Ecstatic Computation: Exploring Technoshamanism with Virtual Reality

A Digital Shaman

Here’s a really clever use for the Oculus Rift — Ecstatic Computation, a virtual reality spirit journey.

[Michael Allison] began his university career as an artist and musician… and somehow down the line, became a Technoshaman. His thesis, presented at ITP 2014, is on computational art, virtual reality, cognitive psychology and his research on various religious, spiritual and scientific methods that try to explain the relationship between our bodies, minds and the universe itself.

Using virtual reality, Ecstatic Computation is a ritual that explores the merging of consciousness and quantum energy in the physio-chemical registration of state within the computer’s memory. The moment when human and computer become one; the moment when thought becomes bit and electrons become ideas.

Sound crazy? Maybe — but check out the video demonstrations after the break. To create this experience he’s using an Oculus Rift, a Microsoft Kinect, a fan, a small keyboard and of course a computer to render it all. During the participant’s journey, [Michael] leads them in flight, passing through a quantum tunnel, merging with quantum energy inside of state registration within the computer’s memory and finally ending by falling into infinity.

All the graphics and effects are generated on the fly using GLSL generation using a robust graphics rendered called Smolder which he wrote himself, which is built on top of Cinder.

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Eye Tracking With The Oculus Rift

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There’s a lot you can do with eye and gaze tracking, when it comes to interface design, so when [Diako] got his hands on an Oculus Rift, there was really only one thing to do.

Like a few other solutions for eye tracking we’ve seen, [Diako] is using a small camera with the IR filter removed to read the shape and location of an eye’s pupil to determine where the user is looking. This did require cutting a small hole near one of the Oculus’ eye cups, but the internal camera works great.

To get a window to the world, if it were, [Diako] slapped another camera onto the front of the Oculus. These two cameras are fed into the same computer, the gaze tracking is overlaid with the image from the front of the headset, and right away the user has a visual indication of where they’re looking.

Yes, using a computer to know where you’re looking may seem like a rather useless build, but stuff like this is used in research and extraordinarily high tech heads up displays. Although he’s not using the motion tracking on the Oculus, if [Diako] were to do so, he’d have the makings of one of the most powerful heads up displays possible.

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Facebook to Buy Oculus VR

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Facebook has agreed to purchase Oculus VR. The press values the deal at about $2 Billion USD in cash and stock. This is great news for Oculus’ investors. The rest of the world has a decidedly different opinion. [Notch], the outspoken creator of Minecraft, was quick to tweet that a possible rift port has now been canceled, as Facebook creeps him out. He followed this up with a blog post.

I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.

Here at Hackaday, we’ve been waiting a long time for affordable virtual reality. We’ve followed Oculus since the early days, all the way up through the recent open source hardware release of their latency tester. Our early opinion on the buyout is not very positive. Facebook isn’t exactly known for contributions to open source software or hardware, nor are they held in high regard for standardization in their games API. Only time will tell what this deal really means for the Rift.

The news isn’t all dark though. While Oculus VR has been a major catalyst for virtual reality displays, there are other players. We’ve got our eggs in the castAR basket. [Jeri, Rick] and the rest of the Technical Illusions crew have been producing some great demos while preparing CastAR for manufacture. Sony is also preparing Project Morpheus. The VR ball is rolling. We just hope it keeps on rolling – right into our living rooms.

Oculus Releases Open Source Hardware

Latency

Oculus VR, makers of the very cool Oculus Rift VR display, are making their first steps towards open hardware. Their first project is a latency tester, meant to precisely measure the latency of a VR setup or application. This is true open hardware with everything – the firmware, schematics, and mechanical parts all available on GitHub

Inside this neat bit of hardware is a STM32F102 microcontroller and a TCS3414 color sensor. The firmware is designed to measure changes in color and send that data back to a computer with a timestamp.

Not only are the schematics and board files available, there are also a few links to buy the PCBs at OSH Park: for about $24, you can get three copies of the main PCB and sensor board delivered to your door. If you have a 3D printer, Oculus has provided the .STL files to print out the enclosure for this device.

While this is a fairly niche product, we’re amazed at how well the Oculus folk have put together this open source hardware project. Everything you need to replicate this product, from board files, mechanical design, firmware, and instructions on how to build everything is just right there, sitting it a GitHub. Wonderful work.