We’ve all played racing games on various systems like the PlayStation 3 or XBOX 360, and for the most part they are all the same. Graphics have been getting better and better with more powerful processors, but the feel of actually driving is largely absent. This is not so much the game creator’s fault, but more a problem with the philosophy of controlling a car with only a handheld remote.
Back in the day when I was playing games like “Cruisin’ USA” for the Nintendo 64, I remember the rumble pack being a revelation. You could actually feel some of the feedback from the road, but mostly just when you crashed. Today, video games have expanded far beyond what I could have ever imagined as a kid and even race teams and manufacturers use these systems to develop their technology before it is ever tested on the track.
Force Dynamics is a company that designs and constructs motion simulators for various applications. They have taken the time to understand how the brain interprets speed and have translated that information into the most advanced gaming chair on the market. The 401 system features full four-axis motion movements, surround sound speakers, and a high definition display to make the driver feel as if they were really on the race track.
Hit the jump for more details on the Force Dynamics Chair
The idea of simulating real-life motion is actually quite complicated, but can be paired down to a simple effect that the human ear has on the brain. The Vestibular system is the inner ear which is filled with a liquid. Depending on the orientation of your body to the ground, that fluid rotates and the brain interprets this motion. This same effect can be used for the brain to determine if your body is accelerating or at rest. Without some sort of visual for the brain to also pair the inner ear movements with, it can be tricked. By adding visuals, noise, and vibration to the experience, your brain truly feels like it is moving as if inside a vehicle.
The main difference between true acceleration in a car and acceleration on the simulator has to do with the effect of gravity. When you are speeding around a left hand curve on a racetrack your body is forced to the right. At the same time the vehicle is accelerating at full speed to the left fighting the effect of gravity. In order to relay this same feeling in a simulator, it must use the same gravity that a car is fighting against. In essence, the video screen will show the car turning left, but your seat and the whole system will be leaning to the right.
Another important aspect of this system is the ability to rotate a full 360-degrees. When you spin out in a car, your entire body is along for the ride, where a video game only shows you what is happening. Other simulators are capable of this type of motion, but most do so at a slower rate. Many of the servo systems powering the base have to rev up before motion can be achieved. This delays the reaction and can create inverse forces as well. The Force Dynamics system is capable of 1:1 ratio between the vehicle rotation and the simulation providing unparalleled accuracy.
The basics of the chair are what allow it to rotate on all four axis’ of pitch, roll, yaw, and heave. Powering the various magnetic motors is a simple 120 volt A/C transformer which allows for use in any home. Its frame is created from low carbon-steel which provides the strength necessary during actually g acceleration. The main rotation arm is controlled by a ball screw that is oversized to provide slower motion. Because this joint is large and can rotate slower than a smaller system its effective life is lengthened.
The part of the system where the driver is sitting is much like an open top race car. The yoke assembly is around the driver on three sides and looks much like a roll cage. The steering wheel and pedal are meant to mimic a race car as much as possible and provide the best feel for a driver. The steering is at a 2:1 ratio which is larger than most other low price systems and provides a more lifelike feel.
Providing the other sensory inputs are a sound system and large projector. The stereo system is integrated into the frame and features 5.1 surround sound. The large subwoofer from the Logitech Z-5300 system is placed directly below the seat providing ample low frequency vibrations. The monitor is situated directly in front of the driver and actually rotates with the rest of the system on every axis. Some Force Dynamics Systems are fitted with one large monitor and others with three. The multiple monitor systems feature two screens that flank the center screen providing a wraparound experience. The computer powering this system is quite powerful, but not provided by Force Dynamics. Most home gaming systems can handle the requirements and the company feels that most people prefer to use their own system.
Overall this system is hugely immersive and provides one of the most realistic systems on the market today. It is also much cheaper than buying your own race car and going out on the track. However, the price for this technology is not cheap and ranges between $55,000 and $75,000. This is most likely to be used by full-fledged racing teams more than the average home gamer, but we can dream.
360 Degree Motion
Better than Gran Turismo 5