The flight simulation community is on the brink of a technologic breakthrough that promises to bring some much-needed improvements to Air Traffic Control in the simulated environment. AI is about to make an impact on our experiences in a major new way, as we’re expecting to see with BeyondATC, for commercial IFR flights, and SayIntentions.ai (previously known as SmartSky), which aims to the the same thing for VFR/GA flights.
SayIntentions.ai came into the spotlight a couple of months ago and has since been on many simmers’ radars. The project already seemed quite advanced at that time, but this weekend’s update is once again raising the hype around the product. SayIntentions.ai is now moving into public beta and a release is expected sometime early next year!
In an interview with FSNews, Brian, a co-founder of SayIntentions, provided some additional insights into the software. SayIntention.ai also has a new website that includes a detailed FAQ section with plenty of information about the product.
Origins of SayIntentions.ai
Brian, an AI specialist, and his co-founder, a seasoned C#/C++ programmer, embarked on the SayIntentions.ai project driven by their passion for flight simulation and a desire to fill a gap in the ATC simulation experience. Brian, in his interview with FSNews, expresses his long-standing dissatisfaction with existing ATC options, stating, “Flying without ATC is lonely and removes a giant element of immersion.” This sentiment laid the foundation for SayIntentions.ai.
The Challenge with Current ATC Systems
Brian acknowledged the limitations of volunteer-based ATC networks like VATSIM, noting their lack of coverage and the steep learning curve for new users. He praised PilotEdge for its quality but pointed out its limited coverage area and the feeling of isolation due to sparse pilot interactions. These challenges highlighted the need for a more user-friendly and comprehensive ATC simulation solution.
Artificial Intelligence comes into play
SayIntentions.ai harnesses the power of GPT-4 AI to create a more intuitive ATC experience. Unlike traditional ATC add-ons, which rely on rigid command structures, SayIntentions.ai aims to understand the pilot’s intent, even when standard phraseology is not used. Brian emphasized the importance of this feature, saying, “It doesn’t really matter if you get something wrong – which is the whole reason we love flight simming in the first place!”
Key Features of SayIntentions.ai
- Dynamic ATC Interactions: The system offers unscripted, dynamic responses, adapting to the pilot’s actions in real-time.
- US Coverage: It supports all types of U.S. airspace, with procedures tailored to each. International support is planned for some point in the future.
- Voice-Driven Communication: Pilots interact with ATC using natural language, and get appropriate responses from the system, even if mistakes are made!
- ATIS Compatibility: The system includes ATIS broadcasts that reflect live in-sim weather conditions.
Overcoming AI Limitations
Developing an AI that could effectively handle ATC duties was not without challenges. Brian shared, “Early experiments were promising, but as we discovered, ChatGPT was actually an awful air traffic controller.” The team worked diligently to fine-tune the AI’s role, focusing on procedural understanding while maintaining natural interaction.
Beta Testing Insights
Feedback from beta testers, including real-world pilots, has been crucial in refining SayIntentions.ai. Testers have helped identify areas for improvement and suggested new features, shaping the development path of the add-on.
Future Roadmap and Enhancements
- Enhanced VFR Experience: The team is focusing on enriching the VFR experience with features like traffic-aware ATC and customized airport procedures.
- Advanced Features: Plans include integrating traffic awareness, CTAF airports, and accurate ground handling.
- IFR Support: While not an immediate priority, IFR support is on the development roadmap.
Pricing Strategy and Release Timeline
The pricing model for SayIntentions.ai is under consideration, with the team conscious of the costs associated with AI integration. However, the product website points out that the team is “aiming to keep the price between $10 and $25 USD per month”. This is understandable as the cost of using OpenAI’s platform is metered, but since this cost tends to go down with time, SayIntentions.ai also pledges to lower the monthly subscription for its users once possible.
A full public release is targeted for early 2024, following a phased expansion from the current invite-only soft launch.