All BRD’s simulator products focus first and foremost on the realism of the racing experience. The experience is a synergy of many elements, any one of which done wrongly will damage the total experience. Our approach to some of the key factors, motion, visual systems and control systems are outlined here.
BRD offers 2 versions of motion platform the Version 1 (V1) and Version 2 (V2) models with various payload options. The standard being the V1-500 and V2-500, both offering a payload capacity of 500Kg. BRD offers versions with a 250Kg, 1000Kg or custom payload models.
The V1 model has a single plane of motions (Surge, Sway and Yaw) and the V2 a dual plane of motions (Surge, Sway, Yaw, Pitch, Roll and Heave). Typically these systems are termed 3 degrees of freedom and 6 degrees of freedom respectively, however this nomenclature disguises some very significant differences in how these motions are created between platform types across manufacturers and hence the terms can be potentially misleading if you are trying to compare platforms.
BRD's philosophy behind its development of its original V1 motion platform was based on taking a fresh look at what the simulation of open wheel formulae (especially Formula 1) cars required in terms of motion. The market for motion simulators has been dominated by platforms originally designed by and for the aerospace industry.
BRD determined that the nature of the motions designed for simulating aircraft could never ultimately be suitable for open wheel racing cars. Whilst current models have value they are inherently restricted by their construction which limits ultimately their ability to produce accurate motorsport simulation. BRD therefore started from scratch looking firstly at how an open wheel car behaves in the real world and then analysing the mental and physiological cues necessary to create in the mind of the driver a realistic and believable racing experience. It was clear that the most significant aspects of motion for a driver related to the movements and forces in the lateral and longitudinal planes (and critically the rate of change of these forces) and this was the principle focus of BRD with its V1 platform. Fundamentally the V1 is more sophisticated than a traditional motion platform in that all its motions are fully independent giving rise to a much greater degree of control and therefore realism. A traditional platform always requires continual 'compromise' of one or more motion vectors in order to create another or more complex motions.
There is no direct way of comparing our systems with the traditional hexapod type system. They fundamentally were designed for different purposes. Our systems have a set of fully independent motions, eg. if we want to push the back of the car laterally to simulate a slide we can by simply pushing that end of the platform. To create this on a hexapod system requires a complex set of movements of all the motors and joints to generate that movement. When you come to do a more complex motion, eg a lateral slide under braking, again we can simulate the braking and the slide motions completely independently of each other allowing a great range of motion. On a hexapod you need to compromise your slide magnitude in order to also create a braking motion because all the joints are linked. In order to get the range of motion we can generate they need very long stroke lengths on the platform legs, so that the compromise motion equates. This results in large and bulky platforms.
The result of keeping each direction of movement independently controlled means we can create large ranges of movement and at high speed and it is the rate of change of direction that is crucial in simulating the right cues that make the brain believe it is really racing.
Whilst is it clear that the surge, sway and yaw motions are the most important motions to create for a racing car simulation, they are of course not the only motions that a driver would experience in a real car.
The second plane of motion is the Pitch (tilt forward or backward), Roll (tilt left or right) and Heave (up and down movement) and completes in large measure the range of motions a driver can experience. In themselves they are not as critical to the experience as the first level motions but done correctly really add another dimension to the racing experience and the design of the BRD V2 systems applies the same approach to the fidelity and independence of the motion actuation as with the V1.
The V2 model delivers 6 degrees of freedom motion but in a completely different way to the traditional hexapod type platform and the result is a greater, faster and much more realistic range of complex movements.
The visual aspect of the simulation experience is another vital component and in a motion system it is critical that the visual and motion components are seamlessly integrated. The brain is incredibly sensitive to discrepancies between what it feels in terms of motion and what it sees.
When there is a mismatch the result is at best a lack of engagement with the experience and at worst it results in motion sickness. Because BRD designs and builds all aspects of its systems, including the software that ties everything together it means that racing drivers using our systems universally report that they engage with the system much more quickly and that incidence of motion sickness is almost zero compared with the more traditional platform types.
There are two standard visual technologies BRD utilises currently with its simulators, Panel displays and Projectors.
Panel display technology is constantly moving and developing and BRD continually updates its products in line with the latest technology that advances the racing experience. Typically BRD supplies simulators with a high resolution narrow bezel triple panel display that gives at least 120° field of view. The driver’s brain ‘tunes out’ the bezels between the panels and simply sees a continuous unbroken field of view and why this system represents an extremely effective and cost efficient option.
Projector technology is developing quickly and the new range of long life ultra compact projectors is making their use in creating completely seamless displays a practical reality that is cost effective.
Projectors allow us to create a much larger curved field of view, both horizontally and vertically and traditionally this was the choice of the high end training environment with systems typically costing £100,000 or more. The new technology permits almost the same level of functionality but at a fraction of the cost. The compact nature of the projectors means that BRD integrates them into the camera pod on top of the Car or SimCell itself and so does not impede the overall appearance of the vehicle. The result is a wide field of view with a curved screen that is formed around the body of the car meaning that the wheels and track to the side of the car are projected giving the driver a much more natural viewing experience.
The display technology is continually improving and whilst BRD can offer stereoscopic and 3D versions we do not yet believe the technology is quite advanced enough to suit the high speed nature of the visuals required for a racing simulation.
The latest range of BRD SimGP and SimCell are fitted with a brand new torque driven force feedback steering system. This was designed initially for an F1 team’s driver training evaluation system and BRD has now introduced this to its full range of products.
The purpose of this system is to deliver a truly realistic control feeling. It is driven directly from the racing software and will translate through the wheel the exact conditions of the interface between the track surface and the tyres. The driver can feel the moment the front wheels start to loose adhesion or the effects of flat-spotting the tyres. The effectiveness of the steering controls is a reflection of the underlying software code. Please refer to the software details for more information.
The pedal system is also vital as so much of a racing car’s control is based around the effective use of the accelerator and brake pedals. As such the sensitivity and feel is critical to an engaging and realistic driving experience. To achieve this BRD uses a real race car pedal arrangement with correct feel, travel and pressure sensing technology.
BRD has the unique position of designing and producing in house the motion systems, driving control systems and race software. It means that BRD is able to integrate all aspects seamlessly, optimising the technology such that there is no unnecessary duplication of technology, which can be a feature of systems comprised of components from multiple sources. In so doing we believe we create an experience that is a synergy, an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts and the most effective racing experience available, short of actually racing the real thing!