DART Design Philosophy
If you have been researching simulation training systems for your department, you may have noticed that DART doesn’t come with five screens, recoiling firearms, or complex video courseware. In an industry where these features are common, it’s fair to ask why they aren’t found in DART.
When designing a product, there are invariably trade-off decisions that make certain things possible on one hand but create limitations on the other.
For example, you can’t have five screens and portability.
While there is no doubt that multiple screens look neat, any real benefit they might offer isn’t worth the loss of portability. A truly portable system means that you can train anywhere – in a small office at the station, in a local school after hours, or in a stairwell. And portability brings a host of additional benefits as well.
- Trainees are free to move around since they are not barricaded in by screens behind them.
- Transportation, setup, tear down, and system calibration are all infinitely easier.
- It takes up a lot less storage space.
- There are far fewer components that can wear out or fail, reducing the chances of system downtime.
You can’t charge thousands of dollars for a training weapon with recoil (and its accompanying accessories) and expect your system to be affordable.
On the surface, training weapons with simulated recoil appear to offer a more realistic training experience, but the cost of purchasing and maintaining just two of them can be more than the cost of a complete DART system.
Ask around and you’ll find that recoil weapons are notoriously high-maintenance and malfunction so frequently that simulation companies often include non-recoil training weapons with each system so that the customer isn’t completely down when their recoil weapons break. Other points to consider are:
- Recoil generated by cartridge air is not the same as actual recoil, so it’s fair to question the true value of recoil training weapons.
- A landmark study by FLETC, which compared the scores of groups who trained with actual weapons to those who trained with non-recoil simulated weapons, found that differences in performance were “statistically insignificant”.
- Not only is it impossible for non-recoil training weapons to chamber a live round, but because there are significant differences in appearance, it is virtually impossible to confuse a training weapon for a live-weapon.
Note: While DART is compatible with many training weapons using electric or gas recoil, we continue to recommend non-recoil options for some of the reasons mentioned above.
It isn’t possible to base your training on branching video movies and expect it to be easy for customers to create or edit their own courseware.
We all know that a system that is too complex to use will eventually find its way to a storage closet – no matter what the department paid for it. The process of creating effective training video scenarios is not only difficult but expensive as well. Without going into exhaustive detail about the costs, equipment, and skills needed for video production, to say that the process is not easy is an understatement.
In fact, the process is so difficult and expensive, departments are left with no alternative but to purchase scenario packs from system manufacturers, which further increases the overall cost of ownership – and may or may not provide them with the training they are looking for.
And this just covers ease of use. There are numerous technical advantages that DART’s 3D system has compared to video.
When we designed DART, we made the conscious decision to pursue portability over multiple screens. We continue to recommend non-recoil training weapons because they are safer, much less expensive, and require virtually no maintenance. And we opted to build our simulator around a modern 3D environment (also capable of displaying video), instead of using the traditional approach of branching movies because it makes custom course creation not only possible but easy for the first time in the industry.
So, while DART may not have some of the features lauded by the big simulation companies, we (and hundreds and hundreds of our customers) believe that it’s better in the ways that really matter.