I don't want anyone getting their hopes up, so don't expect to see this any time soon, but while going through things that might be interesting to do in VR, I was suddenly reminded of the skiing I used to do.
And it struck me that I could make a pretty good skiing simulator by combining stuff I now have lying around with a rift headset.
So, I thought basically of making a small ski resort, complete with a few buildings, a chairlift, (and probably a chain-lift as well), and a gentle ski slope.
(The slope is gentle mainly because real ski slopes can get to levels that are... Well, scary would be putting it mildly, but in any event while that might be fun for some people, I'd like to start off carefully until I have a better sense of what using the rift is like.)
Anyway, going up the chairlift is half the fun of skiing, and in VR should be pretty good too, but here's what I was thinking. (This has as much to do with what I happen to have lying about as anything else)
Use a rift (obviously) with positional head tracking provided by an IR marker and a Wii remote. (I might implement alternate methods depending on practical concerns, and just for the flexibility).
A Razer hydra will be used for hand movements (alternately, wii remotes or anything similar might fulfill this role too.). - The hydra's analog sticks won't be used for movement, although that might be a fall-back for people that don't have all the stuff I'm going to be using. - Depending on how practical the alternatives are, I might use the analog sticks while walking, rather than skiing.)
Finally, two Wii balance boards will be used to control the skis (and possibly for walking, if that doesn't feel too weird).
You might wonder why I'm thinking of using two boards... Well, it basically has to do with the physics of skiing.
A balance board has 4 weight sensors in it, and you can use it to figure out a person's weight distribution. But in principle, you can also use it to determine a degree of 'twist', since if two diagonally opposing corners have most of the weight on them, this would imply that your foot is diagonally across the board (if there's only one foot on it.)
Why does this matter? Well, control over your speed and direction while skiing can be done using several techniques. The most basic way to stop, is the 'snowplough', which you do by twisting your legs inwards until the skis point together in a V shape. To turn, you lean on the edges of the skis, (and possibly combine this with a snowplough to control your speed.) A more advanced method of turning is to lift one foot off the ground, turn it, then place it down again. (Obviously, this is difficult to do without falling over, especially at speed, and risks crossing your skis, which is pretty dangerous.)
But anyway, the ability to lean sideways independently with each foot is very important in skiing, which a single balance board cannot replicate. Hence, I figured the easiest solution would be to use two.
Obviously, I could also implement snowboarding (which is more practical with a single balance board), but I see no reason not to do both...
It is a ski resort after all.
Anyway, as I said, this is all just conceptual at this point, so don't get your hopes up to see it any time soon, but if you like the idea (or have any comments about it), please feel free to let me know of course.
I remember "Wii Family Ski" and "Shaun White Snowboarding" for the Wii, both supporting the Balance board. The Balance board is the optimal solution for any Skiing-related game and both titles were a big fun especially when played with the board.
The Problem with a Ski Resort Game would in that case be the Connection of the Balance board to the pc. I tried it often and it worked but it is not "Plug and Play", you know. So for a Commercial game this will never work.
I know I can sync Wii hardware with my PC without much effort (the only problem being that the windows bluetooth stack is quite annoying), and in general in my experience it isn't much worse than any other bluetooth device.
However, you are correct. It's not a good solution for a commercial product. But then, that's not what this is aiming to be.
It's more a proof of concept if anything. That's why I'm willing to write something that could potentially require the use of 5 different accessories for it to work at it's best.
However, as an indication of what kind of hardware might be useful...
Well, the Razer hydra is already a PC product. The rift headset will eliminate one of the extra pieces of hardware if and when they come up with a position tracking solution, And the use of 2 balance boards... Well, so far there's no real alternatives yet, but if I were to speculate about custom hardware for an idea like this,
Well, there's a number of possibilities, but the main point being that ideally you want to be able to use something that can pick up a person twisting their feet, and leaning left and right. Which the balance board more or less does, (but two lets you do things independently with either foot.)
In any event, consider this an experiment. Depending on the results, it can help guide the design of more specialised hardware to replace the use of Wii balance boards, but in terms of PC accessories, there just isn't anything around right now.
Work with what you've got basically... XD
(Incedentally, I'm starting to get the feeling the topics I create disappoint people a little; Lots of people look at them, but then they don't respond, which makes me think I might be disappointing them somehow... Oh well.)
Anyway, time to get to work. This stuff won't create itself you know... XD
I think it's a great idea. Don't let the lack of response dampen your enthusiasm for this project. I think that there are so many really neat ideas coming out now, that people just don't have time to look and respond to all of them.
Two balance boards, a hydra and a rift sounds like an excellent combination of devices. Looking forward to seeing this develop.
I only mention that because I've created several topics that have been viewed quite a lot but have had no replies. If it were merely something nobody actually bothered to look at I wouldn't feel quite so weird about it.
But I guess I probably shouldn't read too much into it. As you say, not everyone has time to read and reply to everything. (I don't even do it, so... Yeah.)
I''ll keep people updated as this progresses more though. (That reminds me... I need a second balance board now. I hope the second-hand store still has some of that huge pile they had a few months back... XD)
I have been considering a ski simulator as well. It will be interesting to see if people topple over or feel sick when the slope they see isn't the slope they feel. It would be great to have a motion platform to use with this. 🙂
I thought about building one for a train simulator at one point, (that would've been an attempt at building a traditional simulator cab, rather than a VR project), but the mechanics of being able to support enough weight on a moving platform, and also the distance required between the ground and the platform base to give any appreciable sense of motion kind of put me off trying to build one...
As for people balancing while skiing, that's an interesting one. I hadn't specifically thought about it, but of course when it looks like you're going down-hill when you're actually on level ground...
Incidentally it did occur to me to put a chair directly behind the player. Mostly because of chair lifts, which would expect you to sit down on them if simulated with any degree of accuracy...
Without a chair behind the player, I can totally see someone trying to sit on the chairlift only to fall over backwards... XD
Wow, I never considered a motion platform for a train simulator.
A friend of mine is heavily into flight sim of commercial airlines, so several times we have discussed motion platforms suitable for that. But, everything we come up with would be noisy, clunky, take up as much room as a car and cost as much as a car!
Back on the topic of skiing, I wonder how well a Rift could be integrated into one of those elliptical cross trainer machines. That could be a good base for simulating cross country skiing.
Where the feet are together on a platform which the player pivots left or right to turn. That should be achievable for a home build, but I wish I could add tilt and elevation, ideally independently for each foot. This has me thinking now, I might have to add it to my list of things to prototype.