Project E.B.T.R. Racing Simulator Moves You – Literally

If you are really into racing games on your PC you may have a multi-display setup, a wheel, and perhaps even some pedals. With wrap-around visuals, car-like controls, and force feedback you may wonder what the “next level” for racing simulation experiences would be. Chris Stevenson went down that same path, way down that path! The result is a Windows-based full-motion racing simulator that Chris calls “Project E.B.T.R.” because his simulator has Everything But The Rims!

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Project E.B.T.R. – A Windows-based full-motion car racing simulator

Background

Back in 2007 Chris saw some of the existing racing simulator projects and thought: “I think I could build something like that, only better!”. That started Chris on an adventure that would entail cash outlay in excess of $30,000, and span over 5 years of building, refining, upgrading, and perfecting his racing simulator. Project E.B.T.R. is something that you really have to try in person to appreciate! If you want to check it out in person, you can see Chris at some of the major gaming events where the E.B.T.R. Simulator is rented for attendees to experience. Some of the events where Project E.B.T.R. has been showcased include PAX Prime, PAX Prime East, GeForce LAN 6 (which was on the USS Hornet!), PDXLAN, and Intel LAN-fest events. For more information about events and rentals see the Project E.B.T.R. website.

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Project E.B.T.R. owner Chris Stevenson with his creation

While Chris has run many different games on Project E.B.T.R., he favors games like Dirt3 from Codemasters because of the extensive real-time vehicle related physics data that’s available for integration with the motion actuation system that’s at the core of the Project E.B.T.R. simulator. This real-time data includes road surface, crash dynamics, pitch and roll data, and more. When you depress the gas pedal, the simulator pitches back. When you crash, you feel a jolt, when you change road surfaces (gravel to asphalt for example) you immediately feel a change in vibrations that can shake you while driving, just like on a real track. When you combine ergonomically correct controls with full-body force feedback you enter a whole new dimension of realism. Because I’m a speed freak and gear-head, the Project E.B.T.R. simulator put a HUGE smile on my face. It was also quite different than the Xbox controller that I’m used to on the PC and with my Xbox (I play a lot of Burnout Paradise). In the following video you can see my first (sorry) attempt at racing in Dirt3 with Project E.B.T.R., and how a pro like Chris can throw the car around the track:

Building Project E.B.T.R

In total it took about two months to build the initial iteration of Project E.B.T.R. with the help of some of Chris’ friends.

Project E.B.T.R consists of three primary assemblies:

  • Square tube steel base (with enclosed custom Windows PC)
  • Square tube aluminum cockpit (suspended by central pivot and electronic stepper motor actuators)
  • Triple display array with aluminum rack

One of the biggest challenges Chris had when building Project E.B.T.R. was to find the ideal placement of the controls which the driver interfaces with. Chris had to engineer an optimized weight distribution for the cockpit (with driver present) and fine tune control interfaces and placements. This was no simple feat when you factor in widely varying driver dimensions and weights. The result was well worth the effort.

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Driver in Project E.B.T.R. cockpit

The quest for driving realism made Chris decide to completely gut and re-engineer the Logitech G27 pedal assembly which he seamlessly integrated with the Project E.B.T.R. cockpit. The result: pedal actuation (top pivoting) which feels just like a real rally racing car. Very cool touch! Another cool feature is the ability to move the seat back or forward, just like in a real car.

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Heavily modified Logitech G27 pedals used in Project E.B.T.R.

Graphics

While Project E.B.T.R. has been reconfigured and upgraded many times, and in its current form a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 powers the three Samsung 40” Slim LED full-HD displays that are used. Using NVIDIA Surround with screen bezel correction, the result is a very fluid and realistic panoramic gameplay experience.

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At its core: the PC that powers Project E.B.T.R.

Project E.B.T.R. Info and Specs

Dimensions:

  • Length: Length: ~8′, Width: ~3′, Height: ~5′
  • Weight: ~600lb fully assembled

PC Specifications:

  • OS: Windows 8
  • Graphics: MSI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770
  • Motherboard: MSI Z87 Mpower
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4670k Haswell
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair DDR3 1800MHz
  • Cooling: Corsair H100i water cooler
  • Storage: Corsair neutron GTX SSD

Hardware Components:

  • Displays: 3x Samsung 40” thin LED TVs @ 1920 x 1080
  • Wheel: Modified Logitech G27
  • Pedals: Modified Logitech G27
  • Speakers: Logitech Z5500

If you are going to be at PAX Prime (Seattle, WA 08/30 – 09/02 2013) be sure to find Chris and Project E.B.T.R. – if you are patient enough to wait in line, you can even try it out!

Find me on twitter here: @GavinGear