Research Development & Human Factors Laboratory

Distributed Environment for Simulation, Rapid Engineering & Experimentation (DESIREE)

DESIREE is a simulation platform for Air Traffic Control (ATC) ground systems developed by the FAA's Research, Development, and Human Factors Laboratory (RDHFL). This platform is used for rapid prototyping and human factors experimentation.

Rapid prototyping involves constructing a model quickly. This term is used most often to describe an iterative process in which a model of a system (typically the user interface) is constructed and adapted in a series of iterative review-change cycles. The intent is to quickly converge on a solution to some design problem. After a rapid prototyping exercise, one is typically left with a model that forms the basis for an actual product. DESIREE provides realistic Terminal and En Route ATC simulations simultaneously and is now the de facto standard ATC Simulator for the RDHFL.

The DESIREE user interface is programmable, a feature that allows the simulator to be used for rapid prototyping. It uses a unique internal messaging scheme, which allows nearly any data to be recorded for later analysis and also permits DESIREE to use scripted events. DESIREE emulates multiple En Route and Terminal sectors with automatic handoff and transfer of control features.

Eye Tracker

The RDHFL uses the eye tracker to monitor and analyze the air traffic controller's scanning patterns by processing the eye camera signal and computing both pupil diameter and line of gaze or fixation. The subject's point of gaze is displayed in real-time on the scene monitor and to an output control unit that connects to our data analysis software for further processing.

The RDHFL uses two software programs to analyze the eye tracker data.

The first combines the point-of-gaze data from the eye tracker with the radar data from the controller's display for real-time playback of the simulation. The eye point of gaze is superimposed on the radar display. This visual representation of the data aids the researcher in pinpointing key points in the simulation for further investigation.

The second program is the Eye Tracker Analysis Software (ITAP). This program combines the eye tracker output with radar data and information on the room layout to provide a complete breakdown of the subject's viewing pattern. Each point of interest in the room is defined as a scene plane. The eye tracker data reports which scene plane the subject was looking at. Using this information, ITAP can calculate values for time spent looking at each scene plane. These values, defined as fixations, can be matched up with the radar data to provide the most likely target object for each fixation. Finally, ITAP calculates other values such as conditional information, visual efficiency, eye motion workload, and pupil motion workload.

ODS Toolbox

The ODS Toolbox was originally designed to support software development and customization for operational display systems in the ATC domain. The ODS Toolbox is a general-purpose tool to build systems and applications in which dynamic objects are visualized within an interactive graphical user interface.

Typical examples of such applications are:

  • ATC
  • Vessel Traffic Services
  • Transport
  • Network management and control
  • Command and Control Centers
  • Simulation and Visualization of Complex Systems

The ODS Toolbox supports the specification, design, implementation, and maintenance of such applications. The ODS Toolbox also supports a step-by-step migration from legacy systems to open systems. With more than 1000 installations, the ODS Toolbox has become the de-facto standard for new European ATC projects within the framework of the Eurocontrol European Air Traffic Control Harmonisation and Integration Programme activities. Since most of those installations are in the ATC domain, the following explanations and examples are often ATC-specific; however, most features are, of course, easily applicable to other areas.


The development of the ODS Toolbox has always been closely linked to the definition and use of operational and technical standards (such as COPS/ODID and UNIX/POSIX/X). The ODS Toolbox was the first ATC system development tool to be fully based on standard software and hardware architectures. The system runs on a wide range of standard equipment from different vendors, including most UNIX and MS-Windows NT platforms. Software developed on top of the ODS Toolbox is portable across these platforms. This ensures a low initial investment alongside good investment protection.

The ODS Toolbox supports different display types ranging from X-terminals over workstation monitors to high-resolution (2k x 2k or more) raster scan displays with various graphics controllers. Also supported are multiple display configurations (main and support screen) as well as different input devices (keyboard, mouse, trackball, touch input).

High-level development tools enable the developer to concentrate on the application itself. which significantly improves productivity. The use of the ODS Toolbox does not require special programming skills in C/C++ or in basic graphical libraries such as OSF/Motif, the X Window System, or OpenGL. The ODS Toolbox offers a comprehensive solution for the realization of the display software with high-performance, object-oriented run-time libraries, powerful editors for easy configuration and maintenance, and various service modules (e.g., recording and replay).

Virtual Reality Capabilities

The FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center has developed state-of-the-art capabilities for researching the areas of virtual environments and advanced visualization, also known as Virtual Reality. Virtual Reality is a concept for computer-human interfaces, based on new technologies and techniques, which are more natural and effective than existing interfaces. Users can dynamically interact with 3D graphical representations of concepts, designs, and data sets that might otherwise be too complex to visualize.

Presagis Creator

The Presagis Creator is an industry-standard 3D graphics editor used to create and modify realistic 3D graphic scenes, which can be viewed in real-time using Vega Viewer. Creator allows the building of robust models of real-life equipment and facilities in a minimum amount of time. Presagis's proprietary file format, OpenFlight, is highly optimized for real-time interaction. It is also an industry-standard format supported on SGI and Intel platforms.


Vega is a software environment used to immerse computer scientists in real-time, virtual reality simulations. Graphical tools provide advanced simulation functionality and support the rapid prototyping of complex visual simulations for SGI and Intel computer systems.

Siemens JACK

Siemens JACK provides synthetic human models and supports the construction of custom human models. JACK allows the evaluation of how people perform functions, how they fit or interact with environments, and how and why they become injured. JACK reduces human factor oversights in product development stages.

Other Capabilities Used in Virtual Reality Lab

  • Unity
  • Oculus
  • Autodesk CAD
  • 3ds Max
  • Blender
  • Leap Motion
Last updated: Thursday, March 14, 2024