Ever wanted to race around a track like Lewis Hamilton, but don’t have the multi-million pound budget, F1 car or years of training and experience? Then sim racing is for you!
Ditch the handheld controller
Forget those PC racing games played using a controller or a basic plastic steering wheel that looked like it can from Noddy’s car. Today, sim racing enthusiasts take it to a whole new level with kit that replicates as much of the feel of the racing experience as possible. And for the best brake pedal VR experience, it has to include load cells.
In an eye-opening article for RoadToVR.com, Dominic Brennan charts the rise of dedicated input devices for racing games from “rudimentary wheels attached to bungee cords for self-centering” to today’s high tech, high spec gear.
For the dedicated VR driver, a ‘sim rig’ is an essential, a wooden or aluminium frame with a seat attached, and mounting options for the steering wheel and pedals. Add in a VR headset, and some headphones, and you’ll be racing around the virtual streets of Monaco in no time.
Brake pedals with load cells
With VR racing, it’s all about the feel, and that is particularly true of the pedals. Higher end pedal sets feature a load cell brake pedal, which needs to be mounted on a fixed frame. As Brennan explains in his article:
“Higher quality pedals often use load cells rather than rotary potentiometers to measure inputs. This is particularly important on the brake axis, where a load cell allows the driver to find the optimal braking pressure more intuitively. The CSL Elite pedals LC is the least expensive route to load cell braking delight.”
These CSL pedals include a 90kg load cell integrated into the pedal arm, so that the whole pedal arm acts as the load cell sensor. According to to the Fanatec website, the benefit is that “You can apply a realistic and strong pressure and precisely control the brake with muscle tension just like in a real car.”
What’s more, you can adjust the brake force on this 16 bit resolution brake unit using PC software, and adjust the resistance and travel by interchanging various Elastomer springs. Considering the engineering and electronics involved, it’s a bit of a steal at just under US$200. Or so we imagine VR driving enthusiasts telling their other halves when the credit card bill comes in…
VR racing – driving for fun
Personally, we get quite enough driving thrills negotiating the traffic on the Reading ringroad on a wet Friday evening during rush hour. However, it’s good to know that load cell technology isn’t just about everyday engineering, and that flat-out driving can be fast, furious (and safe) in the VR world.