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Making Better Waves for Maritime Sims

May. 15, 2013 - 01:14PM   |  
By ALAN DRON   |   Comments
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Does one ocean wave look very much like the next? Not to experienced mariners, who find the water effects in today’s ship simulators far from realistic.

Today’s sims generally render the sea by putting cheap texture tricks on top of flat polygons. Software provider VT MÄK aims to change that. The latest versions of its VR Vantage and VR-Forces software reflect a closer depiction of the behavior of water – both on the surface and below.

“Our goal is to provide a high-quality visual environment for people used to standing on a boat, looking out of a bridge window and used to recognizing various sea states,” said Jim Kogler, director of COTS products for MÄK.

“In general, there are essentially three types of wave: swells, wind waves and capillary waves,” Kogler said. “Swells are caused by winds many miles away, wind waves by local winds that give small, choppy waves that cause a boat to bounce around, and capillary waves are small and create a blurry effect that prevents you seeing a reflection.”

VR Vantage 1.6 aims to reproduce these effects. It also attempts to provide more realistic views through simulated submarine periscopes. Submarines operating in peacetime work their way into much closer proximity to vessels than you might think, Kogler said, in order to photograph their submerged hulls.

“They do get extraordinarily close,” he said, citing the book “Stalking the Red Bear,” a tale of the covert Cold War activities of a U.S. nuclear submarine.

The new release will reproduce effects such as the propeller turbulence and Kelvin wakes, the patterns of divergent waves generated as the bow moves through the water.

While VR Vantage 1.6 improves the look of the sea, VR-Forces 4.2 aims to better model its behavior. Developers have added phenomena such as thermoclines, the temperature layers that reflect sonar beams and give submarines places to hide. Kogler said the upgrades mean that the problems facing anti-submarine warfare operators can now be accurately reproduced.

VR-Forces 4.2 is MÄK’s long-running computer-generated forces software that simulates a variety of forces or vessels for a user to interact with. The new version adds new weapons and what Kogler describes as a “major upgrade of its naval capabilities” in both the surface and sub-surface realms.

Kogler concedes that other products exist to simulate naval combat, but says MÄK’s software is more easily configured for individual customers than is the competition’s. Customers’ requirements “are all slightly different,” he said.

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