That awesome beach volleyball scene aside, Goose's death in Top Gun still makes that film too difficult for me to watch. And I can only assume that avoiding such tragedies through adequate training is what inspired Barco to create this domed simulator that provides pilots with a 360 degree, unobstructed view of their virtual surroundings.
The name Barco might not ring a bell, but there's a good chance you've enjoyed their digital cinema projectors at your theater without knowing it. The company specializes in large format projection technology, which is what makes their new fully immersive simulator a reality. A large, eleven foot diameter acrylic sphere is bathed in light by thirteen projectors which, according to Reuters, each produce a ten megapixel image. Lasers are then used to perfectly align the projections so the seams are invisible, making the simulated effect more convincing.
But alignment wasn't the biggest technical challenge in making the dome work. The light from the projectors passes right through the frosted dome, potentially washing out areas of the image on the other side that are supposed to be dark. And since the simulator is designed for flight training, the brighter sky portions of the projected image tend to produce a lot of ambient light inside the dome. So Barco's engineers had to develop a special system to deal with reflections so the contrast levels perfectly matched what a pilot would see in an actual aircraft.
The simulator has been in development since 2009, but has already been purchased by the Israeli Air Force who hope to have it installed and fully operational by sometime next year. [Reuters via BoingBoing]