If you missed our Kickstarter Campaign, you can still place a pre-order here: http://irisdynamics.com/index.php/force-feedback-yoke-pre-order
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What is “Control Loading?”
Control loading (or CL) is the commercial simulation industry’s term for “force feedback” or “Haptic feedback.” Essentially, it is a system that uses tactile pressure to communicate information back to the operator of a simulation system. Control loading is NOT about vibrations, bumps, or feeling the rattle of machine guns (although it can be used to simulate these). Rather CL is a way to bring the fundamental FEEL of hands on piloting into the world of simulation.
One of the biggest issues found in all but the most expensive of simulation systems is the unrealistic implementation of “trim.” (If you aren’t familiar with what trim is, check it out here: http://www.pilotfriend.com/training/flight_training/fxd_wing/trim.htm). In a real airplane, when a pilot needs to adjust attitude, they first apply pressure to the yoke until the aircraft's attitude changes. This requires the pilot to apply a constant force to the controls through their hand and fingers. (If the pilot were to release the yoke at this point, it would spring back to its original resting position). So the pilot doesn’t need to continuously hold pressure on the yoke, “trim” is used. While the pilot is applying force to the yoke, trim is added or removed either by the other hand, or via an electric trim switch. As the trim position changes, so does the amount of force the pilot feels. The proper technique taught in flight school is to use trim to remove all the force from ones hand. Once the pilot no long senses pressure, they should be able to release the controls and have them remain static, with the aircraft now operating at the newly trimmed attitude. Traditional consumer yokes are spring loaded so when no pressure is applied they spring back to “neutral”. The issue is that during the course of a regular flight the “neutral” position changes. Trim adjustments, weight and balance changes, speed, and aircraft configuration all effect the natural resting position of the yoke. When you use a traditional yoke which does not allow this “neutral” position to shift throughout various states of flight, an unacceptable level of realism is lost.
***Project Update*** Hardware Development Kit (Raw Actuator)
A lot of people have been asking if they could get their hands on JUST the actuator device (and not necessarily the yoke itself). After a bit of head scratching, we have added another reward level to the campaign: A hardware development kit! This kit is aimed at makers, designers, developers, hackers, and the like. A number of people have expressed interest in building floor mounted CL sticks and floor mounted yokes, along with some other pretty cool sounding robotic applications! The kit will consist of the actuator, the microcontroller (which you can pass serial commands to) and the sensor assembly. To save costs, equipment most developers don’t need or probably have lying around has been eliminated from the kit. The kit will NOT include the case, yoke handle, Pi (although you can still add your own), or PSU (any 400W or greater standard ATX computer power supply will do).
Control loading on the Roll axis (ailerons) is provided for by a Nema 17 stepper motor which drives the shaft rotation through a very simple “locking ring” assembly. We have sourced standard sized US made commercial polyurethane belting as a linkage between the stepper and the locking ring.
Software integration, force feedback models, and the SDK
Because this yoke carries an onboard computer (Raspberry Pi), your main simulation computer does not need to perform force calculations. All that is needed is to pass the appropriate Data References/Simulation Variables (speed, attitude, etc) back to the yoke and the Pi will then perform all necessary calculations. Manual changes to force models will be made directly on the Pi via a web interface. Because the yoke will be a network-connected device, updates to community force models or firmware can be downloaded and updated directly via the same interface.
In the case of X-Plane, all the necessary data references can be captured by the Pi directly through TCP/IP, eliminating the need for custom plugins. This also means that our software will function the same on Mac, PC, or Linux. In the case of Prepare3D and FSX, we will be using SimConnect to access the necessary simulation variables. It is our hope that developers from other simulation communities such as Flight Gear, etc will join our project and through the SDK help us ensure greater compatibility with as many systems as possible.
To start yokes will be compatible with:
- X-Plane (Mac/PC/Linux)
The SDK is written in C++ and allows editing of both the force modeling and interface software on the Pi. The SDK also includes the Arduino libraries which operate the power handling micro controller. Backers will have access to all our executables, source code, and internal documentation.
Specs: ***These specifications are still subject to change***
Power: Power is supplied via a standard 400w 1U server power supply. Power supplies will be CE certified and will operate on 100-240V 50/60Hz.
Yoke Handle: We have not yet finalized design of the handle itself, however it will be loosely modeled around the popular 737 style. All buttons and switches will be fully programmable within the Pi, permitting for custom written commands, or simply passing button pushes back to your simulation software. Each side will come equipped with a hatswitch, a rear push button, and a side push button. The yoke will also be provided with an internal powered USB hub (PCB) with one external high amperage port (located on the rear) should you wish to buy a tablet mount for charts, plates, moving maps etc. At the moment, we intend yokes handles to be solid cast resin to ensure a rigid feel.
Why we need your help
Force feedback yokes are specialty items and the development costs for a new hardware product are substantial. Individually handmade units are very expensive, and no large manufacturer will launch a new product line unless they feel they can sell tens of thousands of units. We have a design which is cost effective to produce in smaller quantities (<1000 units); however, to make production possible, we need to be able to bulk buy many components, along with produce tooling suitable for production. Your backing of this campaign will give us the capital to move forward as well as validate our belief that there IS demand for this product.
Patrick has been a commercial flight instructor for the past 10 years. While serving as a chief flight instructor, he oversaw the training, and licensing of well over 100 Private, and Commercial students, both domestic and foreign. He has been designing and building commercial simulation and industrial automation systems since 2010, and has worked in the charter, bush, and aerial survey industries. He currently holds a Canadian Class 2 instructor rating, a Group 1 instrument rating, and a seaplane endorsement.
Chad brings 8 years of management experience in operations, logistics, development, and sales. He has a background in design, layout, and installation of industrial electrical control systems, and is an active software developer. He has also been an operator and manager in the long haul transport industry, and has extensive experience as a sales and merchandising manager. Chad has specialized in business-to-business and end-user sales for bulk electronics. He is well versed in instruction, training, and program management as a head sailing instructor and manager of a competitive racing program. He also holds a private pilot license.
Kyle won his Private Pilot License on an Air Cadet scholarship in 2002. He then went on to fly a Grob with the RCAF while designing robotic hardware and navigation systems at Royal Military College. He worked as a software developer with Blizzard Entertainment while studying engineering. He is also an avid gamer and has been active in the sim community for many years.
We have gone through numerous coil, magnet, bearing, and electronic revisions to come to the point that we are today. We can now generate highly controllable forces with a design which can be put into production relatively easily. The following is a projected timeline along with pictures of some previous designs.
Our estimated project costs are below. Approximately 75% of funds raised will be directly spent on hardware, materials, packaging, assembly, and Kickstarter/credit card fees.
Risks and challenges
This is a hardware project. Moving from prototype to a shippable product will require time and resources. Delivery dates are at the mercy of unforeseen design, manufacturing, and regulatory issues. Delays on either our side or from suppliers/manufacturers would have a direct impact on when you receive your yoke. It is also possible that we could encounter issues sourcing some of our components. To mitigate this risk, where possible, we have chosen standard components where many alternatives exist.
This product relies heavily on tight tolerance components. If a batch of parts arrives which are out of design spec they may have to be made again, this would obviously have an effect on delivery time. To counter this issue, we will be producing parts in small locally produced batches so we can catch QA errors early before they become excessively expensive/time consuming.
While there is possible risk at every step of this project we are confident that we have the right team to reach our quality goals and deadlines.
We’re looking forward to your support and community feedback as together we finally bring high quality control loading into the consumer simulation market.
- (30 days)