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Barco is a global technology leader that develops networked visualization solutions for the entertainment, enterprise and healthcare markets. Its solutions make a visible impact, allowing people to enjoy compelling entertainment experiences; to foster knowledge sharing and smart decision-making in organizations and to help hospitals provide their patients with the best possible healthcare.
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Under the hood of Barco’s training and simulation projectors
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2023
Under the hood of Barco’s training and simulation projectors

Feb. 13, 2023 - What makes Barco's training and simulation projectors such a success? Is it the lens, the light source, the software? Clearly, it's a combination of factors. But there's one important element that is often overlooked, although it could be considered the beating heart of Barco's simulation projectors. We're talking about Barco Pulse, the electronics backbone that is integrated in all of Barco's flagship projection platforms. Let's have a look under the hood.

Barco has been in the simulation business for decades and knows the requirements of this market extremely well. In terms of projection technology, there's probably no other application where hyper-realism, image quality and detail are so critical. When entering a simulator, trainees need to believe they are actually in the simulated environment, or at least the environment needs to be replicated as realistically as possible.

While Barco is a recognized name for its projectors, it has a strong legacy in image processing as well. The company has always had a strong focus on proprietary development and it has the Image Processing (IP) portfolio to prove it. In 2017, Barco's continuous innovation efforts resulted in the launch of a dedicated embedded image processing platform, Barco Pulse, which has since been the beating heart of the company's flagship projectors.

What makes the Barco Pulse platform so interesting for the simulation market? How does it meet to the high expectations of realism from its simulation users? There are at least three elements we need to consider.

1. Higher resolutions and near-zero latency

For simulator projectors, lifelike images are critical. Trainees typically see their visuals from up close and notice any inaccuracy immediately, which means that the feeling of immersive reality is easily shattered. Resolution, combined with appropriate refresh rate and brightness, needs to be high enough to accurately portray the details of the real world.

The Barco Pulse platform makes use of the company's proprietary Single Step Processing (SSP) technology. This enables all its native WQXGA simulation projectors to accept 4K input and output 4K resolutions (4096 x 2160, 3840 x 2400 or 3840 x 2160), or native 4K projectors to output 6K and 8K, in just one single processing step or frame. In fact, multiple heavy processing tasks, like pixel-shifting, warping and blending of an image, can be done in one single step, which keeps latency to an absolute minimum. The projectors' high bandwidth and SSP functionality results in a sharper image and less latency, compared to other solutions on the market.

Latency is the time between when an action is triggered by the user and the response to that action by the projected image. The importance of this concept cannot be overestimated. In simulation applications, user interaction needs to synch flawlessly with the projected image. Unfortunately, the more processes and different components involved in a simulation system, the higher the latency will be. Which is why it's a good idea to have a complete software and electronics backbone solution embedded in the projectors like Barco Pulse to reduce latency as much as possible.

2. Projecting on challenging surfaces

In multi-projector set-ups for simulators, badly composed surfaces can quickly lead to negative training experiences. This is where blending and warping technology comes in. Edge blending is the alignment of the projectors to remove the visible borders of the overlapping images for a seamless viewing experience. Projector warping, also called geometric correction, is the process of digitally manipulating the image data to make it look correct on the specific projection surface or shape.

With Barco Pulse, warping and blending capabilities are embedded in the projector software. Users can control their warping and blending settings directly from the projectors' user interface, or they can choose to add their own warping and blending solutions via the Barco Pulse command protocol (JSON-RPC). Geometry corrections performed in the projector only add minimal latency, since all image processing is done in one single step through the proprietary Barco SSP technology.

3. Smooth fast-moving content

While high resolution is important for image detail, it's often the ability to display images at high speed that makes a true difference in realism. In applications like flight or driving simulation, even the fastest moving scenarios need to be realistic.

Barco Pulse gives customers that extra bandwidth, which allows the projector to take input signals up to 4K @ 240 Hz or 8K @ 60 Hz for true-to-life image response and better ergonomics without image artifacts. Especially when displaying very fast-moving content, the images will appear a lot smoother in the 240 Hz system, as 60 Hz simply lacks the needed information to clearly visualize the objects. More frames per second improve the smoothness of motion and give more resolution and clarity. This increases the immersive feeling.

At the University of Applied Sciences in Kempten (Germany) for example, users testified that 240 Hz images from the Barco FL40 projectors for their driving simulator made all the difference: "For us, the frame rate is absolutely crucial. In high dynamic driving it is obvious you need this high frame rate, for example when the car starts to yaw. But it is also a great addition in other use cases. The upgrade from 60 Hz to 120 Hz was already a big step forward, but the move from 120 Hz to 240 Hz is just as big."

The high bandwidth electronics of Barco Pulse also reduces smearing effects, which often lead to dizziness and motion sickness in simulation applications. Thanks to Barco's Smear Reduction Processing (SRP) technology, Barco simulation projectors effortlessly handle fast-moving imagery.

The beating heart of simulation projection

Today, Barco Pulse is the processing platform for Barco's complete line of flagship projectors, including the UDX, UDM and F-series. This only underlines the industry's trust in Barco's innovative image processing platform. For users and system integrators, this also means that, when you know how to operate one Barco projector, you know how to operate any Barco projector.

The platform is upgradeable and future-proof, too. The release of Pulse 2.0 brought a new layout, a more uniform user interface, additional interface languages, and the addition of Web Analyzer – an online troubleshooting tool. It's a platform in continuous development and new features and additions are constantly implemented.