Cables And Winches Become An Awesome Simulator

Straight from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, and displayed at this year’s Driving Simulation Conference & Exhibition is the coolest looking simulation platform we’ve ever seen. It’s a spherical (or icosahedral) roll cage, attached to the corners of a building by cables. With the right kinematics and some very heavy-duty hardware, this simulation platform has three degrees of translation, three degrees of rotation, and thousands of people that want to drive a virtual car or pilot a virtual plane with this gigantic robot.

The Cable Robot Simulator uses electric winches attached to the corners of a giant room to propel a platform with 1.5g of acceleration. The platform can move back and forth, up and down, and to and fro, simulating what a race car driver would feel going around the track, or what a fighter pilot would feel barreling through the canyons of the Mojave. All you need for a true virtual reality system is an Oculus Rift, which the team has already tested with driving and flight simulation programs

An earlier project by the same research group accomplished a similar feat in 2013, but this full-motion robotic simulator was not made of cable-based robotics. The CyberMotion Simulator used a robotic arm with a cockpit of sorts attached to the end of the arm. Inside the cockpit, stereo projectors displayed a wide-angle view, much like what a VR display does. In terms of capability and ability to simulate different environments, the CyberMotion Simulator may be a little more advanced; the Cable Robot Simulator cannot rotate more than about sixty degrees, while the CyberMotion Simulator can turn you upside down.

The Cable Robot Simulator takes up a very large room, and requires some serious engineering – the cables are huge and the winches are very powerful. These facts don’t preclude this technology being used in the future, though, and hopefully this sort of tech will make its way into a few larger arcades.

We often see concepts come in waves. Earlier this week we featured a cable robot used to move pallets around a warehouse.

Thanks [Arko] for the tip.

28 thoughts on “Cables And Winches Become An Awesome Simulator

  1. Just (or perhaps more) interesting, I wonder what the safety device on such a system looks like. I mean I imagine for one they are already are using encoders on the winches in some way and otherwise have extremely ‘over engineered’ in terms of cable strength… but 1.5 g– in the *wrong direction*– Or even an unlikely cable break. Presuming they do have such a ‘contingency’ system in place, I would think that would be the greater feat.

    1. I actually work in the industry of industrial winches and cable hoists. If they’re like most of my customers, they’re ignoring as many safety standards as possible. For the U.S. at least, everything needs a 10:1 ratio of safety at the least. It’s next to impossible to sell personnel rated equipment. In the end, I advise them on what to use, and they ignore me. Often, with very real and petulant whines that make them sound like children. “But… That’s expensive….” I can only hope that they’re a little more design oriented than my breed of customer.

    2. just have torque sensors on all the drive shafts. if torque suddenly becomes less than what is expected you can assume that cable snapped and have the computer figure out which winches it needs to reel in to prevent the passenger from getting dropped. if the ball does in fact drop, i figure the sphere would break your fall for you. carbon fiber tends to fail rather catastrophically, and that might dissipate much of the energy from the fall. the seat itself looks like a racing seat with what looks like a 3 point harness. you will likely survive any failure. though you might want to install safety cages to protect the occupant from cable snaps.

      1. Yes, those commercials are better commercials, since they are … commercials.

        At the simulator side, the difference is that pneumatic simulators have been used for decades whereas cable supported simulators are not as common. “Worlds first cable robot for passengers” …

  2. I’m not surprised this was done in Germany rather than the US. I worked with a engineering student over the summer who was building a ridable robot arm for similar purposes (although this cable robot is way cooler). The school made him wear a helmet, elbow & knee pads and a chest protector in order to sit in the seat – and yes, he was buckled in with a 5-point harness.

    I didn’t see these students wearing any knee protection at all.

    1. They don’t need to wear pads, they are in a “racing” seat with a 4 (or 5?) point harness AND they are in a nice and spacious cage made of carbon fiber tubes, which make for very effective crumple zones…
      The helmet would make sense if they expected failure, which, lets face it, is highly unlikely here, that cable can safely take several tons and if it were to snap, no helmet or kneepad would keep it from bashing a person in half…

      1. If several of the cables go to maximum tension, is it possible to rip the carbon-fiber cage apart, thus exposing the human occupant to the perils of gravity and whatever random orientation they might impact the floor at? That would be my concern.

        Race car drivers are encased in a roll-cage with a “racing” seat and 5-point harness, but still wear helmets and neck braces…

  3. This is awesome! I’ve been fantasizing about building something like this for years…for driving simulation. My idea was close to the robotic arm with a cockpit.

    I wonder how well it can simulate a vehicle accelerating/decelerating for an extended period of time.

    1. I guess it’s 473hp total, not per winch. If it was per winch, they’d be capable of more than 1.5g. The cage is light, only 80kg, add a human payload and it’s still well under 200kg. Power to weight ratio is about 5 times better than in a sports car.
      Or I’m completely wrong here and 1.5g is a deliberate constraint…

    1. They did. When I was in Las Vegas (long, long, time ago), I visited the Star Trek Experience there. There was a motion simulator simulating a shuttle ride which was essentially just this. Quite the experience.

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