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

Can you drive a car in third person?

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)

vrcade2

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

cyber

[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

gaming-loop

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.

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Testing VR Limits with a Raspberry Pi

vrpi

Virtual Reality by function pushes the boundaries of what we perceive as existence, tricking the mind into believing that the computer generated environment that the user is thrust into actually contains a real place. So in the spirit of seeing what is possible in VR, a developer named [Jacques] hooked up a Raspberry Pi to an Oculus Rift. He used a computer graphics rendering API called OpenGL ES, which is much like any mobile platform found these days, to render a floating, rotating cube.

All his tests were done on a Release build which utilized the official vertex and fragment shaders. There was no attempt to optimize anything; not like there would be much to do anyways. The scene was rendered twice at 16 milliseconds per frame. From there, he attempted 27 ms per frame with texture, followed by 36 ms/frame, and then 45.

The code used can be found on [Jacques]‘s Github account. A simple improvement would use a Banana Pi for better processing speed. However, don’t expect any spectacular results with this type of setup. Really, the project only proves that it’s possible to minimize a VR experience into something that could become portable. And in the same vein, the Pi + Oculus integration can produce an uncomfortable lagging effect if things are not lined up properly. But once the energy/computing power issues are addressed, VR devices could transform into a more fashionable product like Google Glass, where a simple flip of a switch would toggle the view between VR and AR into a something more mixed. And then a motion sensing input camera like this Kinect-mapping space experiment could allow people all over the world to jump into the perspectives of other reality-pushing explorers. That’s all far down the line though, but this project lays the foundation for what the future might hold.

To see [Jacques]‘s full set up, view the video after the break.

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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:

[Read more...]

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