Sunday, 19 August 2012

Hearing Voices - part four

And the winner is...........

No wait, before that let me explain how my last day's testing went.

I fired up Multi Crew Experience with the headset mic and flew the reverse of my previous test flight, this time from Glasgow to Manchester international.  Recognition was greatly improved, although I'm still unable to get the copilot to run many checklists.  But ATC comms was way up in the 90% range, and starting at the quieter Glasgow meant that I found it a lot easier to "get a word in edgeways" and acknowledge the IFR clearance.  I also started a second flight from Manchester to Dublin, but that suffered from some graphical glitches unrelated to MCE that forced me to terminate the flight over the Irish Sea.

Basically, with MCE set to start automatically on FSX startup and with the "stop nagging me" instruction to cut down on the "human" chatter, and with a little practice and giving fairly minimalist responses to ATC, everything worked smoothly.  I even played around with the cabin crew and ground mechanic options (although having asked ground for the pushback, I forgot about him and may have run him over when I started taxi-ing)

Then I fired up VoxATC.  On startup I had to wait several minutes while it initialised and loaded all the voices.  Then, when the ATC interactions began, I looked at the precise script I was being asked to read out.  Then I thought about the free-form responses MCE handled.  Then I looked at the VoxATC window again.

Then I uninstalled the VoxATC demo.  Having to read out a precise wording every time, whether prompted or unprompted, just felt too artificial.  Combine that with the long term cost of having to buy several 3rd party voices to give VoxATC the same variety as the default MS ATC, and VoxATC clearly wasn't the way to go.

Then this morning, I fired up It's Your Plane with the idea of doing a couple of last test runs with that.

And it threw up the usual "FSUIPC not open" error on aircraft startup.  Then stalled completely.  Then I had to drop back to Windowed mode, close the IYP window and restart it.  Then I had to wait while it ran through its startup routine, then the advertising speech about going to the website and the unnecessary command to start speech recognition.

And then I uninstalled it.

Sorry.  But I just want to get into the simulation and fly with a minimum of fuss.  VoxATC just needs you to open the VoxATC panel on an aircraft that has it installed, MCE can be configured to automatically start with FSX.  No fuss no muss.  IYP was just dragging me out of the sim world too much and taking too long and too much fuss to get its act together before we could fly.  It's a shame, because I really like the vibe I got from makers Pacific Feelings Media, and am impressed by their commitment to opening up the world of flight simulation to blind and visually impaired pilots (yes, blind pilots.  Who'd a thunk it?)  A lot of the extra bells and whistles IYP offers sound nice, but then again I can't test them because they're disabled in the demo.

To be brutally honest, the limitations in the demo are actually a major factor in why I decided against IYP.  I understand why Pacific Feelings set it up that way.  Having decided on a time unlimited demo, they don't want people to get a useful add-on effectively for free.  But personally I think that's bass-ackwards.  With almost all the cool features of IYP disabled (SuperATC, Copilot assistance during takeoff and landing)  AND you being limited to using it on a simple aircraft like the default Cessna 172 (which doesn't really need a copilot), I just don't think a potential buyer is going to get anything like an accurate picture of how IYP is going to work for them.  If I'm flying an aircraft that's listed as unsupported, will IYP be able to fly it?  Or even interface with its basic systems?  No way of telling, because the demo's limited to the Cessna.  Will I like having the inflight music option?  No way of knowing because it's disabled in the demo.  How useful is it for me to hand the plane over to Michelle to fly for a bit?  No way of knowing, because it's disabled in the demo.  How natural does the SuperATC feel to use?  No way of knowing... etc etc etc.

So we're left with the winner, and the lucky recipient of my credit card details...


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