What are some of the reason that people in the simulation industry hate motion platforms? Let’s explore…
- 1. Cost! Why are they so expensive?
- 2. Installation… what is required to install a system and what support does it require?
- 3. Maintenance… Why does it cost so much to operate one?
- 4. Properly follow motion cues… Why doesn’t the motion platform follow the system?
- 5. Simulator sickness… why does this occur and does it need too?
Cost… yes, motion platforms are expensive, but why are they? Motion platforms require specialized engineering so that they operate properly. This includes mechanical, electrical and control engineers all working together to create a solution for the customer’s specification. Motion platform engineering companies are usually specialized in designing and manufacturing these systems and have decades of experience in the industry. They know all the details that are involved with creating a system. They have not be in business for 5 or 10 years, but decades... material costs, labor costs, painting, assembly, checkout add to the cost of the overall system.
Installation… most large scale motion platforms require heavy equipment to install and a team of people that are educated in the use of the heavy equipment and installation of the motion platform. This adds to the cost of the system. The flooring has to be engineered so that it can take the weight of the motion base and the payload and the stresses of the mounting points. We, at Servos & Simulation, strive to keep this problem as small as possible sometimes to the extent of making sure that the large items required by the system can still fit through a standard door in a building or on an airplane.
Maintenance… most large scale motion platforms require a maintenance team to keep them operating properly. This adds to the cost of operation of the system if the maintenance team is kept on site. If not, someone has to be contracted to keep the system running. This adds to the cost of operating the system. We, at Servos & Simulation, strive to keep this problem as small as possible by utilizing sealed mechanics.
Properly follow motion cues… if the motion platform via software does not properly follow the motion cues from the Host computer (X-Plane, Prepared, MS Flight Sim, and the like) or have the CG of the aircraft in the proper place, the system is basically worthless. It can induce motion sickness and keep the pilot from actually being able from flying the aircraft (for more information on reducing motion sickness in a flight trainer, check out this article). If it does not follow motion cues for an entertainment type ride, the ride could possibly be ok, but not perform to the best of its ability (same problem as the aircraft - if the CG doesn't match the visual system, the system will not work properly).
Simulator sickness… why does this occur? When the motion platform does not respond to the visual system properly nor fly properly, it can cause simulator sickness. This lack of response can distract the pilot during training sessions and can cause the pilot to adopt certain counterproductive behaviors to prevent the simulator sickness from occurring. It can have post-training effects that can compromise the pilot after training.
So what can you do to fix these problems?
When looking into a motion platform for a system, one should consider all of these problems. Cost, installation and maintenance will always be a problem. The question one should ask themselves is what are they getting with the system? Can the manufacturer provide cost data for the system? Check out our Ultimate Checklist for buying a Motion Platform for more information on specifics to ask.
The manufacturer should know how to make the motion platform operate properly so that it follows the motion cues and keeps simulator sickness to a minimum. A good example of whether or not the motion platform is performing well is to have the pilot fly the system without the motion on and then with the motion on. If the pilot is having to overcorrect while flying the simulator, the motion is typically the problem. Making sure that the motion platform is properly tuned is critical to the flight simulation. This can be used for space docking, land vehicle training and the like as it applies to all of it.
The motion cues for an entertainment ride, while not as critical as that for a flight simulator, should match the visual as closely as possible. It should not lag behind the visual. While the visuals account for more than the motion platform movement in rendering out the ride to the consumer, it should not be off. It will cause motion sickness to the rider. The system so be fluid, dynamic and smooth (unless the ride is suppose to be rough, but having the motion base nice and smooth and then injecting a frequency is so much easier then trying to get roughness out of the system and then recreate it). A high performing playback system is key to entertainment system.
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