Reassessing the principles behind the heave add-on

Readers who have followed the project from the start know we’ve followed the maxim that heave (or up and down motion) is nice to have, but not essential. Lifting the whole platform, and user, is very expensive in terms of power and engineering strength which is largely why motion simulation is so expensive to get into. Rotating the user is cheap, so that’s what we’ve concentrated on figuring out first.

We realised early on though that even though heave wouldn’t be a major focus it would be awesome to add sooner or later. If our average customer is happy to pay X for a sphere they might be happy to pay X again to get that sphere to move up and down. Ideally the mechanism for heave would fit inside the base and be backwards compatible. It seemed like a good principle, but perhaps not the best idea.

We want to get the sphere cockpit perfected, but having to design around a future mechanism makes the task rather more complicated. We would need to actually design and build the heave add on at the same time. This falls into the realm of ‘feature creep’ which is pretty dangerous when trying to make something on a budget, spending a good chunk of your prototyping budget on a future feature isn’t the best plan.

Instead I’ve realised that there is a great opportunity for simplifying the idea behind the heave add on. We always believed that the ‘end game’ for the platform was a sphere mounted on a six degree of freedom platform which would give the most options for users so why not have that as a guiding principle instead. A simple lifting mechanism inside the base doesn’t move us towards that final goal.

We also recognise that while people react well to the sphere lots of people are still in the market for a ‘traditional’ simulator. They still want an affordable 2 or 3 degree of freedom system (pitch/roll + heave) which the sphere design doesn’t fulfil.

So, it makes sense to actually design TWO simulators. The spherical cockpit version and an affordable base with pitch, roll and heave that can also be updated to add sway, surge and yaw. We treat both designs as separate unit that work individually but can also be combined. So users could buy one, or the other, or both. They might decide to upgrade either unit. You also have the option (if you had both) to separate the modules if you had a friend over to play 🙂

As usual the philosophy is to ‘keep it cheap’ so I threw together a quick frame version.

simple frame60  Clearly this is no good, what is the point of making something affordable if it’s too ugly to want?

Instead I think it would be better to have something with more elegant lines. This could be made by bending three sheets of aluminium and reinforcing them with an external frame.
simple frame2

The sphere is already quite large so this would add more bulk to the setup, so instead of three large parts we create smaller ones with the center missing, as demonstrated by the right hand picture below.


This means the heave add on is much smaller when used separately, perfect for your own chair or with a ‘playseat’.


If you want the whole setup you could use the same parts but add three panels to fill in the center of the platform. It’s possible these could be dispensed with since the base for the sphere would cover any gaps depending on how it’s designed.


This idea is more like a 3D sketch to get the ball rolling and creative juices flowing, it’s very early in the whole process but I think this could be the way to move forward.

Two platforms that could be used alone or combined would be a great way to give users more choice, as well as increase functionality.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Feel Three Update #1


Just a quick update on the state of the project for any of you guys that were wondering if the project was still happening, well it is! We didn’t want to send emails until we had set up an unsubscribe function set up, which actually happened a few weeks ago, and something good to say. So rest assured we’re still committed to restraining our updates to important stuff and you so desire, you can unsubscribe at any time. We still hope that won’t happen because you’ll miss out on being in the new improved raffle… read on…

With regard to the Kickstarter, we’re currently looking hard at the options and *may* have an important announcement in a couple of weeks…

Now, nothing is yet set in stone but we might be welcoming an associate professor of a European University to the team. He has a Phd in Robotics, which should be extremely handy, as well as coding and electronic engineering skills. We’re still working on the details but the signs look extremely positive, and he’s also been working on a motion simulator of his own.

Assuming we work out the details we’ll also be applying to HAXLR8R shortly, this is a hardware accelerator which runs in Shenzhen, China for 4 months early next year. 111 days of prototyping, coding, finding a factory to work with and designing for manufacture. In exchange for a small slice of equity this is a major shortcut through the process and allow us to hit the market about the same time as some are estimating for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift.

We have one major disadvantage compared to the type of other teams that will be applying, in that we can’t really demo a full size prototype, the tooling for a small run of panels is just too expensive. In the mean time we’re working on our scale model as well as a version of the design in Unity3D that you can walk around and see inside the Oculus Rift.

One major advantage we do have is you guys! We want the organisers of HAXLR8R see the buzz and excitement of people who want to support a new design of motion simulator that is not only a radical departure from what is already available, as well as being stylist, safe and most importantly, affordable. It’s not enough just to have a great product, you also need customers. If HAXLR8R see that there is a established base of potential customers we’re more likely to be selected.

So we’ve added a couple of extra ways for you to spread the news, a couple of single click buttons on the website where you get your twitter friends to also apply to the raffle and help people like our facebook page. For each of these buttons we’ll give you another 10 entries into the raffle each.

Now, it’s no use telling your friends about this when you want to win it yourself right? No problem, we’re now giving TWO simulators away, with the same terms as before.

Head over to the website and click the buttons at the bottom of the first page.

The last piece of cool news is that we received a message from a journalist wanting a demo so she could write an article in the New York Times Magazine! So help spread the word and maybe she’ll get her wish sometime next year!


The Feel Three Team.

Less talk, more torque

Over on the Star Citizen website I’m experiencing some feedback and not all of it good. Apparently it is quite impossible to do what I want to do without hydraulics, industrial servos or $3k linear actuators… it just cannot be done. Over at, where the people who actually make stuff, they’re saying nothing, but the star citizen ‘space engineers’ with nothing better to do than wait for a game that won’t be out for another two years are hard to please with mere words.

I was contacted by an American engineer last night who had some ‘concerns’ about my design. My heart sank for about 5 seconds as I wondered what he was going to say, but he only pointed out the problems of tapping aluminium and suggesting countersinking bolts that point to the inside of the sphere. A good point. When someone says ‘it will never work because…’ they’ve already made up their mind, only a working model will change it and then they’ll hate you for making them look foolish. When someone say ‘how are you going to overcome…?’ they’re actually helping you to justify your design decisions, and hopefully making you realise you have more problems to solve.

So I will spend the weekend oiling up the rusty maths parts of my brain and figure out how much power it’s going to take to move this crazy idea.
As per my previous thread I guess I’ll see if I can mimic the other platforms rotational speed. I expect to find that the $30 motors I’m hoping to use will not work at all, so TWO $30 motors will also not be enough, three might start to get there, and four would be perfect… so I solve the ‘impossible’ engineering problem by throwing money at the problem. $120 is pocket change when you look at all the simulators on the previous post.

The Motion Simulation TL1 is £41,000 and is doesn’t even move!! 😛