Cutting Ribbons with Robots and a Oculus Rift

PR2-GrandOpening

On June 26th, 2014, Clearpath Robotics opened up the doors to their brand new 12,000 square foot robot lair by bringing out a PR2 to cut the ceremonial ribbon and welcome everyone inside. And instead of just programming the ‘locate and destroy’ ribbon sequence, the co-founders opted to use an Oculus Rift to control the robot tearing through the material with flailing arms.

This was accomplished having Jake, the robot, utilize a Kinect 2.0 that fed skeleton tracking data via rosserial_windows, a windows-based set of extension for the Robot Operating System which we heard about in January. The software gathers in a stream of data points each with an X,Y,Z component allowing [Jake] to find himself within a 3D space.Then, the data was collected and published directly into the PR2′s brain. Inject a little python code, and the creature was able to route directions in order to move it’s arms.

Thus, by simply stepping in front of the Kinect 2.0, and putting on the Oculus Rift headset, anyone could teleoperate [Jake] to move around and wave its arms at oncoming ribbons. Once completed, [Jake] would leave the scene, journeying back into the newly created robot lair leaving pieces of nylon and polyester everywhere.

An earlier (un-smoothed) version of the full system can be seen after the break:

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Non-Lethal Electric Chair Brings the Death Row Experience Home

Non-Lethal electric chair for Oculus Rift Hackathon

One of our trusty tipsters named [Arman] wrote in to tell us about this awesome little Horror VR Hackathon that sought to create a non-lethal electric chair, for a seriously creepy and shocking experience.

[Arman] works in a small prototyping shop, so when a few guys from the local VR group called to ask for help building a non-lethal electric chair, he thought they were joking — until they showed up at the shop! Finally understanding what they really wanted to do, he hooked them up with an EL wire power supply (high voltage AC, low amperage) for their first prototype.

Unfortunately the EL power supply driver took too much juice, so they called [Arman] back the next day to hack together some of those joke gum shockers instead — he hooked them up to an Arduino and they work like a charm.  [Read more...]

Google Cardboard VR Kit for under $15

Google Cardboard VR

Craving some virtual reality goodness? Unsure of Oculus after Facebook purchased them? Well — why not make your own then!

At last weeks Google I/O conference, those lucky enough to attend received the Google Cardboard VR kit. It’s basically just a piece of cardboard, two lenses, a few magnets, an NFC tag and some velcro — but when you slide your phone into it and download the Cardboard app – you have virtual reality, on your phone.

This inspired [Wolfgang] to make his own variation of this, except instead of a phone, it fits a tablet much nicer. It really is just a cardboard box with the lenses glued in place — but it works! Of course you could 3D print a nice housing – but if you’re super excited to try out some VR apps — cardboard will do the trick as well!

Besides the Cardboard app there’s a few more Android VR applications worth a look — Tuscany Dive (explore Tuscany from the comfort of your chair), ViewR (a voice controlled experience), and Dive Volcano VR Demo (explore a volcano!).

Only trick is finding those pesky lenses…

Third Person Perspective is Guaranteed to Mess With Your Senses

3rd person oculus rift

Third person video games are never really that realistic — you get a much wider range of vision, you can typically see around things your character can’t actually see… the list goes on. But what would it be like to have a third person perspective, in real life?

That’s exactly what some hackers in Poland decided to do! This is their Real World Third Person Perspective VR / AR Experiment. It makes use of an Oculus Rift, two GoPros, a microprocessor and a few servo motors. It’s essentially a glorified camera on a stick that you wear as a backpack, but nonetheless it has a really cool effect.

The project was built in under 2 days to get into the tight deadline for Intel’s Wearable contest, which has an impressive prize list, including a grand prize of $500,000 for business development! They didn’t place, but it’s still a Hack a Day worthy project!

Check it out!

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Virtual Physical Reality With Kintinuous And An Oculus Rift

oculus

The Kinect has long been able to create realistic 3D models of real, physical spaces. Combining these Kinect-mapped spaces with an Oculus Rift is something brand new entirely.

[Thomas] and his fellow compatriots within the Kintinuous project are modeling an office space with the old XBox 360 Kinect’s RGB+D sensors. then using an Oculus Rift to inhabit that space. They’re not using the internal IMU in the Oculus to position the camera in the virtual space, either: they’re using live depth sensing from the Kinect to feed the Rift screens.

While Kintinuous is very, very good at mapping large-scale spaces, the software itself if locked up behind some copyright concerns the authors and devs don’t have control over. This doesn’t mean the techniques behind Kintinuous are locked up, however: anyone is free to read the papers (here’s one, and another, PDF of course) and re-implement Kintinuous as an open source project. That’s something that would be really cool, and we’d encourage anyone with a bit of experience with point clouds to give it a shot.

Video below.

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Oculus Rift + Head Tracking = The Ultimate Drone Experience

oculus rift quad

What happens when you strap a stereoscopic camera onto a drone and transmit the video feed directly to your Oculus Rift? A pretty amazing experience, that’s what!

Several students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology recently finished a term project dubbed Oculus FPV. In it, [Erik Hals], [Jacob Prescott], [Mats Svensson], and [Mads Wilthil] succeeded in combining virtual reality, a head mounted display, and a UAV for a great result.

Drones with cameras are the next big step in search and rescue, remote inspection, and many other use cases in other environments that are typically inaccessible for a human to poke around. What we really like about this project is they also mounted the stereoscopic cameras on a gimbal, allowing for full head movement — this means the pilot can “park” (read “hover”) his drone in remote locations, and then look around, without having to worry about performing complex aerial acrobatics to get the right camera angle.

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Birdly, The Virtual Reality Simulator Guaranteed to Wear You Out

birdly

Have you ever dreamed of being able to fly like a bird? Sadly, we’re just too heavy with our solid bones and fatty tissues – but now there’s a simulator called Birdly which will give you the experience you crave!

The Swiss team, consisting of [Max Rheiner], [Fabien Troxler], [Thomas Tobler] and [Thomas Erdin] wanted to build a simulator never done before – one that will simulate flapping your wings and actually flying around. They’re using the Oculus Rift to complete the visual experience, and a rather unique simulator chair that you lie face down on. It features two mechanical wings that you strap your hands into, with gas springs to provide resistance – sensors measure the stroke and power of your “flap”, relaying the information to the computer in order to control your virtual wings. You can also lean in any direction, allowing for fancy bird acrobatics.

A large fan directly mounted off the front helps to make the experience feel even more real, as you fly around in the virtual world. They say it also includes olfactoric feedback, which presents different scents to you, representative of where you are in the virtual world — we’re not too sure how that works, but it sounds pretty awesome!

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