Virtual Reality Expands Into the World of Rollercoasters with ‘The Augmented Thrill Ride Project’

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A rollercoaster company in Germany called Mack Rides joined forces with a team of virtual reality developers in the spring of 2014 to create an experience like no other.

The idea came from [Thomas], a professor at the University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern who was working in the department of Virtual Design at the time. The thought of extending a real rollercoaster ride with an Oculus Rift was an intriguing one, so he approached Mack Rides with the experiment, and the ground-breaking research began.

Hundreds of tests were done over the following weeks and months, which provided insight into how we perceive time and space while inside VR. This led to some interesting discoveries. For one, the VR track inside the Rift could be more complex than the real one. This meant that the directions could be contorted into different angles without the user feeling much of a difference. Knowing this, the developers were able to unfold/extend the track well beyond what was possible in real life.

Another epiphany had to do with the rails, which actually didn’t have to be present in VR at all. In fact, it was better if the tracks weren’t there because the experience was much more exciting not knowing which way the ride was suddenly going to take. This made things exponentially more surprising and compelling.

By far the most startling revelation was the reduction in dizziness and motion sickness during the tests. This was attributed to the complex synchronization that the mind goes through when melding together g-forces and the actual rollercoaster rides with the virtual ones displayed inside the Oculus Rift.

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Smartphone VR Viewer Roundup

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In June 2014, Google revealed a low-cost Smartphone Adapter and VR SDK at their annual software developer conference in San Francisco, California. During the event, Google handed out 6,000 cardboard kits and released a tutorial online, which prompted homemade versions to surface on the web within three hours. This then sparked an iPad case manufacturer to fashion together their own cardboard VR kit that could be bought for $25. After a week, Google gained over 50,000 downloads of their cardboard Android app.

Although the popularity of this VR viewer skyrocketed extremely fast, the idea for a cheap VR solution is nothing new. Developers have been experimenting with these types of objects for years. In fact, a group of Cupertino high school sophomores debuted a similar device called ‘Face Box’ at an entertainment and technology conference at Stanford University on June 17, more than a week before Google’s I/O presentation. A few months earlier, researchers at the Mixed Reality Research Lab (MxR) at USC launched an open source DIY VR website that showed how to create virtual reality headsets with a 3D printer. The smartphone enabled head-mounted display had schematics for both Android and iPhone. The MxR lab was where [Palmer Luckey] worked at as an engineer before founding Oculus (the company that Facebook eventually acquired for approximately $2 billion). So when [Palmer] saw that Google released their cardboard kit, he vocalized his opinion by calling it a clone of his colleagues’ research on Reddit.

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Real Life GTA? Driving a Car in Third Person is Hard!

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Do you fancy yourself an excellent driver in video games featuring a third person view for the driving experience? Ever wonder what it’d be like in real life? [Tom] and [Oli] wanted to find out so they decided to setup this awesome experiment.

They’re using the Bovingdon airfield, which was a Royal Air Force station during WWII — today it stands empty and is a beloved testing ground for many custom vehicles in the UK, like [Colin Furze's] world record-setting baby carriage. The car chosen for the challenge is a Mazda MX-5 Miata, which we don’t think they care too much about considering the potential obstacles they’ll be hitting!

The driver wears a set of video goggles, and a co-pilot comes along for the ride to help prevent any major collisions. A hexrotor drone is flown by another person who attempts to keep it mostly behind the car in the stereotypical third person view. The video signal is then transmitted down to the driver in real time.

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VR Bowling Game Combines an Oculus Rift with a Wii Remote

d [marclar83] was given an Oculus Rift so that he could prepare for an upcoming conference presentation. He began to download demos, getting familiar with the VR interface but was disappointed to find out that someone hadn’t developed a good virtual reality bowling experience yet. This prompted him to design a VR game that integrates a Wii Remote, recording the movements of the controller and sending accelerometer data to his computer.

The game he created is similar to Wii Sports Bowling but with the added bonus of being immersed in a virtual world with the Oculus Rift. The D-pad on the Wii Remote was programmed to switch stances and bowling methods, allowing the user to choose whether they want to throw the ball down the middle or curve it a long the way. Pressing the trigger button on the back started the swinging motion, and when released, the bowling ball shot down the alley at a high rate of speed crashing into the pins at the end.

Because the game was designed on the original DK1, the resolution of the images was a challenge that needed to be addressed, but [marclar83] solved this problem by implementing two user interfaces on the side of the screen that showed replays and depicted how many pins remained; proving to be a better experience for the gamer. This free public alpha version was made available for Windows, Mac, and Linux on the official VRBowling website. A video describing the project can be seen below. [Read more...]

