DIY Device Zaps Your Balance Nerves To Simulate Real Motion

Large, arcade-style motion simulators (like Sega’s R360) can physically toss you around in response to onscreen action, which can increase the immersion and also just feel cool. But these simulators are big and expensive. YouTuber Mean Gene Hacks decided to use electrodes and a driving game to create his own hacked-together motion simulator for under $50. It worked, possibly too well.

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In his latest video, Mean Gene Hacks shows how he used the driving game BeamNG.drive and his homemade galvanic vestibular stimulation device to create a cheap, basic, and effective motion simulator. In fact, it seems to be so effective that he ends up falling out of his chair during an early test run.

How galvanic vestibular stimulation works is electrodes are temporarily attached near nerves in your ears that help maintain balance. When these nerves are artificially stimulated—that is, shocked with electrical current—they can screw with your balance and even make it feel like you’re moving in a certain direction. By sending BeamNG.drive physics data to custom software he coded, which then sent appropriate signals to the homemade GVS device connected to his head, he was able to create a very basic but impressive motion simulator in which the player’s body is never actually moved...it just feels like it is.

Mean Gene Hacks (YouTube)

A word of warning: Connecting electrodes to your head and shocking your nerves sounds like a potentially bad idea, especially if you don’t fully understand the science or risks involved with this kind of setup. So just enjoy the video and don’t try this at home. (That said, Mean Gene Hacks provides full application source code and even PCB layouts for any enthusiast who wants to experiment themselves.)

Lest we make it sound too out there, galvanic vestibular stimulation has been seriously studied for potential applications like reducing motion sickness in flight simulators. And virtual reality enthusiasts are pondering its potential as well, though it’s perhaps unclear how it might be most useful there, if at all. That’s why it’s cool that folks like Mean Gene Hacks are experimenting and putting some data on the board.

There’s a lot of extra detail and information to be found in the video, showing how Mean Gene Hacks was able to create this odd setup and also its current (no pun intended) limitations. At one point he references his creation as a “mind control device,” which makes for a very cool sentence. Or something a supervillain says early on during their origin movie.

Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for GameCritics, USgamer, Kill Screen & Entertainment Fuse.

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