Simulators have embraced technology to become sensational entertainment; we spoke to some of the market’s key players to find out what the future – and present – holds
According to those in the know – specifically Jonathan Bell, founder and CEO of Motion Simulation ltd, a company that designs and develops highly immersive professional racing car simulators – the term ‘simulator’ is over-used and misunderstood. “The term simulator is massively over-used and non-specific. Unfortunately it can be used for anything from a PlayStation game to a very high fidelity, highly accurate simulation in a full hardware and software environment.” MaxFlight’s Frank McClintic goes a step further, saying that some simulators are even described wrongly. He said: “There are motion simulators and then there are other static or semi-static simulators. Some describe themselves as full motion but they are not. Real full motion is at least unlimited pitch and roll axis – which is what MaxFlight does.” it’s a very serious business, one where longevity and success depend on a commitment to accuracy and the user experience.
It’s also one where innovation and investment in research and development (R&D) can help a company stand out from products that might be less ambitious in their scope and scale. Jonathan added: “We’re doing very serious products, we innovate – we don’t copy others. You can see some very poor product on the market calling themselves simulators and they’re not, they’re a poor quality arcade machine or just a badly thought-out product.” This innovation really does single the company out, with two world-firsts in their TL series of simulators. Jonathan explained: “My background is racing cars, and I wanted to develop a simulator that was ground breaking in what it did. We developed a product called the TL Series; TL3 is our major product, it’s a professional-level highly immersive racing car simulator that incorporates two world-first technologies: it has the world’s first portable spherical 200-degree wraparound screen, with 6 million pixels as a single image; and it has the world’s first variable driving position cockpit.The cockpit rotates according to the type of vehicle you are in, for the ergonomically correct driving position with the correct steering wheel.”
While the product’s development was within a very focussed niche, Jonathan explained that Motion Simulation worked hard to make the product open to as many markets as possible. “Our predominant target market is race teams, race drivers, but having developed it, I specifically wanted the product to cater to as many markets as possible So for example, the simulator is highly portable; all parts on it will fit through a very narrow doorway so it can be moved to different floors very easily. Because of that, the product is opened up to many other markets. A new market we are working on, and that we have launched into, is entertainment – corporate events, high-end entertainment, where people will be using the simulators at theme parks or other high-end facilities.”