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VR Interfaces: Barco RP-360 dome


Overview of Barco RP-360 dome
The Barco R-360 is a double hemisphere display system for flight simulation. Like all hemispherical displays, it's key strength is the complete lack of seams. The wraparound display functions like a real horizon, with all points on the inside surface being equidistant from the user.

Unlike most hemispherical displays to date however, this one has been designed to provide as much realism as possible. It has been designed to train fighter pilots in situations as close to those they are actually liable to face, as possible. This means the display has to be extremely high definition, whilst real-time calculations

The user is seated inside the two hemispheres, which form a sphere around them. Depending on the requirements of the simulation, either thirteen or fourteen external projectors project a seamless image onto the outside of the sphere, shining through to the interior in true colour. The number differs depending on the workload of the simulation – the amount of detail to process. Each projector can handle ten megapixels of data at a time, bringing the total to anywhere between 130 megapixels and 140 megapixels for the display. The higher number providing extra clarity when the user is expected to be squinting for a target on the display, or concentrating on a specific target. It allows for some dynamics as to the resolution in a given target area, as two projectors can be targeted on the area without affecting the rest of the diorama.

One of the most complex issues with any multiple-projector display is maintaining a steady lumen count. Lumen is a measure of brightness, and if one projector is brighter than another it will show up markedly inside the simulator. If one projector is displaying a predominately dark image the other a predominately bright image – shadow contrasted to full sun for example – then even if the projectors are calibrated to the same lumen standard, there may be some drop off in the overall brightness of one, enough to be noticeable.

The R-360 counteracts this by using the DynaColor system. Whilst a trademark of Barco, Dynacolor literally means dynamic colour, and refers to an increasingly common trend in multiple projector systems, where the projectors are not treated as individual display systems, but all work in unison, not just displaying their relevant parts of the image, but being aware of what parts their neighbours are currently displaying, and the calculated intensity of the light they will be emitting. This means the individual projectors recalibrate frame to frame, to deliver as seamless a light-level as possible, one blending into the other smoothly.

This of course also means the system has a certain inherent flexibility for day and night usage – it can simulate the light levels of night flight accurately through another application of the same concept. The projectors working in harmony to ensure that the total light that reaches the user inside, accurately reflects the amount of light they would truly encounter in a variety of night time scenarios, ranging from a pitch black night to a full moon in a cloudless sky.

In additon, these projectors are the first so far in flight simulation – or any military simulation – to be able to display images in infrared. If the user physically dons night vision goggles, they can see halo and blooming effects exactly as they would physically. Again, this is in order to maximise realism for more accurate training.

Finally the system is networkable, so multiple such systems, or other simulation setups can be used together, and mounts happily on a standard flight simulation base, for realistic motions.

Above, one of the hemispheres is separated from the other, so you can see the level of detail on the inside of the display system as the pilot is diving towards the ground. The user would normally be sitting inside, in a mock-up cockpit totally enclosed by the sphere.

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