Buttkicker, a simple way to have an immersive flight experience

A few months ago I was able to grab a Buttkicker from gumtree (the Australian version of craigslist) for quite a deal. For those unfamiliar with Buttkicker, it allows you to add immersion to your movies, games or music by providing rumble feedback to your seat or couch. It works by transferring the low frequency (i.e. bass) to a transducer which rumbles, or ‘kicks’.

Buttkicker sells a range of products for the musician (mainly for drummers so they can feel the kick of the bass if they are using an electronic drum kit) to the Buttkicker Gamer2 for gamers, and the Wireless Buttkicker Kit for cinema viewers. The Wireless kit which was obtained can be used in both wireless (using an infrared sensor) or wired mode. The flight simulator will be using the kit in wired mode.

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300 watts of power

Buttkicker installation was simple and straight forward. The most strategic place to put the sound transducer would be right below the seats — unfortunately this would be a complex affair as I do not have access to the undercarriage of the platform. The next best place was decided to be in the middle of the platform between the pilot flying, and pilot not flying (captain and first officer). The only allowable space was at the front MIP on the platform.

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At this stage testing was done by loading up real life videos of 747 and A380 cockpit takeoffs and landings — the immersion was surreal with every rumble of the engine, and bump felt on the platform. With the Buttkicker you can adjust the intensity of the kick — further testing will have to be done to determine the best setting.

It is important to note Buttkicker will translate all low frequency sounds — this doesn’t always correlate well with the simulator environments where different sounds can trigger a vibration event. Fortunately there is a software which can only translate specific flight sim events to the Buttkicker. Opus, which I purchased many years ago, can be enable to send Flight Simulator trigger events (such as gear down or up) to a Buttkicker. Opus can also used as your weather program or provide dynamic head movements (these features will be disabled for the sim).

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Opus Buttkicker Options Dialog

Opus will eventually be incorporated with the Buttkicker to hopefully provide ultimate rumble immersion at a relatively low cost. Sounds transducers should be looked at by all cockpit builders as an alternative to those that are unable to afford, or build a motion platform.

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