The biggest problem is “bezel management”. The first thing you’ll notice when you set up all three monitors next to each other to achieve a super wide-screen view is that the plastic bezels that surround the displays run in between the inner and outside monitors creating at least two bars that obstruct the gameplay. Normally action will “pop” in between these bars unnaturally and the action often won’t line up quite properly.
To solve this some video card driver suites come with bezel correction that allows for the action to pass behind the bezels and lines up the video as one large and continuous resolution (though be warned bezel correction often cuts a little off of both sides of the video to achieve this, so you may have two outer black bars while this is enabled).
Another solution to the bezel problem is to simply remove the plastic bezels all together. This is a bit dangerous as it will expose the innards of the LCD, but if you are careful you can place the monitors right next to each other creating a nearly continuous screen. This isn’t recommended for those who don’t regularly work on computers or LCD screens and don’t want to risk damaging an expensive set of displays.
IR and Virtual Reality Headsets
One of the biggest disconnects between really being behind the wheel and playing a simulator has always been the unnatural way that a player manages their field of view. Until recent advances, you usually had to swap out camera angles either between different points of view within first person, or more unnaturally even go into third person just to see what is going on around you.
Some flight and racing simulators sometimes bind a limited (albeit often jerky and awkward to use in the heat of the moment) “look around” feature to a directional pad or hat switch to alleviate this to a limited degree.
This is no longer necessary thanks to infrared head tracking technology. An infrared headset can be mounted on to a headphone/microphone setup, visor, or cap and communicates with a device mounted on top of your monitor much like a clip on webcam.
It tracks your head movements, and allows you to look around as naturally in the game as you look around in real life.
The premier head tracking suite is the TrackIR 5 by NaturalPoint. It has expressly designed compatibility with Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Aces High II, Il-2 Sturmovik, The Armed Assault series, (ArmA), the DiRT series, GRID, iRacing, and many more.
With TrackIR, you can simply move your head around a bit and you’ll be able to look around and behind you comfortably, as well as lean forwards and backwards to see around struts or over the dash like in a real vehicle. TrackIR 5 cost around $150, but is worth it for the added control and incredible immersion it brings to your gaming.
It is possible to make your own head tracking device on a budget. One way is to us a free piece of software called Free-Track. It doesn’t work nearly as well, as TrackIR has a dedicated CPU built into the device to handle the tracking and is expressly built for a large library of games, but it is free.
Then you’ll need a night vision compatible webcam such as the Sabrent WCM-6LNV. Some of these setups come with infrared LEDs, but for those that don’t they can be found online. You’ll have to mount 3 LEDs on a cap or on the side of a headset in the correct configuration and calibrate your setup with the software. All and all, you might spend between $30 and $50 for this setup. Remember, it won’t work nearly as well as TrackIR, but it is an effective stop gap.
The problem with both of these setups is that you are still staring at computer monitors, which takes you out of the experience a bit. Vuzix has a solution to this in the Wrap 1200VR virtual headset. The 1200VR headset offers 720P video through the headset with the option of stereoscopic 3D.
It also has a long list of directly compatible games including Aces High 2, Counter Strike, IL2-Sturmovik, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and rFactor Racing Simulator. These glasses put you right into the game, but there are some downsides. Those with glasses may have some issues getting a comfortable fit, field of view is limited to 35 degrees, and the image quality isn’t nearly as good as on a high definition computer monitor. Still, for around $400, you’ll be one step closer to a real futuristic virtual reality experience.