engineer

tim   .

                                                      


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.   hunkin

                                                         


cartoonist

 

SIMULATOR RIDES

Until recently, constructing simulator rides has been an expensive, high tech business.

The first simulators were built to train military pilots. Long before the days of virtual reality, the view through the cockpit came from remote video cameras which moved on gantries above physical model landscapes. These model landscapes were huge,  often the size of aircraft hangers. 

By the mid nineties, computer virtual reality graphics were taking over from physical models. Today's flight training simulators, like the NASA ones left, have virtual landscapes projected on multiple screens giving a 180 degree view. 
Much simpler simulators, running  fixed video synchronised to the  movement of the 'cabin', were introduced in funfairs in the mid 90s. They seat about 12 people, require an operator, and are still expensive to buy (c£200k).

More recently 1-2 person simulator rides have appeared (see left). These cost around £50k, run unattended and are interactive, like the original pilot trainer simulators.

The first truely low-tech simulator to be mass produced is perhaps the £5k ‘Kidicoaster’ (right), which swings up and down in time to a video of a roller coaster.  It is not immediately obvious that this amazingly dull and unexciting ride has any potential. However, it really is now practical for any amateur enthusiast to develop their own simulator ride.  
 Many talented filmmakers make entertaining short films, but its often difficult getting them shown, and even more difficult making money from them. However DVD technology now makes it possible for amateur enthusiasts to build cheap, low tech simulator rides. People seem quite happy to pay £1 - £2 to watch my short films and be wobbled about a bit.  

My simulators, made without any grants, have recouped the construction and filming costs in less than a year. The most tricky part is finding a good site – I’m lucky to have found the Southwold Pier. The site needs to be busy to attract enough people. It also needed to be well managed so problems are quickly reported and vandalism is avoided. Insurance can also be a problem. Insurance companies are always suspicious of anything new, and have had numerous claims on ‘Kidirides’ outside supermarkets, so premiums are impractically high. My solution is to be very cautious - small movements can be just as effective as large ones - but safer. I also build them to the same standard as my museum exhibits, complying with all current health and safety legislation. 


Good to see that Japan hasn't lost interest. This is a prototype 'witch' simulator ride on a broomstick, spotted on boing boing in september 2007.  

 

 

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