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  1. J G

    VR is here!

    For a while I have been dabbling in cockpit building. I have had mixed success and seem to be forever sorting out something that has gone awry. So I thought I would scrap that and use cockpits that have already been built for me. All I needed was an Oculus Rift. so I bought one. Above is the box. Its very substantial, heavy and protects the device very well. Above is the opened box. The headset is to the left and the sensor is to the right. The sensor needs to be placed in front of the set user and pointed toward them. There is also a small remote like device which is used to carry out various operations with the Rift's software. Underneath the sensor is some not very useful documentation (warranties and the like) an Xbox controller and various sundry items. Below is my old rig, which is now dismantled and parts sold off to raise cash for the Rift, and below that is my new rig, some what simpler in its build! The transformation is not complete yet. I use two PC's for my simulator, a beast for FSX and P3D, and another less powerful PC for various supporting applications such as Plan-G, Skype etc. The screen powered off in the above picture is for PC number two. I plan to slim down to one shared keyboard and trackball and to make the keyboard more readily accessible. Ok so that is the last of the pictures as the rest I just cant capture effectively, it is all in 3D and in the headset! I have completed a couple of flights so far. Flight one was from ORBX Fairoaks to Blackbush airport in south east England and completed in a Tiger Moth. Before I started there were a couple of things of note to tell you of: the Rift is not very glasses (spectacles) friendly. It is very difficult to wear the headset whilst wearing glasses. The space inside the headset is too narrow for my glasses and the space was to shallow for the specs to fit comfortably between the Rifts lenses and my face. Wearing glasses was just possible but very uncomfortable and I found it impossible to position my glasses in a way to get good vision through them. Without glasses the headset was comfortable and didn't feel heavy or cumbersome in any way.There is perhaps a sacrifice in picture sharpness, but I can't yet say if this is the case because of the glasses issue. I will be getting some contact lenses as soon as I can. What was the flight experience like? I guess the best way to describe it is gobsmacking! Those of you with a track IR will know how useful it is to use one to look around the upward pointing nose of a tail dragger, and of course the Rift will do that, but it does it in spades. the cockpit looses all of it "flat" properties, the sides actually surround you and, once you are in the air, the ground falls away from you exactly as it does when flying in a real aircraft, dropping away with a real sense of height as it does so. After the climb out I tried my first turn. Looking left, I turned left and as the wing dipped my stomach lurched as I turned. I know it is not real, but my body was completely fooled! I soon settled down to an interesting flight and began to really appreciate the 3D environment to its full. I soon found myself getting feedback from the aircraft which actually made flying it easier. For example, when I lined up at Blackbush it was much easier to point at the centre of the runway as tour reference points were all in true 3D and not in a flat rendering of a 3D image. My next flight was just as amazing. I took to the air in JF's new Hawk. The cockpit was superb, the switches all easy to use through the FlyInside interface and the sensation of flying fast through the Snowdonian mountains was breathtaking. Again the Hawks cockpit surrounded me, snug as a glove and with all the stomach lurching effects of the real thing. Truly amazing. Lastly I tried a few cockpits for size. The most amazing, they were all amazing, but the most amazing was the Razbam Harrier. If you know the harrier cockpit you will know that there are several instrument panels that are at different distances from the pilot. On a flat screen they are rendered so as to appear three dimensional, but in VR they are actually at different levels and the cockpit looks and feels incredible. The flying sensation is truly fantastic. However the detailed 3D cockpits are truly awesome. Having done it, I realise there is no point in building a cockpit for your sim. Realistically you can only build one cockpit, either generic or specific, it will only match a maximum of one aircraft. My new rig has a realistic cockpit for all of my aircraft. And I get to fly them in a truly amazing environment. I just cant wait to get some contact lenses to get the best from the Rift.