Flight Test Evaluating Virtual Console Technology

Cliche? Perhaps; but I feel there is (maybe a lot) more to be done here.

The virtual console project is developing an alternative to the current hardware consoles. By using head worn displays the operator can be provided with more accessible display space while using less space, weight, and power. While such a workstation could be useful in many applications, the primary target is for airborne command and control platforms. As part of Boeing’s research into this concept it is necessary to understand how the system operates in an airborne environment.

Objective

The following specific objectives were defined:

  1. Determine the effect of airplane vibration on motion tracking and image stability.
  2. Determine if the text stability is sufficient for use by AWACS operators
  3. Determine if the image stability is sufficient for use by AWACS operators.
  4. Determine if the image quality of the Rockwell Collins SX45 is sufficient for AWACS PAD use.
  5. Evaluate issues related to limited field of view

Design

The aircraft used was the AWACS E-3 Sentry Test System 3. I flew along with the airplane on a Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX) flight.

The head worn display (HWD), infrared motion tracking system and test laptop were set up at an operator station were participants took turns performing the test. The subjects were AWACS operators assigned to the Joint Test Fleet and experienced with the tasks requested of test participants.

Method

Before the test the operators were briefed on the objectives of the project and the objectives of the test. The limitations of test system were described along with a brief description of how the test will be conducted.

Participants were shown a series of static images and simple animations in a slide show sequence. During each slide the operator was asked to perform a specific task, such as read a paragraph of text or locate a specific object among multiple similar objects. During each slide, quantitative measures were taken (e.g., time to complete) as well as qualitative feedback about the task. A subjective questionnaire, concerning the system as a whole, was given following the test.

Results