Martin Buehler loves flight simulation and he’s built an impressive VR setup involving an ejector seat, vibration and a Rift development kit. Before flight simulators, Buehler was afraid of flying. He’s overcome that fear with the help of flight simulation though and his passion for flying led him to get a pilot’s license. He’s even built a $2,500 home simulator complete with VR headset.
“When I first heard of the Oculus Rift Kickstarter I knew exactly what I wanted it for: to fly warbirds in games,” Buehler said.
He began this journey as an avid sim fan even before he owned a PC powerful enough to run something like the Rift.
“Birds of Prey on the Xbox 360 got me back into flying games. When I eventually wanted a bit more realism, I tried to use a flight stick on the Xbox. They had a dead-zone you couldn’t adjust that made gameplay awful, so I went the PC route. Suddenly you could add a lot of peripherals, as well as run quite a few more simulators, and [the rig] been slowing evolving ever since,” Buehler said.
The setup certainly evolved. Buehler said his current rig would cost around $2,500 to build from scratch. The central technology is an Oculus Rift DK2 he pairs with an actual ejector seat from a F-106 Delta Dart. Those pieces are crucial, but they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making this setup soar.
“The Max Flight Stick I modified and I swapped in Saitek pedals because I needed toe-brakes. None of these had force feedback, so I picked up some Buttkickers which do a nice job giving some sensation through the whole rig. You can feel the road beneath your car, your landing gear retract, etc. It adds a lot in VR,” said Buehler.
On the PC side Buehler says the graphics card is key. His build uses an overclocked NVIDIA 780 with an Intel i7-4770 CPU. He also uses a plasma TV rather than a traditional monitor for his non-Rift display.
The simulation of choice for Buehler when he’s in his rig is the cross-platform MMO War Thunder, and he’s not the only one enjoying the experience.
“My father-in-law mentioned a men’s group he’d been running for years that had many pilots in attendance. He figured they would really enjoy my setup, so I brought it over for an afternoon. By the end of the day several retired pilots, including former WW2 aviators, had taken to the skies and were very impressed. It became a recurring activity, and still is to this day, I bring it over with my brother and son for the seniors up at the home,” Buehler said.
Oculus is about to show the world what its consumer product can do when it ships in March. Facebook’s VR unit is bundling space flying game Eve: Valkyrie in with every pre-ordered headset. Part of what makes Eve: Valkyrie such an easy choice for a launch title is that the cockpit experience it provides is so perfect for seated VR. Cockpit gameplay makes instant sense and creates deep presence for both new and experienced Rift users.
Buehler believes these cockpit experiences are indeed the future for him and others that share his passion.
“It will change the sim community for sure. There are legitimate complaints about resolution and interacting with the virtual world. But we are really early on here, just look at a 10 year old cellphone compared to now. Even with the current limitations racing, flying, driving, work very well. To actually be in the simulation is worth the shortcomings,” Buehler said.
If you want to learn more, he chronicled both the long process of setting up his rig and the reactions of those who’ve tried it.