May 31, 2008

A Trip to England...

The "Morphis" Motion-based Entertainment Simulator

In the mid-1990's, my employer, Camber Corporation, established a new division called Camber Entertainment. The division was set up in Crawley, England, not far from London. We planned to develop a line of entertainment simulators. Since we already had a division that built flight simulators (Camber Flight Simulation, in Albuquerque), we thought that the two divisions would be synergistic. Although that never proved to be true, I got a wonderful trip to England out of the deal.

Most of the personnel in the new Camber Entertainment organization were former employees of Thomson Training and Simulation, part of a large European aerospace conglomerate. They were mostly "techies," deeply immersed in the technology of motion-based simulation devices. A couple were also astute market analysts who understood the various segments of the world market for entertainment simulators. Their contacts included many artsy creative types who were of a very different psyche from their techno-nerd brethren. It was a remarkably talented, extremely diverse group that came together in a common enterprise.

The group decided to develop three separate product lines -- a small one- or two-person simulator for mall venues, a larger 14 to 20 passenger "pod" type ride for larger markets, such as museums and amusement parks, and a line of large theater-sized motion and sound seating systems. They decided to develop the pod configuration first. Our CEO, Walter Batson, asked me to go to Crawley to develop the master plan (road map) and schedule for the project.

I flew to Gatwick airport, only a few miles from Crawley, and was picked up by a couple of the new Camber employees. Our site manager, Paul Spence, introduced me to many members of the team and we began to subdivide the project into manageable pieces. The next day, we were joined by several other participants, including Nigel Brown, who owned a factory and would be manufacturing our prototype units. There were artists, engineers, sound specialists, marketeers, and technicians. For the next six days, I coralled this unlikely group and tried to keep them focused on the job at hand.

I used Microsoft Project to create a logic network of the tasks needed to develop the product. The final product was a network of some 2,000 activities and milestones, described in terms that everyone had agreed to and understood. Development began immediately.

Eighteen months later, our first "Morphis" unit was completed, almost exactly on schedule and close to its development budget. It was one of my most rewarding planning efforts. And even though that division of Camber was sold off many years ago, the product is still in production.

The Mobile Version of the Morphis Simulator Designed for the U.S.Navy

No comments: