockpit is actually in management and driving a full-size automobile. The transferring digicam is housed inside a blue shroud that strikes together with it in order that what’s seen over the horizon within the video feed all the time appears to be like like blue sky. And beneath the tiny digicam is a small pivoting foot that slides alongside the sleek roadways within the miniature mannequin, however pivots up and down when traversing rougher terrain, like logs, with these motions being translated to the tank’s cockpit in real-time.
It took the museum over two years to rebuild the retired tank simulator and get it working once more, and whereas it nonetheless makes use of the unique video gear, together with the tiny digicam that was in all probability a marvel of engineering again within the ‘70s, its laptop management system needed to be utterly changed with, unbelievably, a $35 Raspberry Pi.