CES: Building Booths and Simulating Reality

My first day on the ground at CES started with a somewhat amusing wait at the Taxi Stand of the McCarran International Airport. Actually I’m getting ahead of myself… it started with a surprisingly efficient badge-pickup booth in the baggage claim of the airport. Wait in line for about three minutes, and show them the QR code emailed to you from online registration and you’re ready to move to the 1/4 mile-long, six-switchback deep line for cabs. Yeah, there’s a lot of people here for this conference.

It’s striking just how huge this thing is. Every hotel on the strip is crawling with badge-wearing CES attendees. Many of the conference halls in the hotels are filled with booths, meaning the thing is spread out over a huge geographic area. We bought three-day monorail passes and headed to the convention center to get started.

Building the Booths

[Sophi] knows [Ben Unsworth] who put his heart and soul into this year’s IEEE booth. His company, Globacore, builds booths for conferences and this one sounds like it was an exceptional amount of fun to work on. He was part of a tiny team that built a mind-controlled drag strip based on Emotive Insight brainwave measuring hardware shipped directly from the first factory production run. This ties in with the display screens above the track to form a leader board. We’ll have a keen eye out for hacks this week, but the story behind building these booths may be the best hack to be found.


[Ben] told us hands-down the thing to see is the new Oculus hardware called Crescent Bay. He emphatically mentioned The Holodeck which is a comparison we don’t throw around lightly. Seems like a lot of people feel that way because the line to try it out is wicked long. We downloaded their app which allows you to schedule a demo but all appointments are already taken. Hopefully our Twitter plea will be seen by their crew.

In the meantime we tried out the Oculus Gear VR. It uses a Galaxy Note 4 as the screen along with lenses and a variety of motion tracking and user controls. The demo was a Zelda-like game where you view the scene from overhead. This used a handheld controller to command the in-game character with the headset’s motion tracking used to look around the playing area. It was a neat demo, I’m not quite sold on long gaming sessions with the hardware but maybe I just need to get used full-immersion first.

Window to another Dimension


The midways close at six o’clock and we made our way to the Occipital booth just as they were winding done. I’ve been 3D scanned a few times before but those systems used turntables and depth cameras on motorized tracks to do the work. This uses a depth-camera add-on for an iPad which they call Structure Sensor.

It is striking how quickly the rig can capture a model. This high-speed performance is parlayed into other uses, like creating a virtual world inside the iPad which the user navigates by using the screen as if it were a magic window into another dimension. Their demo was something along the lines of the game Portal and has us thinking that the Wii U controller has the right idea for entertainment, but it needs the performance that Occipital offers. I liked this experience more than the Oculus demo because you are not shut off from the real world as you make your way through the virtual.

We shot some video of the hardware and plan to post more about it as soon as we get the time to edit the footage.

Find Us or Follow Us

josh-can-hardwareWe’re wearing our Hackaday shirts and that stopped [Josh] in his tracks. He’s here on business with his company Evermind, but like any good hacker he is carrying around one of his passion projects in his pocket. What he’s showing off are a couple of prototypes for a CANbus sniffer and interface device that he’s build.

We’ll be at CES all week. You can follow our progress through the following Twitter accounts: @Hackaday, @HackadayPrize, @Szczys, and @SophiKravitz. If you’re here in person you can Tweet us to find where we are. We’re also planning a 9am Thursday Breakfast meetup at SambaLatte in the Monte Carlo. We hope you’ll stop by and say hi. Don’t forget to bring your own hardware!


Blow your mind with the Brainwave Disruptor


Whether you believe in it or not, the science behind brainwave entrainment is incredibly intriguing. [Rich Decibels] became interested in the subject, and after doing some research, decided to build an entrainment device of his own.

If you are not familiar with the concept, brainwave entrainment theory suggests that low-frequency light and sound can be used to alter brain states, based on the assumption that the human brain will change its frequency to correspond to dominant external stimulus. [Rich’s] device is very similar to [Mitch Altman’s] “Brain Machine”, and uses both of these methods in an attempt to place the user in an altered state of mind.

[Rich] installed a trio of LEDs into a set of goggles, wiring them along with a set of headphones to his laser-cut enclosure. Inside, the Brainwave Disruptor contains an Arduino, which is tasked with both generating light patterns as well as bit-banged audio streams.

Well, how does it work? [Rich] reports that it performs quite nicely, causing both visual and auditory hallucinations along with the complete loss of a sense of time. Sounds interesting enough to give it a try!

MindFlex teardown

Maybe we’re just imagining things, but it seems to us like brainwave control is the latest trend in toys. Similar to Uncle Milton’s Force Trainer, Mattel has recently released the MindFlex, a game that involves moving a plastic ball up and down through an obstacle course that you control using your brainwaves. Naturally when [Alpha] saw this, he decided to take it apart and document what he found. After disassembling both the headset and the base, he found that most of the chips were covered in black resin making them unidentifiable. However, he was able to find identify one chip, the NeuroSky TGAT1-L64 D498Q-010 0924. Judging by the name alone, we would guess that this is the chip that makes the brainwave control possible. While there’s no mention as to whether you’ll be able to interface with this like you can with the Force Trainer, we’re sure that it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out how to use this to control more than just a floating plastic ball.