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Saab and Varjo Bring VR to Flight Simulation

Eye-Resolution Mixed Reality Enhances Training Value

Saab and Finnish augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) specialist Varjo Technologies are working in partnership to revolutionise flight simulation, the companies announced on 7 June.

Varjo has developed a human eye resolution mixed reality (XR) technology that will be integrated into all Saab GRIPEN E/F simulators. In addition to the highest resolution and widest field of view in the industry, the collaboration will also offer new training opportunities at a fraction of the cost. The collaboration has its roots in Varjo’s innovation, which was critical to the successful development of state-of-the-art simulations.

When we did our first experiments with commercial devices, we received feedback from the pilots that they were unable to read text in virtual reality because the resolution was not sufficiently high. This was not a problem with Varjo’s technology,” commented Stefan Furenbäck, Saab’s Head of Tactical Environment Simulation and Visualisation.

Our collaboration has been smooth and straightforward. We understand each other’s needs and how we can solve our shared technological problems. Two companies with similar cultures, with innovation high on their agenda and ready to discuss everything,” added Seppo Aaltonen, Varjo’s Chief Commercial Officer.

Pilot training requires trainees to be able to read text and see even the smallest details: they need to feel like they are flying in the real world while using the simulator. Up until now, it has been necessary to use cave or dome-shaped simulators to create a VR experience that is as immersive as possible for the pilot. They are very large and expensive, labour-intensive to build and troublesome to transport. Conventional dome simulators have flat screens, and the 3D view can only be achieved using special glasses. Varjo’s virtual headsets have separate screens for each eye, so they come with a built-in 3D feature.

Varjo’s Bionic Display is based on the idea of how the human eye works; you see everything in the middle of your field of vision in ultra-high resolution, and anything in peripheral vision in lower resolution, enabling a fully natural and smoothly performing virtual experience. This is achieved by projecting patterns on the surface of the eye with infrared LEDs that are monitored by small cameras: the resolution adapts to the movements of the eye. Human-eye-level resolution can be achieved without supercomputers if the point at which the eye is looking at any given time is known: maximum computing power is always focused on the current point.

The Varjo solution uses video cameras to constantly capture the environment for XR purposes. This means the ‘real world’ images work on the same principle – the high-resolution image comes from the focal point. This allows powerful gaming computers to be used to operate the technology, instead of supercomputers.

Collaboration between the companies, which has worked well for several, has now been expanded.  “We’re finalising the basic functionalities in our own simulator so that we can use Varjo’s XR-3 headsets in all our flight simulators. We’ve previously carried out smaller, independent prototype-like projects, but now we’re integrating them into our actual flight simulators,” explained Furenbäck.

For a short video illustrating the system, click here.

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The mixed reality solution will be integrated into all GRIPEN E/F simulators. (Photo: Saab)

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Publish date

06/08/2021

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