Adding a VR headset to your sim racing equipment is a great idea, but as you know there’s always room for improvement. We have been curious what a truly high quality, professional level motion rig setup could offer to sim racers, so we have reached out to R.E. Moore Jr., founder and chief engineer of Boston based VR Motion Labs to ask him about their company and product. He was kind enough to answer our questions, providing exclusive insight into the very essence of racing in VR.
Racing In VR: When did you start your company, and what is the main profile of your business?
R.E. Moore Jr.: I formally setup VR Motion Labs, LLC in December of 2016, although the R&D for the first prototypes started in 2015. The first working prototype was publicly demonstrated in July of 2016. The company is focused on building motion simulators for VR Racing simulations. Our target market is guys that actually race or want to race. Since these simulators are expensive, we’re also planning to open a number of VR Race Clubs that will be equipped with our simulators. These will be private clubs with annual memberships and you’ll be able to book time in the simulators as required.
Your latest product, the 3DOF VR Motion Labs Prototype #2 is able to simulate acceleration, de-acceleration, cornering g-force, road surface and suspension characteristics, and even vehicle traction loss. How is it possible, and how realistic are these movements, on a scale of 1-10, compared to a real race car?
I like to think of it all as a symphony. We’re blending the VR 3D visuals with head tracking, force feedback steering, high speed 3DOF motion (pitch, roll and traction loss) and sound. While the motion is fast (low mechanical latency, this is important!) the motion profiles are setup so that the movement is subtle because your brain has already bought into the fact that you are in a car and racing through the VR experience. Most simulators throw you around too much. Just introducing motion because you can without the right tuning doesn’t feel right and can make you sick pretty quickly. Technically we’re playing with your inner ear and your sense of balance along with minute body pressure cues to create a feeling of motion. It’s called kinesthesia. It feels pretty damn real. I’d say on a scale of 1-10 it would be an 8.
When speaking of VR racing, is it essential to have a seat mover (or just a butt kicker) under the driver? The VR headset alone is not enough to create the illusion?
It all depends on the level of immersion that you are looking for. A good, solid static rig with decent controls and a butt kicker is a fine way to start and a lot of fun. I’ve been racing in VR with 3DOF motion for a while now so that when I get in a static rig it doesn’t feel right. I can’t detect oversteer like I can with a motion rig so my corrective actions will be slower and I’m probably going to have slower lap times.
Based on your experiences, what are the main advantages of driving a car in VR?
It feels real. It feels the way it is supposed to. You look around and you are in the car. You look over and you see the guy next to you.
What is your answer to VR motion sickness, one of the main disadvantages of present VR technology? Based on your experience, how many people suffer from dizziness during or after racing in virtual reality?
I’ve had around 400 people in my simulator. I’ve got everything tuned for 90fps so the graphics performance should not be an issue. I’ve had less than 10 experience motion sickness so it’s not often but when people get motion sickness they get it fast. The majority are women over 50. Not sure why that is. Some say it has to due with their peripheral vision. I’ve only had 2 guys that experienced motion sickness. One we were able to resolve by eliminating his glasses. I know when I first started racing in VR, my brain would feel overwhelmed after about 15 minutes (but I wouldn’t get sick) and it would take me around an hour to feel normal. That same type of thing used to happen to me with long Doom sessions. Now I can spend hours in VR and I feel fine. It feels normal. So your brain seems to adjust over time.
Which simulator is the best for the new Prototype #2, which one you recommend? iRacing, Assetto Corsa or Project Cars?
Right now I’d have to say that I like iRacing the best with Assetto Corsa a close second. I’m also impressed with RaceRoom Racing Experience. They’ve done a nice job with their VR interface. I use Project Cars for a lot of first time demos because it seems the most forgiving for new drivers. I’m looking forward to Project Cars 2 because from what I hear through the grapevine, they’ve fixed a lot of things.
Are you a dedicated sim racer yourself?
Do you prefer manual gear stick setups or automatic?
It doesn’t matter to me. It depends on the car. I grew up with standard transmission in Triumphs and MGB’s so I’m very comfortable with a stick shift and clutch.
Do you still play games (any game) on traditional monitors or VR only?
I only use VR for racing and I don’t play any other games. I’ve tried going back to a single monitor and it just doesn’t work for me anymore.
Is your product suitable for professional training? Which motorsport category has the most potential to train the pilots in VR? (F1, Nascar, Rally, DTM, GoKart etc?..)
I think it is and we are working with a few amateur drivers right now. I’d like to get a few pros to test it out and we’re working on that. Karting doesn’t feel real to me at all so I don’t know about that. I’m drawn to GT cars so that’s what I spend most of my time in. It certainly helps to learn the track race line, braking points, etc.
Who is your main target group? Enthusiastic gamers and individuals, or professional businesses such as arcades and theme parks?
Racers, Ex-racers, Motorsports Enthusiasts. That’s our focus. While a lot of arcades and theme parks are showing interest, I don’t think this type of high performance simulator is ideal for their environment because it requires fitting the rig to the driver, some instruction, some fine tuning and most of their clients wouldn’t know the difference from a 2DOF seat shaker, like a roller coaster simulator. You also have to be careful when sharing VR headsets with crowds because the lenses are near the eyes and the headset touches the skin and hair/scalp. There are horror stories of kids with lice or pink eye that have passed that on to a whole bunch of people. Not good!
How strong is the competition? Do you see a viable market for this kind of product?
On the commercial end there are a handful of companies building motion simulators. The motion systems vary in capabilities and cost. There are a lot of 2DOF platforms and 3DOF platforms that do not include traction loss. I think traction loss is absolutely essential for VR racing and that is why I built my own simulator. I wanted something that was relatively quiet, could fit through a 32” door opening and run off of a 115vac/15 amp circuit. I think there is a global market and I think that VR changes the game for racing and flight simulation. Time will tell how big the market really is.
Racing simulator kits usually don’t come cheap, especially when VR and seat movers are added to the package. Can you share with our readers the approximate cost of purchasing a fully equipped home VR simulator?
A decent 3DOF system that includes everything, is around 25K (minimum). A decent 2DOF system is around 15K. If you want to build something yourself I’d budget at least 10k.
What are the future possibilities? Do you think VR will eventually dominate monitors and TV screens, or the flat screens will stay with us in parallel with the virtual tracks?
VR is the future and it will only get better from here with higher resolution, better peripheral vision, eye tracking for natural focus and foveated rendering, etc. It’s a very exciting time to be involved with simulation!
Thank you for the interview!
To learn more about VR Motion Labs visit the company’s: