|From Tactical to Practical|
Part 2: LookSea lays it out like an easy video game—integration simplified, brain cycles saved!
By Ben Ellison
After all, as big a leap as boat navigation took from pencil on paper chart to plotter or PC, the process still demands the more or less constant deciphering of cartography and matching it up against reality, especially in tight quarters. As we get used to high-quality vector charts, a feature that’s really coming to the fore is the ability to eliminate unneeded detail, like deep soundings, from our displays. LookSea excels in both these areas. When you first see it establish a video-reality reference augmented with 3-D representations of just the important info, you’re apt to exclaim, “Oh yeah!” Check out the foggy day screenshots at right; instead of interpreting the chart symbol for that green bell buoy, then eyeballing the real nav aid to confirm that you’re in the right place and so forth, leg by leg down the channel, LookSea lays it out like an easy video game—integration simplified, brain cycles saved!
I’m not kidding about the brain-cycle business. The Navy did some testing in the early years of ARVCOP development, when the solution was thought to be headgear that projected data semitransparently onto a helmsman’s goggles. Matched boats ran complicated courses, with one driver seeing a regular chart on his display, the other just the 3-D icons. Besides navigational accuracy, the test measured free brain cycles by having the driver hit a foot pedal when he detected a certain sequence in a stream of numbers being spoken into his earphones (the poor swab). The testing was ultimately inconclusive because of flaws in the headset technology, but Benton says that in some runs the driver using the LookSea-like display scored several hundred percent more free brain cycles.
Benton also showed me amazing videos of LCAC drivers using ARVCOP to successfully blast by dummy mines in limited visibility while in tight formation (that’s one use for those cross-track error “guardrails” seen in the screenshots). They seemed relaxed, implying that their brains weren’t overloaded. Now I’m sure you’re not planning to cruise around mines or enemy beaches anytime soon, but wouldn’t you enjoy having some extra brain cycles available as you noodle around an exotic isle in your expedition yacht?
Of course there’s more to LookSea Pro—much more. A full charting program running C-Map’s commercial-level CM-93 cartography is built in, and you can specify just which elements of it are overlaid on the video window, like the presence or dimensions of those guardrails. The range slider seen on the screen below controls how far away you want to visualize data. Then if you go to the “objects” screen, you’ll get a list of that data sorted by name or distance. Click an object anywhere you see it—list, map, or video—and it’s highlighted everywhere else. In other words, the camera view, whose footprint is marked in blue on the map window, not only shows but also nicely organizes the data most important to you.
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.