VRcade’s The Nightmare Machine (Kickstarter Campaign)

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Aiming to be the leader in Virtual Reality horror experiences is the immersive VR haunted house in Seattle called ‘The Nightmare Machine’ which promises to be one of the most terrifying events this Halloween. But they need some assistance raising money to achieve the type of scale on a large public level that the project is attempting. The goal is $70,000 within a 30 day period which is quite the challenge, and the team will need to hustle every single day in order to accomplish it.

Yet the focus of the project looks good though, which is to lower the massive barriers of entry in VR that are associated with high hardware costs and provide people with a terrifying 5 minutes of nightmare-inducing experiences. This type of fidelity and range is usually only seen in military research facilities and university labs, like the MxR Lab at USC. And, their custom-built head mounted displays bring out this technology into the reach of the public ready to scare the pants off of anyone willing to put on the VR goggles.

The headsets are completely wireless, multi-player and contain immersive binaural audio inside. A motion sensing system has also been integrated that can track movements of the users within hundreds of square feet. Their platform is a combination of custom in-house and 3rd party hardware along with a slick software framework. The technology looks amazing, and the prizes given out through the Kickstarter are cool too! For example, anyone who puts in $175 or more gets to have their head 3D scanned and inserted into the Nightmare Machine. The rest of the prices include tickets to the October showcase where demos of the VR experience will be shown.

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Flex Sensing for a DIY Data Glove

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[Cyber] has been testing out intuitive input methods for virtual reality experiences that immerse the user further into the virtual world than archaic devices like a keyboard or mouse would allow. One of his biggest interests so far was the idea of a data glove that interacts with an Arduino Uno to interface with a PC. Since commercial products are yet to exist on a readily available level, [Cyber] decided to build his own.

He started out with a tiny inertial measurement unit called a Pololu MinIMU-9 v2 that tracks orientation of the 3-axis gyro and accelerometer. The USB interface was soldered into place connecting the wires to an Arduino Uno. From there, he hooked up a flex sensor from Spectra Symbol (which were supposedly used in the original Nintendo Power Gloves) and demoed the project by tracking the movement of one of his fingers. As the finger bent, the output printed on the serial monitor changed.

[Cyber] still needs to mount a glove on this system and construct a proper positional tracking method so that physical movement will be mirrored in a simulation.

[Cyber's] day job has had him busy these last few months, which has forced the project into a temporary hold. Recently though, [Cyber] has been an active member and an influence in the local Orange County VR scene helping to build a nice development culture, so we’re hoping to see more updates from him soon.

To view what he has done up to this point, click the link at the top of the page, and check out the video after the break:

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3D Printed Virtual Reality Goggles

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Oculus, as we know, was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion, and now the VR community has been buzzing about trying to figure out what to do with all this newly accessible technology. And adding to the interest, the 2nd iteration of the development kits were released, causing a resurgence in virtual reality development as computer generated experiences started pouring out from of every corner of the world. But not everyone can afford the $350 USD price tag to purchase one of these devices, bringing out the need for Do-It-Yourself projects like these 3D printed wearable video goggles via Adafruit.

The design of this project is reminiscent of the VR2GO mobile viewer that came out of the MxR Lab (aka the research environment that spun out Palmer Lucky before he created Oculus). However, the hardware here is more robust and utilizes a 5.6″ display and 50mm aspheric lenses instead of a regular smart phone. The HD monitor is held within a 3D printed enclosure along with an Arduino Micro and 9-DOF motion sensor. The outer hood of the case is composed of a combination of PLA and Ninjaflex printing-filament, keeping the fame rigid while the area around the eyes remain flexible and comfortable. The faceplate is secured with a mounting bracket and a pair of aspheric lenses inside split the screen for stereoscopic video. Head straps were added allowing for the device to fit snugly on one’s face.

At the end of the tutorial, the instructions state that once everything is assembled, all that is required afterwards is to plug in a 9V power adapter and an HDMI cable sourcing video from somewhere else. This should get the console up and running; but it would be interesting to see if this design in the future can eliminate the wires and make this into a portable unit. Regardless of which, this project does a fantastic job at showing what it takes to create a homemade virtual reality device. And as you can see from the product list after the break, the price of the project fits under the $350 DK2 amount, helping to save some money while still providing a fun and educational experience.

[Read more...]

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