Dutch company builds joystick with hydraulic force feedback
Joysticks are available a dozen a dime, however when a new technology is applied to it, we get interested. Being Dutch myself, when a Dutch company is behind it .. we find it very interesting.
A Dutch based company called Paccus Interfaces is designing a new joystick which they think will be the icing on top of the cake when it comes to joysticks. Current Force Feedback joysticks are very imprecise according to Joseph Melskens from Paccus.
Paccus developed a totally new kind of joystick. One which is real 3D, is as precise and fast as a game mouse, has extra programmable keys, but most important has a unique (patented) fluid head force feedback, that can pull you out of your seat! This is not a toy, it is made from metal.
This new joystick will embed new hydraulic technology, ensuring extreme precision and a very precise and new gaming experience. According to Paccus It took them four years with funding from the European Union and help of the Technical University's of Delft and Eindhoven. The reason why they developed this is simple. All other sticks suck ?
Guru3D had an interview with Joseph Melskens from Paccus, we also have some examples of the prototype. And prototype, really mean PROTOTYPE as in not even close to a final design. The final product will be called Hawk and will be demonstrated at the Gamescom in Köln Germany, Augustus 2009.
Hello Joseph, can you introduce yourself as to who you are, where you are from and what your function within Paccus is.
Paccus Interfaces BV is a small company based in Almere, the Netherlands. Two engineers, Bart Sikkens en Ariëlla Bijl and I, Joseph Melskens, founded it in 2005 with the purpose to develop a new generation joystick.
You guys are working on a revolutionary gaming peripheral, that is going to shock the industry, literally. Can you give a quick introduction what the product will be like ?
The Paccus Hawk, as we call it, introduces a new touch and feel to gamers and even professionals who want to get so close to their subject, that they can almost smell it. They now at least can feel it. We developed a completely new hydraulic system. It gives smooth movements like no other joystick, and it is so strong it can kick you out of your seat if you want it to. So, no plastic housing for the Hawk. And when it goes into production, there should be warning labels on it. This is definitely not a child toy, but for grownups who know what they do. The precision is like a professional stick and because of the smooth movements even better. For now we use the fast and non-contact hall effect sensors, but when our own new optical sensors are ready we will switch to that, and get even higher resolutions than most game mouses as well. Even up to 2000 dpi for each axis!
And best of all, it is a sturdy design that endures even the hardcore gamer for many years.
Where did you get the idea from to develop a gaming device like this ?
As Bart and I were playing flightsims, and fps-games where you have to jump into vehicles and airplanes as well, we tried using several joysticks next to our mouse and keyboard. Just terrible! Not only is the combination of a keyboard and a mouse not a very healthy one, as you know, but especially the joysticks where so bad that we gave up on them. And we didn't used the cheap ones. They were not precise, and wandered all over the place after a while. So there had to be a better way, we were thinking.
What kind of controls will the user have to it's ability.
The Paccus Hawk we are working on now is the basic version, but it still has three axis, a horizontal mouse wheel en two buttons on the head of the stick and a precision trigger. On the base of the stick there will be a small keyboard. All keys you are free to designate to any key or combination of keys. Next to that the firmware is upgradable and tweakable.
What can people expect when they buy the product, a huge device, something handy and easy to use ?
The Paccus Hawk will be a bit bigger than the average force feedback joystick, but size does matter here! You need a good firm base with a stick like this, and we provide even connections to mount it on a table.
Can you tell us a little about fluid based force feedback and the technology behind it ?
The hydraulic force feedback works with two electro motors which will be integrated in the base of the stick, as will the oil channels. This gives a minimum of fluid movement and a strong and direct feel to the stick. To keep it simple and affordable we let the fluid leak a little. This is a choice 'by design' and the spilled fluid will go back into the system on its own.
Will the product have native Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 support ?
We use the standard Microsoft drivers. We now tested it on XP and Vista. Because of the upgradable firmware we can handle future Windows versions with ease.
We assume your interface is managed through DirectX, but how do you control and replicate something like a force feedback ?
Although we can enable all kinds of keystrokes to the stick, for some features to work we still need input from the game designers.
Penetrating the market with a new product like this is difficult, will you produce the product yourself, or partner up with a company like Microsoft or Logitech for example ?
We can produce small amounts of joysticks ourselves, but we expect to team up with a major partner.
What do you think will be the finalized MSRP (price) for this product ?
Retail price will be between 250 and 400 euro, depending on the type, quality and the volume they will be produced in.
You mentioned the development path for this product was managed with the help from the EU, as it was subsidized ? So .. how did that work, how does tax payers money end up in the development of a entertainment / gaming device ?
The whole trajectory of development of a high-end joystick like this is very time consuming, and therefore expensive. We got subsidized by the EU because of the new technology we developed and the green aspect of making a long-lasting metal joystick instead of a plastic one. Since this will be a high-end joystick it is suitable for industrial and medical applications as well. We also were lucky to find an investor and the rest we invested ourselves.
One extra note, because everybody thinks you can use a joystick only for flightsims. Sure, but that isn't new. This joystick is as precise as a mouse, it moves smoother, you feel when you hit anything or something hits you, and you need your keyboard less because you can probably do all you want on one device. Imagine you play a FPS with it and move along a wall. You can feel it, and you feel when you reach the corner. Quickly you can look around it, shoot and move back again in a simple natural move of one hand!
Thanks for your time Joseph, and we'll surely follow your product development with much interest. You can visit their website here.
Early stage prototype of what will become the HAWK joystick.
Rough CAD design of the final stage joystick, in development.