Full Sail University

Full Sail’s Simulation Lab Transports Visitors to New Realms

The space features a motion platform and projection-mapped walls that are literally out of this world.

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Full Sail’s Simulation Lab is tucked in the corner of Building 2, right between a handful of standard classrooms and the Dub Stage. But walking into the space, visitors are instantly transported to the desert planet of Jakku. In the middle of the room, there’s a motion platform (built by aerospace motion control company Moog) that’s been modified to look like the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Projection mapping on the walls provides an added layer of immersion as a cinematic score floats through the air from unseen speakers. Pat Starace, a course director in the Simulation and Visualization bachelor’s program, walks over to a computer in the corner.

“This is the computer that runs the simulation,” he says, patting the tower. “Behind us, in the critical server room, is another computer that has three graphics cards. Each one controls a projector. So we’re running a networked instance of the experience, where we’re able to have someone piloting the simulator in VR, and the audience can see exterior shots projection-mapped on the walls.”

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A fiber-optic network runs from the server room to the Simulation Lab, creating a lightning-fast, seamless experience for both the person on the platform and spectators. The base can be reprogrammed and reskinned for virtually any experience. It’s been a giant mech warrior and a space shuttle landing simulator. This is the second time it’s been the Millennium Falcon. The platform itself is a larger version of one the students build during their initial months in the program.

Pat picks up a model motion platform from the desk.

“This model has a payload capacity equal to the weight of a gerbil,” he says. “Full Sail is all about being hands-on, and here’s where we close the loop and get their hands on a real, industrial-sized motion base.”

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He then points to the platform in the middle of the room. “That one has a payload capacity of 3,000 pounds, which my students calculated to be about 24,000 gerbils.”

Simulation and Visualization students work in the lab during their Project and Portfolio VI and VII courses — their final two classes before graduation. Because projects can take months to complete, they’re often run as a relay, with different cohorts of students taking over for those who have graduated. That’s typical of the industry, says Pat, noting that – whether developing military simulators, surgical training tools, or immersive entertainment experiences – these endeavors require large teams of collaborators.

“When they come here, it’s like coming to work. Sometimes you come into a job, and you’re at the beginning of the project, sometimes the middle, sometimes the end. We’re trying to show them how the pipeline works. It’s not about any one student; it’s about all of us working on a collaborative project,” he says.