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Kelowna company gives NASA insights

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 | 10:16 am

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An Okanagan invention is now being used by NASA scientists to get a deeper understanding of how the brain reacts to severe conditions.

NASA’s Cognitive State Monitoring Lab purchased a Dreamflyer-Driven Flight Simulation system to complete what could wind up being life-saving research.

It, in combination with optical neuro-imaging technology will be used to monitor and understand human performance and thought patterns in extreme environments, said Diana Groffen, director of sales for FMS Flight Motion Simulators Inc.

NASA representatives have said the results from those studies will be used to improve flight deck safety, although they may have further reaching implications.

Among the possible uses are:

•    Brain-computer interface for prosthetic activation
•    Biofeedback for self-training, craving control
•    Brain-controlled gaming applications
•    Cognitive assessment for Alzheimer’s disease

All of those possibilities extend far beyond what inventor Doc Holloway originally imagined. The South Okanagan man came up with the Dreamflyer in 2007 after around four years of trial and error. At that time, he expected little more than to supplement the income he made off of his Penticton computer business.

The DreamFlyer looks like a bare cockpit, with control stick, pedals and throttle. Grounded pilots sit in a suspended chair which then projects their body movements onto a computer screen running a Flight simulator, allowing them to feel like they’re wooshing over mountain tops, instead of sitting in a room.

After touring it through a few avaition shows it gained the attention of Microsoft employees who matched it with the new Flight X Simulator software, for the sake of promotion.

From there the product took off, was tweaked a bit more and Holloway stepped back. Taking a less central role in its evolution.
The Dreamflyer, which is now head-quartered out of Kelowna, continued to gain the spotlight in international competitions, publications and among industry experts.

It has been featured in PC Magazine and the Discovery Channel, among others, and has has won several awards including the Innovations Design and Engineering Honoree Award at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  It was also a finalist in the International Last Gadget Standing competition held in Dubai last year.

It’s been used extensively in aviation training, as well. The Canadian Air Force teach approx 65 air cadets to fly real Schweizer gliders each summer at Gimli, their instructors use the Dreamflyer to enhance their training.

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