Many of us associate simulators with the aviation industry, but the truth is that they are used across a whole host of sectors within society. Technology has advanced rapidly in the last half-century, and the simulators we see today are wildly different from how they first looked. We’ll look at the history of simulators and what industries they have been used for.
Although they are most associated with aviation, it’s more than just flight that this kind of tech is used to simulate nowadays. For example, in 2018, Zambia purchased two simulators to assist miners underground. Copper mining still makes up over 70% of the country’s exports, and these simulators were used to train the local workforce. Simulators have even crossed the divide into popular entertainment and gaming, with the popularity of Aviator in Zambia increasing recently. The crash game allows players to bet and cash out before the game crashes.
There are also plenty of simulator options in the video game market that allow you to drive vehicles like trucks and buses – The Sims is one of the most popular simulation games on the market, allowing players to create characters and manage their lives as if they were their own.
History of Simulators
To understand how we have reached this point where we are playing simulation video games, we need to go back all the way to the start of the 20th century. Early simulators – such as those pioneered by Edwin Link – became especially popular in the 1930s, allowing pilots to quickly learn about flight paths and flying at different speeds.
The first commercial simulator came to the market a few decades later, in the 1950s. Although it’s hard to believe now, it didn’t move up or down to mimic takeoff and landing. It was a replica of the cockpit of a commercial liner, but that was it.
In the 1970s, more technologically advanced simulators arrived, transforming the aviation industry. Now, simulators are so advanced that they mimic exactly the feel of flying a plane, regardless of the commercial airliner. This provides trainee pilots and others interested in flying a plane with the exact experience in a cockpit; their controls are the same; a screen shows them flying through the sky; and the weight of the plane is even copied as well. Simulation technology is now so advanced that turbulence caused by adverse weather conditions and crash landings can be replicated too.
Simulators are now used across countless industries, appearing everywhere from athletics to the military, government departments, and transport. They can help athletes achieve better body positioning, or help military personnel learn how to use machinery. Furthermore, simulation is often used in construction, helping workers such as crane operators learn how to operate heavy machinery without the associated dangers.
As with everything, the influence of technology is only increasing, and what comes next in the simulator industry remains to be seen, especially in relation to what sector it can transform next.