Your VR Doesn’t Stink (Yet)

What does it smell like when the wheels heat up on that Formula 1 car you drive at night and on the weekends? You have no idea because the Virtual Reality experience that lets you do so doesn’t come with a nasal component. Yet.

Shown here is an olfactory device that works with Oculus Rift and other head-mounted displays. The proof of concept is hte work of [Kazuki Hashimoto], [Yosuke Maruno], and [Takamichi Nakamoto] and was shown of at last year’s IEEE VR conference. It lets the wearer smell the oranges when approaching a tree in a virtual environment. In other words, it makes your immersive experience smelly.

As it stands this a pretty cool little device which atomizes odor droplets while a tiny fan wafts them to the wearer’s nose. There is a paper which presumably has more detail but it’s behind a pay wall so for now check out the brief demo video below. Traditionally an issue with scent systems is the substance stuck in the lines, which this prototype overcomes with direct application from the reservoir. Yet to be solved is the availability for numerous different scents.

This build came to our attention via an UploadVR article that does a good job of covering some of the scent-based experiments over the years. They see some of the same hurdles we do: odors linger and there is a limited palette that can be produced. We assume the massive revenue of the gaming industry is going to drive research in this field, but we won’t be lining up to smell gunpowder and dead bodies (or rotting zombies) anytime soon.

The more noble effort is in VR applications like taking the elderly and immobile back for another tour of places they’ll never again be able to visit in their lives. Adding the sense of smell, which has the power to unlock so many memories, makes that use case so much more powerful. We think that’s something everyone can be hopeful about!

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Take A Bicycle Tour Anywhere In The World

Imagine yourself riding through the countryside of Tuscany in the morning, then popping over to Champagne for a tour in the evening without taking a plane ride in the intermission. In fact, you don’t have to leave your living room. All you need is a stationary bicycle, a VR headset, and CycleVR.

[Aaron Puzey] hasn’t quite made the inter-country leap quite like that, but he has cycled the entire length of the UK, from its southern point to its northernmost tip. The 1500km journey took 85 hours over the course of eight months to complete.

CycleVR is actually a VR app created using Unity. It takes advantage of Google street view’s panoramic image data, using Bluetooth to monitor the cycling pace  and transition between the panorama capture points. So, the static images of pedestrians and cars clipping and distorting as the panorama images load might throw off the illusion at first, but there’s thousands of side streets and country roads out there where this won’t be as pronounced. Check out the highlight reel from [Puzey]’s journey after the break.

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Ping Pong Ball Improves the Google Daydream Controller

[Matteo] has just released a new installment of his Google Daydream VR controller hack, which we first covered last year (when he got it working with iOS). This time around he’s managed to forge a half Daydream, half PlayStation Move controller hybrid.

The original controller only managed a mere 3 DOF (Degrees of Freedom) using the internal accelerometer; although this conveyed rotational motion around the 3 axis, transitional information was completely lacking. [Matteo] resolves this by forming a simple positional marker out of a white LED enclosed in a standard ping pong ball; He tracks this setup using an iSight camera.

To gel everything together, he adds motion tracking to his already extensively developed software stack, which enables him to unshackle the Daydream controller from Android. He deciphers the Bluetooth packets and streams the sensory information straight to a web browser over a webSocket connection.

sf-stack

The results are quite impressive and the tracking is smooth. Not only does this add to the final goal of hacking his way towards a platform independent VR motion controller, he aptly gets some inspiration from Sony, extends Google’s hardware and even manages to use Apple’s webcam along the way. How’s that for carving passages between the walled gardens of consumer electronics?

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Sharing Virtual and Holographic Realities via Vive and Hololens

An experimental project to mix reality and virtual reality by [Drew Gottlieb] uses the Microsoft Hololens and the HTC Vive to show two users successfully sharing a single workspace as well as controllers. While the VR user draws cubes in midair with a simple app, the Hololens user can see the same cubes being created and mapped to a real-world location, and the two headsets can even interact in the same shared space. You really need to check ou the video, below, to fully grasp how crazy-cool this is.

Two or more VR or AR users sharing the same virtual environment isn’t new, but anchoring that virtual environment into the real world in a way that two very different headsets share is interesting to see. [Drew] says that the real challenge wasn’t just getting the different hardware to talk to each other, it was how to give them both a shared understanding of a common space. [Drew] needed a way to make that work, and you can see the results in the video embedded below.

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Your Arm Is The Ideal Controller

With interest and accessibility to both wearable tech and virtual reality approaching an all-time high, three students from Cornell University — [Daryl Sew, Emma Wang, and Zachary Zimmerman] — seek to turn your body into the perfect controller.

That is the end goal, at least. Their prototype consists of three Kionix tri-axis accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer sensors (at the hand, elbow, and shoulder) to trace the arm’s movement. Relying on a PC to do most of the computational heavy lifting, a PIC32 in a t-shirt canister — hey, it’s a prototype! — receives data from the three joint positions, transmitting them to said PC via serial, which renders a useable 3D model in a virtual environment. After a brief calibration, the setup tracks the arm movement with only a little drift in readings over a few minutes.

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Vive Tracker Brings Easier VR Hacking

CES 2017 is over and there were VR gadgets and announcements aplenty, but here’s an item that’s worth an extra mention because it reflects a positive direction we can’t wait to see more of. HTC announced the Vive Tracker, to be released within the next few months.

The Tracker looks a bit like a cross between a hockey puck and a crown. It is a self-contained, VR trackable device with a hardware port and built-in power supply. It can be used on its own or attached to any physical object to make that object trackable and interactive in VR. No need to roll your own hardware to interface with the Vive’s Lighthouse tracking system.

Valve have been remarkably open about the technical aspects of their hardware and tracking system, and have stated they want to help people develop their own projects using the system. We’ve seen very frank and open communication on the finer points of what it took to make the Lighthouse system work. Efforts at reverse-engineering the protocol used by the controller even got friendly advice. For all the companies making headway into VR, Valve continues to be an interesting one from a hacking perspective.

[Image source for bottom of Tracker: RoadToVR]

 

David Krum: The Revolution in Virtual Reality

[David Krum] is associate lab director at the Mixed Reality Lab at the Institute for Creative Technologies at USC. That puts him at the intersection of science and engineering: building cool virtual reality (VR) devices, and using science to figure out what works and what doesn’t. He’s been doing VR since 1998, so he’s seen many cool ideas come and go. His lab was at the center of the modern virtual reality explosion. Come watch his talk and see why!

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