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Game Design's New Theme Park Ride

June 15, 2012 —

Drexel Game Design, an interdisciplinary program between Westphal's Game Art & Production major and Computer Science, part of the College of Engineering, has a new motion platform system to build motion-based games for immersive simulation environments that can be used for both entertainment and for serious gaming and training purposes. A motion simulator or motion platform is a mechanism that encapsulates occupants and creates the feeling of being in a moving vehicle. Motion simulators fall into two categories based on whether the occupant is controlling the vehicle, as is the case in our new system, or the occupant is a passive rider. Our new 2-ton, 3-DOF motion platform simulator was generously donated by William Mitchell and Environmental Tectonics Corporation (ETC), where Mr. Mitchell is Chief Executive Officer and President. Rob Lloyd, President and Chief Creative Officer of ETC's The Ride Works division, which produced the simulator, facilitated the donation and transfer of the simulator. The motion platform system is currently configured as the original Wild Earth Safari experience, a three and a half minute Safari jeep adventure that takes users on an exciting virtual ride, bumps and all, through the African outback.

ETC creates cutting-edge motion simulators used by the United States Navy and Air Force to train and prepare aviators for combat and provides simulated training environments in more than 80 countries.  The new simulator at Drexel offers research and learning opportunities for students and faculty to build new simulator environments for space travel, theme park rides, disaster response training and aviation. It uses a combination of gaming technology and hydraulic activation to produce a simulated training environment that mirrors real world scenarios for users.  

This project is being led by Dr. Paul Diefenbach, head of the Game Art & Production major in the Digital Media program, who is seeking students from Digital Media, Computer Science, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, and other majors to work collaboratively on one or more projects involving this motion base. "This generous donation by ETC provides Drexel faculty and students an opportunity few universities can offer,” said Dr. Diefenbach.  “Our multi-discipline game design program greatly benefits by adding this simulator to our other cutting-edge resources such as our Vicon motion capture studio, our laser scanners, 3D cameras and projection systems, and our CAVE virtual reality systems.  This simulator will permit us to investigate next-generation theme park rides, training and simulation environments, and other collaborative multi-discipline projects that we have not yet even imagined."

William Mitchell is a Drexel alumnus and has been a generous supporter of the University.  His philanthropy has made possible the William F. Mitchell Auditorium in the Bossone Research Center. Dr. Diefenbach has previously collaborated with ETC and he was instrumental in securing the donation from ETC and finding a home for it on the first floor of the Woodring Labs. If you're interested in working with Dr. Diefenbach, contact him at pjdief@drexel.edu or learn more about Drexel's game research and the motion platform at replay.drexel.edu.

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