"A system for more realism, precision, fidelity and ease of use": Interview With Marble Labs

Marble-Labs-Haptic-Architecture.jpg
Images: Marble Labs
Marble Labs are newcomers in the sim racing space, but the Las Vegas-based company has big ambitions. We asked the team about their upcoming project - here's our Marble Labs interview.

Engine talks in sim racing rarely revolve around virtual cars' powerplants, but rather such engines that are the foundation of each title regarding physics, sounds and graphics. In May, Marble Labs announced a number of new systems, among them a potential Force Feedback replacement technology. This, however, is only part of a brand-new engine called "Fuel".

Rightfully, the sim racing community was wondering what this was about, so we enquired about just that with Marble Labs' founders Michael Harley and Chad Laurendau to find out more about the company and its projects in the sim racing space.


Marble Labs Interview​

OverTake: Who is Marble Labs, and what made you decide to dive into the world of sim racing?

Marble Labs: Marble Labs is a software company founded by motorsport enthusiasts with real-world racing experience who are passionate about software-defined vehicles and driver-in-the-loop simulations. Our vehicle simulation tools were developed for commercial applications, but there is a broad crossover to the technologies underlying sim racing.


Marble-Labs-Chad-Laurendau-Michael-Harley-Grasroots-Track-2.jpg

Michael Harley (front) and Chad Laurendau.



Your recent announcement seemed to focus mainly on Force Feedback, but there is much more to it – can sim racers even expect an entire new engine?

Yes, Fuel is an entirely new platform developed for vehicle simulation. Our first consumer title, built upon the Fuel platform and launching next year, will be called “Mavericks / Grassroots American Racing” and launch in 2025. It is built on our Fuel platform.



How did you decide to dive into sim racing?

As we are both car enthusiasts, it was a no-brainer to bring “Mavericks / Grassroots American Racing” to market.

Vehicle simulation is pervasive, from OEMs and Tier 1s to driving games and sim racing. Our development focus was clearly targeted toward Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) technologies for Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) and Autonomous Driving (AD). However, while in development, it was hard to ignore the obvious applications to the sim racing world.




How did the transition from real-life automotive systems to sim racing/driving software go? Were there any unexpected challenges?

The bar for haptic fidelity is set high when developing tools for driver-in-the-loop (DIL) validation of ADAS/AD systems for industry and the military. Industry standards for physics and haptics are focused on determinism, high tick rates, and the utilization of GPU Compute.

When moving simulation tools to consumer platforms, a delicate balancing act takes place between physics load and graphic demands. With the finite computing resources of most gaming PCs, you are constantly making tradeoffs to avoid performance bottlenecks.




What is the aim for the haptic feedback system you are developing?

We aimed to engineer a system for more realism, precision, fidelity and ease of use.

With Position-Control Haptics™ (PCH), we provide a true information control loop between the vehicle simulation and the Human Interface Device (HID) while reducing latency, improving polling rates, and providing higher bit depth in precision.

When our platform is connected to an HID running PCH-enabled firmware, we can fully exploit our protocol, including communicating over the standardized Raw Input API, like most high-end eSports gaming mice on the market. However, for broad device compatibility we can run an optimized version of PCH over the Direct Input API.

We believe we have accomplished what we aimed for within the constraints of current gaming PC standards, available simulation hardware, and standardized operating system application programming interfaces (APIs).




With how in-depth the systems and features you unveiled are, what is your plan to make them as hardware-friendly as possible?

We have gone to great lengths to develop a platform that performs exceptionally well with current gaming PC standards and provides maximum compatibility with existing simulation hardware.



How far along in development are the systems currently?

Our systems, which encompass hardware, firmware, and software platforms, are fully developed (even though we have stated that our consumer platform is currently in alpha, we are much further along than that—we are just managing our own expectations). We are extensively testing with a wide range of drivers, gamers, and sim-racing enthusiasts to ensure our objectives are met. We continue to develop, test, and polish our unique content for the launch title.


Marble-Labs-Fuel-Platform-Chad-Laurendau-Testing.jpg

Laurendau testing the Fuel platform on a Logitech G Pro Racing Wheel.



You have had an (unnamed) NASCAR driver test your creation already, what was their feedback?

We will soon release a video on YouTube with his full driving impressions.



The Google Maps integration, on paper, has enormous potential, as sim racers have been wishing for an open-world title with simulation physics for a while. How will you manage to implement this, and what features can players look forward to in this regard?

