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Micro power packs could power the future of gaming ben lee

As recently as a decade ago virtual reality experiences were limited to flight and helicopter simulators, with no chance for the average person to try it out.  These simulators still exist and have become more and more technically advanced as graphics improve, but the old and new all have one thing in common – hydraulics. 


Hydraulic rams move the simulator, in response to the actions of the person “flying”, which creates a very realistic experience for the trainee pilot.  Having this level of virtual reality prepares them for the real world and the feelings of actually piloting an aeroplane or a helicopter.  Some simulator manufacturers have trialled electric actuators, but these have their limitations on the amount of weight they can effectively move.  Hydraulically operated simulators are more responsive and realistic than those which use electrical actuators.



Virtual reality hardware is now available at a price point where many consumers can afford to buy a virtual reality headset, and experience the amazing visual and acoustic landscapes created by games designers.  It is only a matter of time before virtual reality computer games become the norm; and to truly experience the fictional reality created by the game designers a player will need to experience not only realistic sound and images, but movement too.  Gaming chairs already exist to make the computer game playing all the more realistic, but these are generally limited to vibrating along with explosions or other effects in the game.  The next generation of gaming chair could be a hybrid between the flight simulator and comfortable chair.



The weight of the chair and the average person can be easily moved using micro hydraulic power packs which can affect movement in two directions, allowing the chair to rise and fall with input from the game activity defining what moves, when it moves and how much it moves.  Reversible micro power packs could be mounted at each corner of the seat base, allowing for tipping forwards, backwards and side to side, as well as recreating rolling sensations that could mimic the action of the sea.  Using these tiny hydraulic power packs means they can be easily installed in the chair without it being bulky and obvious, and they pack quite a punch, capable of operating at pressures of up to 200 bar.



These micro power packs are already used for wheelchair lifts, bath lifts and other mobility products, so the efficiency in moving human weight is already tried and tested.  The actual programming of the hydraulic system, to recreate the movement happening in the game accurately, will be a big job – there can only be a few pre-set movements at certain points in the game, as each player will make different choices and may not trigger movement at places where others do.  It would be quite a challenge to program one hydraulic motor to act on game input, but when you consider that four must be programmed, and each one will be moving in a different direction, it becomes a very complex task.  Flight simulator programmers would be the ideal people to lead the way on designing a new generation of computer gaming chairs, as they have experience of multi-directional movement programming already.



It's quite staggering to think that only 25 years ago computer games came on a floppy disk, with very basic graphics and a theme to match them.  Nowadays there is a whole generation of people who never experienced floppy disks, or had to wait for the monitor to warm up before playing virtual tennis, which just makes it all the more staggering to think how far we have come in such a short space of time.  How long will it be before the hydraulically operated virtual reality gaming chair becomes the next must-have product?

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