Video Gaming to Fix Eye Ailments

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Let’s face it, most of the time we’re hacking for no other reason than sheer enjoyment. So we love to see hacks come about that can really make a difference in people’s lives. This time around it’s a video game designed to exercise your eyes. [James Blaha] has an eye condition called Strabismus which is commonly known as crossed-eye. The issue is that the muscles for each eye don’t coordinate with each other in the way they need to in order to produce three-dimensional vision.

Recent research (linked in the reference section of [James'] post) suggests that special exercises may be able to train the eyes to work correctly. He’s been working on developing a video game to promote this type of training. As you can see above, the user (patient?) wears an Oculus Rift headset which makes it possible to show each eye slightly different images, while using a Leap Motion controller for VR interaction. If designed correctly, and paired with the addictive qualities of games, this my be just what the doctor ordered. You know what they say, practice makes perfect!

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Posterior Posture Videogame Controller

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Normally we see some crazy mad science projects coming from [Ben Krasnow’s] laboratory. This week [Ben] changes gears a bit and hacks his Xbox controller to interface with his bathroom scale and function as a posture controlled input device. You may want to take a moment for that to tumble around in your noggin before we trying to explain. What this means is you sit catawampus on a bathroom scale and when you lean forward your game character moves forward, lean back your character backs up and lean side to side for strafe left and right.

A modern digital bathroom scale has four pressure point transducers — one in each corner — which are read by the central controller and summed to generate the weight of the object setting on the scale. To use the scale as a controller input [Ben] removed the central scale controller and created two amplified Wheatstone bridge differential circuits, one for each diagonal axis between load cells. After adding an offset potentiometer to fix the resting point at 0.8 volts, the amplified differential voltage signals are fed directly into an Xbox controller’s thumb stick input for game control.

Additionally, to add rotation to his new game controller he hacked a an old ball type mouse and added a bit of rubber tubing that contacted and tracked the base of a  Lazy Susan platter. The scale sits on the Lazy Susan and allows for the partial rotation of your torso to controlled game rotation. However, [Ben] still needed a regular mouse interfaced with the game for full 360° rotation control.

There is more after the break, plus the build and demonstration video.

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Augmented Reality Breadboarding

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[Scott] sent in this tantalizing view of the what could be the future of bread boarding. His day job is at EquipCodes, where he’s working on augmented reality systems for the industrial sector. Most of EquipCodes augmented reality demos involve large electric motors and power transmission systems. When someone suggested a breadboard demo, [Scott] was able to create a simple 555 led blinker circuit as a proof of concept. The results are stunning. An AR glyph tells the software what circuit it is currently viewing. The software then shows a layout of the circuit. Each component can be selected to bring up further information.

The system also acts as a tutor for first time circuit builders – showing  them where each component and wire should go. We couldn’t help but think of our old Radio Shack 150 in 1 circuit kit while watching [Scott] assemble the 555 blinker. A breadboard would be a lot more fun than all those old springs! The “virtual” layout can even be overlayed on real one. Any misplaced components would show up before power is turned on (and the magic smoke escapes).

Now we realize this is just a technology demonstrator. Any circuit to be built would have to exist in the software’s database. Simple editing software like Fritzing could be helpful in this case. We’re also not sure how easy it would be working with a tablet between you and your circuit. A pair of CastAR glasses would definitely come in handy here. Even so, we’re excited by this video and hope that some of this augmented reality technology makes its way into our hands.

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InfinitEye HMD Brings 210 Degree FOV to the Party

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Head mounted displays are coming in hot and heavy this year. InfinitEye doesn’t have an official web page yet, so we’re linking to a review done by TheRoadToVR. Note that this is the second version of the display. InfinitEye released plans for their V1 HMD back in February. The InfinitEye prototype looks strikingly like the early Oculus Rift prototypes. Gaffers tape and what appears to be the frame from a face shield hold together the optical system. It’s this optical system which is interesting. InfinitEye has decided to go with head mounted LCD screens, similar to the rift, and unlike castAR’s projection system.

