Simmers always try to get the most out of their sims and immerse themselves as much as possible. Gametrix wants to take it a step further and add another dimension to your sim.
Huge, high definition monitors, 5.1 or higher sound set, true-to-life controls and now, VR. We are getting closer and closer to actually feeling we’re inside our game or sim. Sims never looked or sounded better with the latest graphics and sound engines and technology.
Virtual Reality is taking things several steps ahead, making you feel like you’re inside the world. Couple that with some high-quality headphones and you can be lost inside your favorite aircraft somewhere around the world – or shooting some bad guys over the Caucasus.
The folks at Gametrix wanted to take all this even further, so they have released a couple of products that might just rock your simulated world.
The Gametrix KW-901 JetSeat LiveSense and the Gametrix KW-908 JetSeat Turbojet are two pieces of hardware that you’ll want to try for yourself. At the lack of a better description, these are two seat covers that have a few engines embedded (or vibration pads like Gametrix call it) -- 6 of them!
These pads work independently and they will transmit the sensation of vibration to your body. So, in theory, you can feel the vibration of the aircraft you are flying.
The unit comes in quite a nice sturdy cardboard box that shows Gametrix went the extra mile to present their product the best way possible. It's quite a remarkable first impression. It's a bit odd to see World of Tanks plastered all over the box but I'm guessing there's a huge mutual support between the folks at Gametrix and the ones at WoT.
Inside you'll find a couple of manuals (for different languages), a CD/DVD with the drivers, the unit and the necessary cables and power unit. Everything you need to get it to work.
How it works
We were lucky enough to get a Gametrix KW-908 JetSeat Turbojet to review. I have been using it for the past 3 weeks or so, experimenting with several sims, aircraft and doing all my testing and adjusting to it.
The Gametrix units connect to your computer in 2 ways: through a USB plug and to your sound card output plug. You can then connect your headset or your columns to the Gametrix unit’s extension cord so you’ll still listen to the sound coming out of your computer.
In its simplest form, the units will process the sound that comes out of your computer and activate the engines accordingly. So, for a prop airplane or a helicopter, you’ll have this continuous vibration. Something that I noticed, though, is that the vibration is both sensitive to volume and stereo. If you are flying on a dual engine turboprop and one of the engine’s shut down, for example, you’ll feel more vibration on one side than you do on the other side.
Oh and you have a module that allows you to get a massage as well! And you can choose between 2 types of quiet, relaxing background sound and massage.
The USB mode
This method is, of course, not exactly the best one to get the most out of the Gametrix units. Enter the USB mode.
Apart from the drivers, which come in the CD that ships with your unit (or which you can download at the Gametrix website as well – you can find a lot of great software here) there’s this little piece of software called SimShaker. Currently, SimShaker only supports FSX:SE/P3D in a limited way and DCS (in a much better way).
You see, SimShaker gets information from your sim (such as when you touchdown, enter Vortex Ring State, etc.) and sends the Gametrix unit commands to vibrate certain pads. This not only allows you to feel the vibration of the engine but also to feel whenever certain actions or events are happening.
In case of VRS, for example, I found it very useful because I felt the vibration increasing while entering this state on DCS, even before my eyes provided me with this information. Granted, it’s only perhaps a split-second difference but still, it’s very cool and it allowed me to focus on the outside a bit more than looking at my instruments and wait for it to start vibrating.
Landings in DCS are also “felt” using the Gametrix unit. When the skids touch down, we feel a stronger vibration in the lower pads (the ones in your leg) which is also a nice sensorial feedback and allowed me, again, to use my sight for other things such as checking instruments or avoiding obstacles near the LZ.
What it’s not
Folks, let’s get real here. You will not feel your aircraft slip. You will not feel it getting light on the skids or any other movement other than vibrations or the occasional “thump”.
These units have their limitations and you cannot expect to get all the physical feedback of an aircraft for the price of these units.
What it is, though, is a small revolution for us, simmers, that adds yet another layer of depth to our hobby. But do expect a few limitations, though. This is all still a simulation after all.
Unfortunately, SimShaker doesn’t come with a helicopter profile for FSX/P3D (and it’s not yet available for X-Plane) so, although it’s still VERY good on these sims – in X-Plane you’ll have to use the sound mode – it’s still a bit limited at the moment.
I’ve been in contact with the SimShaker team that has been tirelessly helping me in trying to get some stuff to work through USB (they have released an update of their software so that I could use it in FSX: SE) and I’m now part of the testing team that’s helping them shape it up for FSX and other sims.
X-Plane support is also on the roadmap sometime in the future. Meanwhile, you can use it with the sound module, which still works pretty well, although a bit more limited.
I cannot imagine how it would be to use the Gametrix unit with VR! I simply can’t! It must be one of those experiences that will change your perspective towards gaming in general and makes you feel like you’re living in a sci-fi movie or novel.
For the price, it’s a great piece of hardware to have and, if you have a VR set, you should seriously consider getting one of these.
- Adds another layer of immersion to your sim
- Very easy to use
- Still a bit limited on some sims
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