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Giant robot arm used as F1 simulator

German engineers have invented the third and final type of awesome: they've turned a giant robotic arm into a Ferrari F1 simulator. You may now explode with delight


Engineers at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany (surely the greatest of all institutes) have turned a massive robot arm into a Ferrari F1 simulator, discovering a new strain of awesome in the process.

The contraption, known as the CyberMotion Simulator, consists of an industrial robotic arm fitted with a racing seat, a force feedback steering wheel and a 3D simulation of the Monza Formula 1 track beamed from a projector on to a curved display.

When occupants turn the wheel, the car reacts on screen while the arm flings them through the air, mimicking the violent direction changes they'd feel in an F1 car.

We'd be the first to admit this looks like the most fun anyone can possibly have playing a computer game, but we've concerns as to how accurate it is. The robotic arm, a Kuka KR 500, was originally designed for use in amusement parks where wild swinging motions are more important than fast, accurate response.

As a result, there appears to be some delay between the movements on the steering wheel and the sudden, mechanised lurches of the robot arm. This is particularly noticeable at 00:51 into the video, where the driver veers left then right, only for his movements to be mimicked by the arm approximately a second later.

Unlike Max Planck's finest, we're not very good at maths, but we calculate that a sudden lurch in one direction + visual stimulus suggesting a sudden lurch in the opposite direction = airborne vomit.

The CyberMotion Simulator does have its strengths. According to Paolo Robuffo Giordano, the man behind the project, the arm has a much larger motion envelope than rival systems, and "allows subjects to be freely displaced in six degrees of freedom in space and even to be placed upside-down".

Sadly, the CyberMotion Simulator won't be popping up in an arcade near you. The selfish supergeeks who built this thing only created it for research purposes, so the closest you're going to get is to find yourself a theme park with a Kuka robot arm (please let us know if you do), or watch the video below.