Audio-Visual System Design Recommendations from Experience with the UMTRI Driving Simulator.

Paul Green, Christopher Nowakowski, Ken Mayer, Omer Tsimhoni

Sometimes simulator designers are so enamored of the technology to create detailed road scenes that they lose sight of the goals that guide simulator design, with usability suffering as a result. The third generation UMTRI Driving Simulator was designed with 4 goals in mind: (1) facilitating running experiments, (2) support demonstrations, (3) facilitate configuration verification and troubleshooting, and (4) provide high quality audio and video signals. The time spent on demonstrations (to sponsors, the public, and the media) can equal the time testing subjects and the impact of those demonstrations can be significant. Further, the time spent troubleshooting equipment, especially the cameras, cables, amplifiers, etc. associated with the audiovisual system can far exceed the time spent on demonstrations and testing subjects.

This paper lists 30 recommendations for designing a simulator audiovisual system. For many recommendations, specific model numbers or web sites are provided. Noteworthy recommendations in support of the testing and demonstration goals (1 and 2) concern (a) the camera locations to consider (face, screen, interior, feet), (b) hiding cameras (yes, using lipstick cameras), (c) monitoring of the experiment (the operator should see everything), (d) audio and visual switching (use a one, not multiple mixers for each input and output modality), (e) assuring visitors can see and hear everything subjects see and hear, (f) accommodating TV crews, (g) light controls (use black carpet), and (h) power (provide UPS for all critical items). To facilitate troubleshooting (goal 3), label and diagram everything, use geared tripod heads to aim the LCD projectors, and provide access to the front and back of all equipment. Finally, to assure signal quality (goal 4), use broadcast quality components, especially shielded cable, and double check all hand made cables.

Although many of the recommendations may seem obvious in hindsight, many were not thought of during planning of a new simulator by a team with considerable experience with using and developing driving simulators. Users of existing simulators and those building new simulators should benefit from the recommendations in this paper.

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