Motion Simulation

A motion simulator or motion platform is a mechanism that creates the feelings of being in a real world motion environment. In a simulator, the movement is synchronised with a visual display of the outside world (OTW). Motion platforms can provide movement in all of the six degrees of freedom (sometimes called the DOF which is the mechanical system with 6 independent parameters) that can be experienced by an object that is free to move, such as an aircraft, spacecraft, or heavy machinery such as a crane . These are the three rotational degrees of freedom (roll, pitch, yaw) and three translational or linear degrees of freedom (surge, heave, sway).

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Motion Simulations Classification

Motion simulators can be classified into two different types – according to whether the occupant is controlling the vehicle (such as in a Flight Simulator or Crane Simulators), or whether the occupant is a passive rider, such as in a simulator ride or motion theater.

  • An example of occupant-controlled motion simulators are flight simulators, heavy equipment simulators,  driving simulators, and many auto racing games. Other occupant-controlled vehicle simulation games simulate the control of boats, motorcycles, military vehicles, ATVs, or spacecraft, among other craft types.
  • Another example of passive ride simulators are theme parks rides where an entire theater systems, with a projection system in front of the seats, is mounted on motion actuators which enhanced motion vehicle.

Motion platforms for aircraft simulators are at the high end, plus some of the more expensive amusement park rides that use a simulator-type motion base; arcade amusement devices are in the middle, and motion platforms for home use are low-cost but not as capable of the higher-level devices. Many motion platforms are used in flight simulators used to train pilots.

Common Uses in

Engineering Analysis

Motion platforms are commonly used in the field of engineering for analysis and verification of vehicle performance and design. The ability to link a computer-based dynamic model of a particular system to physical motion gives the user the ability to feel how the vehicle would respond to control inputs without the need to construct expensive prototypes. For example, an engineer designing an external fuel tank for an aircraft could have a pilot determine the effect on flying qualities or a mechanical engineer could feel the effects of a new brake system without building any hardware, saving time and money.

For example, flight simulators are also used by aircraft manufacturers to test new hardware. By connecting a simulated cockpit with visual screen to a real flight control system in a laboratory, integrating the pilot with the electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic components that exist on the real aircraft, a complete system evaluation can be conducted prior to initial flight testing.

This type of testing allows the simulation of “seeded faults” (i.e. an intentional hydraulic leak, software error, or computer shutdown) which serve to validate that an aircraft’s redundant design features work as intended. A test pilot can also help identify system deficiencies such as inadequate or missing warning indicators, or even unintended control stick motion.

This testing is necessary to simulate extremely high risk events that cannot be conducted in flight but nonetheless must be demonstrated. While 6 degree-of-freedom (DOF) motion is not necessary for this type of testing, the visual screen allows the pilot to “fly” the aircraft while the faults are simultaneously triggered.

Ride simulators

Motion simulators are sometimes used in theme parks to give the park guests a themed  simulation of flight or other motion.

  • Star Tours

    located at Disneyworld and other Disney theme parks use purpose-modified military flight simulators known as Advnaced Technology Leisure Application Simulators (ATLAS) to simulate a flight through outer space.

  • Star Trek

    which is located at the Las Vegas Hilton

  • Back to the Future

    a simulator ride based on the Back to the Future movie series, is located at Universal Studios

Video Games

Some driving and flying simulation games allow the use of specialized controllers such as steering wheels, foot pedals or joysticks. Certain game controllers designed in recent years have employed haptic technology (creates the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user) to provide real-time, tactile feedback to the user in the form of vibration from the controller.

A motion simulator takes the next step by providing the player full-body tactile feedback. Motion gaming chairs can roll to the left and right and pitch forward and backward to simulate turning corners, accelerations and decelerations. Motion platforms permit a more stimulative and potentially realistic gaming experience, and allow for even greater physical correlation to sight and sound in game play.

  • Simulators provide a safe means of training in the operation of potentially dangerous craft (e.g., aircraft, crane, etc.).
  • The expense of training on real equipment can sometimes exceed the expense of a simulator.
  • Time between training sessions may be reduced since it may be as simple as resetting the motion system to initial conditions.