The desktop background of a cockpit is illuminated on Dr. Pavel Ikonomov’s computers crowding his office, making his hub simulate the looks of an air traffic control tower. The professor is no stranger to simulation.
Ikonomov is a professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at Western Michigan University with a specialization in virtual reality simulation. He trains his students to design in virtual reality to simulate how a product will operate.
“They make a virtual prototype,” he said. “They make the design to work and operate it as a real object.”
Students test and assemble the products they design, like submarines and spaceships, in a virtual world where they will not hurt themselves.
“Everything is projected through your eyes,” he said. “If you move around in virtual space, you can see what will happen in virtual space. To represent body movement, in this case the head and the hands, you have sensors. Everything moves as you move.”