VR Feels More Real with Leap Motion and This Rotation Sensor

You could have said this at any time in the last couple of decades: the world of virtual reality peripherals does not yet feel as though it has fulfilled its potential. From the Amiga-powered Virtuality headsets and nausea-inducing Nintendo Virtual Boy of the 1990s to today’s crop of advanced headsets and peripherals, there has always been a sense that we’re not quite there yet. Moments at which the shortcomings of the hardware intrude into the virtual world may be less frequent with the latest products, but still the goal of virtual world immersion seems elusive at times.

One of the more interesting peripherals on the market today is the Leap Motion controller. This is a USB device containing infra-red illumination and cameras which provide enough resolution for its software to accurately calculate the position of a user’s hands and fingers in three-dimensional space. This ability to track finger movement gives it the function of a controller for really complex interactions with and manipulations of objects in virtual worlds.

Even the Leap Motion has its shortcomings though, moments at which it ceases to be able to track. Rotating your hand, as you might for instance when aiming a virtual in-game weapon, confuses it. This led [Florian Maurer] to seek his own solution, and he’s come up with a hand peripheral containing a rotation sensor.

Inspired by a movie prop from the film Ender’s Game, it is a 3D-printed device that clips onto the palm of his hand between thumb and index finger. It contains both an Arduino Pro Micro and a bno055 rotation sensor, plus a couple of buttons for in-game actions such as triggers. It solves the problem with the Leap Motion’s rotation detection, and does not impede hand movement so much that he can’t also use his keyboard and mouse while wearing it. Sadly he does not yet seem to have posted any code, but he does treat us to a video demonstration which we’ve posted below the break.

The Leap Motion is a device that has caught the imagination of many Hackaday readers. We’ve seen one controlling a hexapod walker, and maybe Jean-Michel Jarre could find a use for this air harp should his lasers malfunction.

19 thoughts on “VR Feels More Real with Leap Motion and This Rotation Sensor

      1. I dare anyone working in this domain to look me straight in the eye and tell me that full immersion via a direct neural interface (DNI) isn’t the long-term objective that they are working toward.

  1. The first picture in the article makes me think of the invention homer dreamed of when he owed patty and selma a load of money haha.

    Apart from that, this seems very interesting.

  2. I’m both very excited for this technology, and very skeptical. The web site seems to have been hackdotted, so I have no idea how this works. I don’t see the Leap Motion in the video, where is it? I didn’t think it had such a huge range. I mean he can even put his hand down by his side!

    The one time I got to try a Leap Motion was at World Maker Faire this past October, and it was horrible. It was constantly getting my fingers confused, and I could barely pick up a 3d flower. The video looks perfect, which is why I have my doubts.

    1. Leap motion is fixed to the front of the HMD. It’s only tracking when the hand is in view, it has no idea where his hand is when it’s outside of its field of view. If he’s looking down, only then does it track his hand at his side.
      It works best in a controlled environment. Maker Faires are not really conducive to good demos on devices which require a clean input on the EM spectrum, optical, RF or otherwise.

    2. not to mention that I’m pretty sure there is a new version on the Leap Motion which is far more accurate. Hard to tell which one he is using but take a look at 0:23 to see the Leap mounted to the headset

      1. And accuracy is also what this guy was trying to improve with his rotational sensor thing. I read somewhere that the Leap messes up the most when you have you hand closed or opened all the way but turned at an angle where it can’t pick out your fingers or can’t tell which side of your hand is facing it. This sensor thing this guy is using is a pretty good idea for solving this problem.

  3. i would love to see a project that uses the lighthouse tech that the HTC Vive uses to track multiple objects.
    At the moment it can only track 2 devices, and optionally 3 (more?) if connected over USB.

    1. The lighthouse doesn’t do the tracking. The boxes send out pulses of sweeping laser light patterns in an x and Y direction. The controllers have sensors on them that see the light wave and it calculates the x , y, and z by watching initially for a infrared flash of light, the it waits for the laser to sweep across the room. The controllers time the flash to the sweep, and each sensor times the sweep across each sensor. Then it gets the second axis and between two sweeps it can calculate it’s rotation and nearly precise xyz. The controller knows how fast the laser scans, and it can calculate what angle laser is at from distance over time math. The controller gives steamvr it’s x,y,z,roll,pitch, and yaw via Bluetooth. In theory, you could have as many devices as you can fit into a bluetooth network.

  4. Virtuality’s boxes didn’t use Amigas. They used PCs with custom cards to do most of the maths. There was an article in Retro Gamer magazine a while ago. And Virtual Boys weren’t really nauseating, they were pretty good. Well, ish.

    The Virtual Boy’s main problem is a 2-parter. First is the underpowered CPU. Second is, staggeringly, it used a tile-mapped display, just like Nintendo’s other consoles. Not bitmapped. This meant doing even the simplest wireframe vector graphics pushed the hardware to the limit. That alone is one of the most unbelievably stupidest decisions ever made in computer games.

    So all VB games, with one exception (Red Alarm), were basically just SNES-looking flat 2D games, with a sort-of pop-up book effect where some layers of the screen looked to be in front of other layers. Each layer itself was flat. Really pathetic, complete waste of, well, EVERYTHING!

    No wonder it failed, it was impossible to do any real 3D games on a machine with a stereoscopic display and “Virtual” in it’s name. Have to say it again, really, really stupid decision. Dunno what they were thinking of.

    Other thing is, I’d have chosen yellow or green LEDs rather than red, for generating the display. Could’ve even maybe done bi-colour LEDs, have red and green together.

  5. If there’s one thing that will ruin a VR experience and remind you you’re not really in the game, it the Leap Motion. That thing is terrible and never should have been sold. Its tracking is just terribly jumpy. The Vive’s system is the best I’ve experienced so far, it’s perfect.

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