Tampa Power Squadrons Building a MuVIT System 
simulation of harborage

Introduction

The MuVIT™ platform was designed to be a low-cost, yet fully functional virtual trainer.  Among the requirements defined by the Tampa Power Squadron when the project was initially conceived was:  That the virtual environment and vessels behave in ways consistent with the real marine environment; That all components should be commercial off-the-shelf parts with no proprietary parts. Tampa Power Squadron believes that these goals have met and exceeded due to the capabilities of the software and the minimal system requirements.  Our testing indicates that the present MuVIT configuration should be able to run on any relatively modern laptop.

Acquisition Methods

All components of the MuVIT platform were sourced from either Amazon or an OEM who does direct to market sales. Sources for each item are noted below.

MuVIT Costed Bill of Materials

Computer System Requirements *

Operating System: Windows XP (Min. service pack 2), Windows Vista or Windows 7 (32 and 64 bits OS supported) Processor: 3 Ghz P4 Intel or AMD equivalent processor Graphics: Geforce 8800GT or ATI Radeon 4850 with 256MB ram Hard disk space: 3500 MB Drive: 4x PC DVD-ROM - Optional DirectX: version 9.0c RAM: 2GB (Windows XP) or 3GB (Vista or Windows 7) Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible Input: Mouse with scroll wheel and keyboard

* Tampa Configuration

HP 4520A Probook - Discontinued but any modern laptop should work. Approx. $700 I5 Processor 8 GB RAM ATI Radeon HD 7650m or equivalent. NOTE: Older Intel chipsets are NOT supported. You can use this website to determine if your graphics are compatible. If your PC or laptop was made since 2010 it is probably compatible. Most reasonably modern computers will meet or exceed the minimum requirements. The minimum CPU is a single core 3 Ghz processor so any i3 or better CPU should work.  Check the system capabilities by opening the windows control panel, select System and Security, select System and then click on Device Manager. Select Display Adapters or Processors to determine if a machine meets the minimum requirements. Systems capabilities can also be tested by downloading the demo software from http://www.shipsim.com/.

Software

The software that Tampa Squadron ultimately selected for MuVIT was ShipSim 2008. http://www.shipsim.com/products/shipsimulator2008  This product has almost every item on our wish list.  While no longer under active development by the vendor VSTEP, the product is fully mature and meets the requirements Tampa Squadron specified.  To date, no bugs in functionality have been encountered with the ShipSim software.  The software allows the operator to modify most parameters relative to the vessel and environment while providing a number of both internal and external views making it an ideal classroom trainer for both America’s Boating Course as well as more advanced courses that the United States Power Squadrons offer such as Pilot and Advanced Piloting.  The development of educational scenarios is supported by the software’s mission editor which is an added bonus to instructors allowing them to build custom scenarios to enhance the textbook and classroom lessons.  Finally, with the low cost of $25-$35, the software is affordable for the most stringent of squadron budgets.

Peripheral Devices

Due to the nature of the external controls to the system there exist numerous opportunities for customization. The first MuVIT platform used a basic steering wheel and a set of Saitek throttles designed for flight simulators.  Although these are perfectly functional, Tampa Squadron elected to upgrade to a more expandable and user friendly interface with more granular controls and enhanced capabilities.  Both of these configurations use a basic USB interface to allow easy configuration and plug and play compatibility.  The devices we found compatible are shown below and vary in price from $50 to $400.

Logitech WingMan Formula Force GP Wheel with Pedals - Approx. $55

MuVIT does not use the pedals, so those can be set aside or discarded. Also, the force feedback is not used; however, the wheel performs well for its intended purpose which is a helm wheel.  Some minimal configuration is required which will be demonstrated on the MuVIT online support page. The wheel, pictured above, meets all the requirements of the MuVIT software.  There are four (4) buttons on the front which can be configured. The Tampa Squadron configured two of these as a horn and visual zoom (binoculars).  Additionally, there are two (2) paddles on the rear of the wheel which can be used to provide a 360 degree field of vision rotating in either direction based on which paddle is selected. A video of how to configure each button and paddle will be available on the Tampa Squadron website in the near future. Any wheel which has a USB connector is likely to be compatible.  However, wireless wheels which use a USB dongle are problematic and their use with MuVIT is not recommended.

 

VRInsight - Ship Console - $399.99

VRInsight Store fspilotshop.com (see note below) The throttle assembly tested was Ship Console by VRInsight.  At $400, this is not an inexpensive control, but it does bring a lot to the table.  First, the case and controls are metal which makes this unit stable, but not heavy.  This unit does not slide around and requires no complicated mounting to keep it in place.  The throttles have a neutral detent with a click while shifting between forward and reverse, so setting the position for neutral is both easy and repeatable.  Prior to the Ship Console upgrade, operation of the MuVIT software required that use of the mouse to select options like chart plotter view, zoom, point of view, etc.  VRInsight’s console has 26 back-lit buttons which can be mapped to any function, so the mouse is no longer needed. There is also a separate steering control, but if you have a wheel the joystick steering is not needed.  Presently, Tampa Squadron is investigating a sailing module which may use the joystick for sail trim. The Ship Console by VRInsight is the recommended throttle/console at this time.  Configuration options and examples will be available on the Tampa Squadron website. Note: We have recently had reports of very extended delays in acquiring these consoles from VRinsight. After researching vendors we found fspilotshop.com carries them and they are sourced from their Florida warehouse.

Is your squadron building a trainer? If so let us know so we can list you with the other

squadrons using the latest technology.

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