3D Immersive Environment Using X-Plane for Depth Perception Research

Marc Winterbottom, Logan Williams, Michael Browne, and Jim Gaska
OBVA Laboratory, USAF School of Aerospace Medicine
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH

Charles J. Lloyd
Visual Performance, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

From the proceedings of the 2015 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), Orlando, Florida.


Game-based flight simulation software has been shown to provide a reliable, low-cost, virtual environment able to facilitate a wide range of training and research objectives. In this work, which is part of the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine Operational Based Vision Assessment program, game-based simulation software was used to render an immersive three-dimensional constructive environment within a helmet mounted display (HMD) for weapons platform specific vision research and to quantify the impact of aircrew vision on selected operational tasks. In this work, an operationally relevant MH-60 call-to-landing task was simulated to provide data relevant to the applicability of U.S. Air Force Flying Class III depth perception standards. The specific simulation system consisted of a high-resolution (1920x1200) 55° field-of-view binocular HMD with infrared head tracking, in which two instances of X-Plane were stereoscopically rendered to the HMD using separate PCs, both incorporating Intel i7 processors and Quadro K4200 video cards with Quadro Sync. This paper details the overall design, implementation, and validation of the virtual environment used to simulate the MH-60 call-to-landing task, including stereoscopic rendering using game-based simulation software, hardware/software stereo rendering limitations, HMD warping, and head-tracker integration. The minimum perceived stereo threshold capabilities of this system are also quantified, including discussion of its applicability to simulated tasks requiring precise depth discrimination. This work will provide an example simulation framework for future stereoscopic virtual immersive environments applicable to both research and training.