Parallel Robotics to Advance Virtual Reality

Vehicle simulators could be more realistic than ever with dynamic cable-propelled motion.

Ever play one of those vehicle simulator games? They may soon be getting a lot more advanced with the MPI CableRobot Simulator.

(Photo courtesy of Stanford University.)

(Photo courtesy of Stanford University.)

The simulator is powered by a parallel robot with multiple cable “arms” to actuate the movements of the cockpit through a 16.4×16.4×26.2 feet room. 

The cockpit is an 80kg carbon fiber cage containing a single seat to carry a passenger. The robotic system is supported by eight steel cables tensioned up to 1.4 tons (2800 lbs) running on a 348 kW (466 horsepower) winch system.

The cockpit is able to move across a room fluidly with an acceleration up to 1.5g and passengers can wear a wireless VR headset with an optical tracking system, which can be used to control the simulator’s motion.

Researchers behind the project believe their invention can be used for applications beyond prototyping, flight and drive training or gaming.

“This simulator offers us entirely new possibilities for studying motion perception with possible applications in neurological research into balance disorders,” said Heinrich Bülthoff, lead researcher and director at the Max Planck Institute’s (MPI) department of human perception.

For those of us who pay attention to space exploration and NASA’s advancements, (heard about their latest discovery on Mars?) this technology looks a lot like NASA’s old Gimbal Rig. The CableRobot Simulator does employ more updated technology, but the inspiration is striking.

However, as exciting as the technology may be, it does have its issues:

Simulator Accuracy

From what we can see in the video above, the CableRobot Simulator doesn’t seem capable of recreating the motion of a car or plane entirely.

The platform is shown to hurdle itself forward and back, and doesn’t seem to have the ability to rotate 360 degrees. These issues may make it difficult to accurately represent the motion of a car doing a U-turn or sensation of speeding down a street for example, but it is still a step in the right direction.


The simulator’s set up is huge.

The team behind the tech state that the system can be scaled up or down depending on the size of the room it must be placed in. Unfortunately, I don’t imagine it will fit into any VR enthusiast’s house.

Even the odds of seeing it installed in a public gaming arcade like Dave & Buster’s is slim. However, there may be some future for it in a theme park.


Speaking of consumers, the CableRobot Simulator will surely not come cheap.

Its ability to enhance VR is certain, but only research facilities and the likes of Disney will be capable of scraping together the funding to acquire something like this, at least at first.

To those gamers awaiting the “Lawnmower Man” VR revolution, don’t get your hopes up yet.

Bülthoff’s team at MPI collaborated with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering and Automation for the project.

The MPI CableRobot Simulator was first displayed at the Driving Simulation Conference and Exhibition in Tübingen, Germany Sept. 16 to 18.