The InfinitEye team decided to go with two screens, giving them a whopping 1280×800 resolution per eye. The optics are also simple – fresnel lenses. This is all similar to the first version of the goggles, however the InfinitEye team claims that this new edition provides a 210 degree field of view. What we don’t know is exactly what they changed. We’re curious if the wider field of view will reduce the Sim Sickness some of us have felt with the rift – though to be fair, almost any head mounted display requires some time to adjust. What we are sure of is that the future is bright for virtual (and augmented) reality.

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CastAR Goes Live on Kickstarter

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[Jeri, Rick and the Technical Illusions crew] have taken the castAR to Kickstarter. We’ve covered castAR a couple of times in the past, but the Kickstarter includes a few new features just ripe for the hacking. First, castAR is no longer confined to a retro-reflective surface. In fact, it’s no longer confined to augmented reality. An optional clip on adapter converts castAR into a “free” augmented reality or a full virtual reality system.

[Jeri] has also posted a video on her YouTube channel detailing the entire saga of castAR’s development (embedded after the jump). The video has a real “heart to heart” feel to it, and is definitely worth watching. The story starts with the early days (and late nights) [Rick] and [Jeri] spent at Valve. She goes through the split with Valve and how the two set up a lab in [Rick's] living room. [Jeri] also outlines some of the technical aspects of the system. She explains how the optics have been reduced from several pounds of projectors to the mere ounces we see today.

Another surprise addition is the lower level tier rewards of the campaign. The castAR tracking system is offered. The campaign page says the tracking system can be mounted to anything from robots to other VR headsets. The possibilities for hacking are almost endless. We’re curious about setting up our own swarm of quadcopters similar to the UPENN Grasp Lab. The RFID tracking grid is also offered as a separate option. In the gaming system this will be used for tracking tabletop game pieces. Based upon the Kickstarter page, it sounds as if the grid will not only use RFID, but a camera based tracking system. We’re definitely curious what possibilities this will hold.

As of this writing, the castAR Kickstarter campaign is already well past the halfway mark on its way to a $400,000 USD goal.

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Eidos: Audio/Visual Sensory Augmentation

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One of our tipsters led us onto a very cool project by a British university team — It’s called Eidos, and it’s a real-time audio and visual augmentation system.

The creators embarked on this design journey after wondering if there was a way they could control and tune their senses. Imagine Superman and his ability to pick out one voice out of thousand — with this technology, it could be possible.

The clunky white goggles shown in the image above is the concept behind the visual augmentation. It’s akin to long-exposure photography, except that it is in real-time and is fluid video. We’re not sure how this could help anyone, but we have to admit it would be pretty cool to play around with. Maybe if Google Glass ever came out someone could write an app for it to mimic this!

The second device can target your hearing to a specific person in a noisy environment, zoning out all the unnecessary distractions. This could be very helpful for people suffering from attention deficit disorders, although we must imagine it would be very strange to get used to. Can you imagine blocking out everything and only looking at a person’s face and listening to their voice?

Unfortunately there is not much information about the actual tech or software behind these devices or if they even in fact work, but the concept was so interesting we just had to share it. Stick around after the break to see a video explanation and demonstration of the proposed technology.

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castAR comes to Maker Faire NY 2013

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If there was one sentence heard over and over at Maker Faire NY, it was “Did you see castAR yet?” The Technical Illusions team was at Maker Faire in full force. [Jeri Ellsworth], [Rick Johnson,] and team brought two demos:  the tried and true Jenga simulator, and a newer overhead shooter based on the Unity 3D engine. We didn’t see any earth shattering changes from the previous demos of castAR, as [Jeri] has moved into optimization of the Hardware, and [Rick] toward even more immersive demos of the software. Optimization and preparing for market are considered the “hard yards” of any product design. This is the place where a huge amount of work goes in, but the changes are subtle to the layperson.

In addition to her development of castAR’s ASIC, [Jeri] has been hard at work on the optics. The “old” glasses used a solid plastic optical path. The newer glasses use a hollow path for the twin 720p projectors. This makes them even lighter than the previous generation. Weight on the castAR glasses can’t be overstated. They feel incredibly light. There was no perceptible pressure on the nose or ears when wearing them. Also missing was the motion sickness people often experience with VR. This is because castAR doesn’t replace the user’s vision field, it only augments the vision. Peripheral motion cues are still there, which makes for a much more comfortable experience. [Read more...]