Seeing is believing with high-definition train simulator

A new train simulator codeveloped by Fujitsu offers unparalleled realism thanks to high-definition video shot on actual train lines.

A new train simulator codeveloped by Fujitsu offers unparalleled realism thanks to high-definition video shot on actual train lines.

The video accurately captures the real-life environment seen by drivers that is missing from older simulation systems that rely on computer graphics. The surrounding buildings, the multitude of signs, commuters, and other landmarks along the tracks of Tokyo's Toyoko Line were all present on a high-definition display that represented the window of a make-believe train during a demonstration at a Fujitsu event in Tokyo on Thursday.

The video was shot at 60 frames per second and is combined with a Fujitsu video processing system to ensure it remains natural-looking no matter what the speed of the simulated train. Without the additional processing, the video might look odd if the simulated train speed differed too much from the speed of the real train from which the images were shot.

The system was developed with Ongakukan, a video game and simulator developer in Japan, which released its first train simulation game in 1995. Its latest train-based game, Railfan, uses high-definition video clips but doesn't have the same level of compensation for speed.

In the simulator the video is mixed with computer graphics in order to incorporate all the details present in an actual train dashboard. All the sounds normally heard by the driver, including train announcements, passing cars and operational sounds such as braking, are present in the system.

Weather changes and accidents such as earthquakes and even suicides, which are an all-too-common occurrence on railways in Japan, can also be simulated. The precise environment provided by the simulator improves the skills of train operators and prepares them for the real thing.

The simulator is offered to railway operators and will run on systems ranging from a single laptop to a full-blown train simulator. For anything above single-seat operations Fujitsu offers it as a centrally managed service so that changes to the training system, like variations on the train routes or weather, can be deployed easily. Prices start at ÂYEN 30 million (US$286,000) for a single seat.

Fujitsu aims to sell at least 100 systems in the next three years and plans on developing similar simulation systems for other countries. So far, its software partner Ongakukan has made train-simulation games based on the railways in France, Germany and Taiwan.

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