This functionality is ADAS/AD driven. Development and testing require the ability to iterate quickly in multiple operational design domains (ODD). For the consumer side of the equation, this feature provides the functionality to create a powerful user-definable open-world experience. We will release more details as we approach launch.



Can you give an estimate on when your engine might be available for public testing?

We are testing today. If you’d like to get behind the wheel, please reach out to us at hello@marble-labs.com.



What advantages are players going to feel with the new engine compared to simulators using more conventional technology, i.e. what is the main thing you feel when taking the wheel?

The most noticeable difference is the transferability of driving skills. So, what does that mean? In the OEM world, evaluating how drivers interact with a proposed vehicle design or an onboard safety system requires an engineering-class level of realism from the digital twin. The OEM expects that any licensed driver can interact with the simulation without having to “learn how to drive the simulation” (that would defeat the intended purpose of pre-production validation).

We strove to accomplish effortless interaction with the simulation, and we believe we have achieved that.



Marble-Labs-Chad-Laurendau-Michael-Harley-Grasroots-Track.jpg

Laurendau and Harley doing research at a grassroots racing track.



We are looking forward to testing the Fuel engine ourselves soon and will share our experience with you, of course!

Do you have any other questions that you would like answered? Let us know in the comments below and we will add them to our list of things to find out about the Marble Labs Fuel engine!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Premium
The ability to use GMaps to create tracks and roads just like MFS did with Bing maps is such a game changer for rallying.
It is exactly what I said to my friends since the latest MFS came out with that similar tech. Finally it would be possible to create infinite realistic rally stages, avoiding the common issue of having just a bunch of rallies available with people basically hot lapping them through knowing them by heart.
 
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The ability to use GMaps to create tracks and roads just like MFS did with Bing maps is such a game changer for rallying.
It is exactly what I said to my friends since the latest MFS came out with that similar tech. Finally it would be possible to create infinite realistic rally stages, avoiding the common issue of having just a bunch of rallies available with people basically hot lapping them through knowing them by heart.
There's quite a difference between creating maps for a flight simulator and a racing game. I believe Google Map's data is much too coarse to be imported directly into a racing sim.

Time will tell if these two guys are as competent in the actual implementation as they are with injecting buzz words™ and technical terms ad nauseam into every sentence.
 
I love how they talk about new FF API and how Direct Input is not fully suitable for the task and would be nice to have new hardware (or at least firmware) made with this position based API for highest fidelity, etc. And how they make high fidelity systems for industry professionals etc. Yet they show their new game with possibly lowest tier pedals available on the market.
 
Big claims, especially the last one. Well the proof is in the eating of the pudding as they say, so assuming anything actually comes of this, I'll take a look whenever it's actually ready for the public.
 
I hope they succeed and even a hotlap simulator in early access on Steam working well in VR will do. The ability to integrate track mods will be the icing on the cake. The car behavior does seem more natural. Hopefully, it can make people driving cars IRL appreciate simulators and not just something they have to learn first. I know my friends have puzzled faces when I show them AC in VR.
 
I am surprised Google maps trackers hasn't been tried in Asset to Corsa. But hopefully this company will be successful with the buzz word implementation.

For the love of God can you make sure VR is implemented at the ground level and not an after thought. I am ready to do any VR level testing that is required
 
The ability to use GMaps to create tracks and roads just like MFS did with Bing maps is such a game changer for rallying.
It is exactly what I said to my friends since the latest MFS came out with that similar tech. Finally it would be possible to create infinite realistic rally stages, avoiding the common issue of having just a bunch of rallies available with people basically hot lapping them through knowing them by heart.
I too look forward to the GMaps integration. I would like to be able to draw a circuit in Google maps and then at race time, the real world imagery is there. I can see people defing a raceway on the streets they are already very familiar with. Imagine someone in southern California definig a 25 mile circuit completely on the freeways, and racing in F1. Or to your point, someone in a more rural area making a circuit on back country roads they know oh so well. This could be a whole of fun.
 
If this pans out, they should re-create the winners in every classic and vintage car show in the US for the past thirty years. Then I could cruise from Hammondsport to Penn Yan in a 1936 Ford Convertible Trunk Sedan or a 1949 Cadillac Convertible deVille via the East Lake Road and Route 54.

Why are there no classic and antique car simulators? Every car show that I've attended has been packed. It's just as bad an oversight as no SCORE International sim, no NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour sim, and no Iditarod sim.
 

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