[Jeri] spills the beans on her AR glasses

AR

In the last year, [Jeri Ellsworth] has been very busy. She was hired by Valve, started development of an augmented reality system, fired by Valve, and started a new company with [Rick Johnson] to bring her augmented reality glasses to the market. On the last Amp Hour podcast she spilled the beans on what went down at Valve, how her glasses work, and what her plans for the future are.

[Jeri] and [Rick]‘s castAR glasses aren’t virtual reality glasses like the Oculus Rift or other virtual reality glasses that cut you off from the real world. The castAR glasses preserve your peripheral vision by projecting images and objects onto a gray retro-reflective mat and allows you to interact with a virtual environment with an electronic wand. So far, there are a few demos for the castAR system; a Jenga clone, and a game of battle chess called Team For Chess, a wonderful reference to Valve’s hat simulator.

The electronics inside the castAR glasses are fairly impressive; new frames are drawn on the retro-reflective surface at 100 Hz, positioning accuracy is in the sub-millimeter range, and thanks to [Jeri]‘s clever engineering the entire system should be priced at about $200. Not too bad for an awesome device that can be used not only for D&D and Warhammer, but also for some very cool practical applications like visualizing engineering models of 3D prints before they’re printed.

3D Printing sensor mounts for the Oculus Rift

While browsing an oculus rift thread on reddit, I saw someone mention how nice it would be to have some actual mounts for external sensors on their Rift. The idea is that adding additional sensors or cameras will allow us to expand the capabilities of the rift. With something like the Razor Hydra, you can add quick positional tracking (the rift only tracks rotation, not position). With some webcams, you could theoretically do some stereoscopic augmented reality.  Unfortunately, attaching all these things to the rift is a bit of a pain at the moment.

I had all the things right here in front of me to make this happen, so I did! I’ve quickly tossed together two accessories for the Rift.

1. a small bracket that feeds onto the velcro on the back. People will likely use this for “heavy” position sensors. They may be fairly light, but any additional weight on the front of the rift is unwanted.

2. A snap-on face plate that has a modular design. This wold be for mounting cameras on the front of the rift.

All of these files can be downloaded here.

Hacking the Oculus Rift: the Oculight

Our Oculus Rift finally arrived in the mail. I’ll spare you my thoughts on the item itself other than to say it is amazing. There are tons of videos to choose from that show people’s thoughts and reactions, and Ifixit has their usual detailed teardown as well.

The mod I decided to tackle first was the horizontal peripheral vision lights. The shape of the Oculus means that it feels like you are wearing a skii mask, or diving mask. There are big black borders at the far edges of the sides. It would seem that a simple mod would be to add some RGB LEDs and run a simple ambilight clone.

I downloaded the Adalight code and plugged in an RGB LED strip I had sitting around. The rift has some mesh areas at the 4 corners to allow air to move around in there. I took advantage of this so I didn’t even have to cut into the rift… yet. I simply strapped the strip to the rift with the proper LEDs shining through the holes.

The result was decent. Since the LEDs are further back in your peripheral vision than the edge of the screen, it looks like maybe a little light from the surroundings is just “leaking” into the headset. It gives the impression of seeing things that are far beyond the edge of the screen.  A better installation, allowing lights all the way up the left and right sides instead of just the corners might yield even better results.

Powering the Oculus Rift with USB

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Oculus Rift dev kits are starting to make their way onto the workbenches of makers around the globe. Some are even going so far as to tear open the hardware and see how they can improve it. [Mike] didn’t like the fact the Oculus Rift needed a wall wart power supply, so he modded it so it can be powered over a USB port.

The key insight for this mod comes after [Mike] put a Kill-a-Watt between his outlet and the Rift’s power adapter. He found only 600 mA of current was being used by the Rift, assuming 100% efficiency in the adapter. A USB port is supposed to provide 500 mA of current, so with a soldering gun, [Mike] bridged the DC input jack and the USB port on the Rift. Perhaps unsurprisingly, everything worked perfectly.

In case you’ve forgotten, Hackaday is getting one of these Oculus Rift dev kits. We’ll post a teardown when [Caleb] learns to share. You can check out a video of [Mike]‘s modded Rift and some dolla dolla billz after the break.

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Your own head-mounted display for under two bills

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[D S] wanted his own head-mounted display. What you see here is just his mockup, but somewhere along the way he realized it’s closer to a finished build than just being a stating point. Not only does it work well for gaming, it came in at under $200 all in. You think your girlfriend makes fun of you now for wearing that big microphone headset while playing? Just wait until she gets a load of these!

We’ve embedded an image gallery after the break as well as the description he sent us with his email. The display itself is a 7″ LCD module from eBay that boasts a hair better than 720P resolution: 1280×800. He’s using a pair of ski goggles to strap the display to his noggin. The enclosure is made out of foam board which should help keep the weight down. Inside there’s a Fresnel lens but after reading his description of how he measured the focal length we’re still not 100% clear on how he figured out where to mount it.

Though it may be missing the 3d of the rift,a quick mod could fix that and he’ll be well on his way through the journey to building his own Holodeck.

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University research dollars poured into developing a Holodeck

holodeck-project

It may seem like this would be an early April Fool’s joke, but the image above shows serious research in action. [Ben Lang] recently had the chance to interview the director of a program that wants to make the Holodeck a reality. The core goal of the research — called Project Holodeck — is to develop an affordable multi-player virtual reality experience outside of the laboratory. We’ve heard speculation that Sony and Microsoft will release their next-gen systems in 2013; we’d rather wait for this to hit the market.

[Nathan Burba] is the director of the program. It’s part of the University of Southern California Games Institute and brings together students of Interactive Media, Cinema Arts, and Engineering. The hardware worn by each player is shown off at the beginning of the video after the break. Most of the components are commercially available (a Lenovo laptop worn in the backpack, PlayStation controllers, etc.) but the stereoscopic display which gives each eye its own 90-degree view was developed specifically for the project.

After seeing the in-game rendered footage we can’t help but think of playing some Minecraft with this equipment. We just need some type of omni-directional treadmill because our living room floor space is very limited.

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Wiper Motor Motion Simulator

[DERIY] set out to create a two degrees of freedom motion simulator for driving simulation. After four months, he’s completed this impressive simulator for about $400. The simulator receives driving data from the game and actuates the seat to provide tactile feedback to the driver.

To keep the costs low, he decided to use wiper motors for actuating the seat. The system is controlled by the Thanos AMC Motion Controller. This AVR based system connects over USB and controls the motor drivers. There’s also a collection of software for calibrating the system, including tuning the PID control and setting up the feedback potentiometers. An LCD display provides some information on the system status during operation.

If you’ve ever wanted to build a motion simulator, this is a good example of how to get started. The open source hardware for this makes controlling the system easier, and using readily available components can lower the build cost.

Check out a video of the simulator in action after the break.

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