The only thing I can imagine that would be more exciting than racing a Ferrari F2007 at high speeds, is pretending to drive a Ferrari F2007 at high speeds while being swung about by a giant robot arm.
Now this is scientific research I can fully endorse. Paolo Robuffo Giordano and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, in Tübingen, Germany, have attached a chair to the end of a large, hot-pink mechanical arm.
I really shouldn't have to write anything else. That's the best idea ever.
But it gets better.
The chair is actually a racing controller, complete with force-feedback steering when and foot pedals. The robot arm holds the player aloft in front of a large projection screen. The player...err, researcher sits in the chair and controls a simulated Ferrari racing around a simulation of the Monza race track, created by Giordano's colleagues Joachim Tesch and Martin Breidt.
As they research, the robot arm tosses them around, simulating the motion of the vehicle.
"A motion simulation system is a fundamental tool to understand how humans experience the sensation of motion," (Giordano) says. "By running suitable experiments, one can gain better insights into the cognitive processes of the human brain."
While other motion simulators use six-axis actuated hexapods or Stewart Platforms using hydraulic cylinders, this one is much more fun. Or scientific. Something. Wheee!
"The main challenges were related to the adaption or extension of existing motion control algorithms," says Giordano, who worked on the F1 arm as a control and robotics engineer. "Our system offers a much larger motion envelope [than Stewart platforms], allowing subjects to be freely displaced in six degrees of freedom in space and even be placed upside-down."
The simulator could eventually be used to simulate boards, helicopters, and airplanes, but for now the researchers are working to fine-tune the existing simulation, adding cabin movements and other improvements.
Might I suggest cup holders?