VR Mech’s Missing Link: The Phone in Your Pocket

In the process of making a homemade Mech Combat game that features robot-like piloted tanks capable of turning the cockpit independent of the direction of movement, [Florian] realized that while the concept was intuitive to humans, implementing it in a VR game had challenges. In short, when the body perceives movement but doesn’t feel the expected acceleration and momentum, motion sickness can result. A cockpit view that changes independently of forward motion exacerbates the issue.

To address this, [Florian] wanted to use a swivel chair to represent turning the Mech’s “hips”. This would control direction of travel and help provide important physical feedback. He was considering a hardware encoder for the chair when he realized he already had one in his pocket: his iPhone.

By making an HTML page that accesses the smartphone’s Orientation API, no app install was needed to send the phone’s orientation to his game via a WebSocket in Unity. He physically swivels his chair to steer and is free to look around using the VR headset, separate from the direction of travel. Want to try it for yourself? Get it from [Florian]’s GitHub repository.

A video is embedded below, but if you’re interested in details be sure to also check out [Florian]’s summary of insights and methods for avoiding motion sickness in a VR Mech cockpit.

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Take A Bicycle Tour Anywhere In The World

Imagine yourself riding through the countryside of Tuscany in the morning, then popping over to Champagne for a tour in the evening without taking a plane ride in the intermission. In fact, you don’t have to leave your living room. All you need is a stationary bicycle, a VR headset, and CycleVR.

[Aaron Puzey] hasn’t quite made the inter-country leap quite like that, but he has cycled the entire length of the UK, from its southern point to its northernmost tip. The 1500km journey took 85 hours over the course of eight months to complete.

CycleVR is actually a VR app created using Unity. It takes advantage of Google street view’s panoramic image data, using Bluetooth to monitor the cycling pace  and transition between the panorama capture points. So, the static images of pedestrians and cars clipping and distorting as the panorama images load might throw off the illusion at first, but there’s thousands of side streets and country roads out there where this won’t be as pronounced. Check out the highlight reel from [Puzey]’s journey after the break.

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Sharing Virtual and Holographic Realities via Vive and Hololens

An experimental project to mix reality and virtual reality by [Drew Gottlieb] uses the Microsoft Hololens and the HTC Vive to show two users successfully sharing a single workspace as well as controllers. While the VR user draws cubes in midair with a simple app, the Hololens user can see the same cubes being created and mapped to a real-world location, and the two headsets can even interact in the same shared space. You really need to check ou the video, below, to fully grasp how crazy-cool this is.

Two or more VR or AR users sharing the same virtual environment isn’t new, but anchoring that virtual environment into the real world in a way that two very different headsets share is interesting to see. [Drew] says that the real challenge wasn’t just getting the different hardware to talk to each other, it was how to give them both a shared understanding of a common space. [Drew] needed a way to make that work, and you can see the results in the video embedded below.

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Holograms With The New Kinect

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The Xbox One is out, along with a new Kinect sensor, and this time around Microsoft didn’t waste any time making this 3D vision sensor available for Windows. [programming4fun] got his hands on the new Kinect v2 sensor and started work on a capture system to import anything into a virtual environment.

We’ve seen [programming4fun]’s work before with an extremely odd and original build that turns any display into a 3D display with the help of a Kinect v1 sensor. This time around, [programming] isn’t just using a Kinect to display a 3D object, he’s also using a Kinect to capture 3D data.

[programming] captured himself playing a few chords on a guitar with the new Kinect v2 sensor. This was saved to a custom file format that can be played back in the Unity engine. With the help of a Kinect v1, [programming4fun] can pan and tilt around this virtual model simply by moving his head.

If that’s not enough, [programming] has also included support for the Oculus Rift, turning the Unity-based virtual copy of himself into something he can interact with in a video game.

As far as we can tell, this is the first build on Hackaday using the new Kinect sensor. We asked what everyone was going to do with this new improved hardware, and from [programming]’s demo, it seems like there’s still a lot of unexplored potential with the new Xbox One spybox.

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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. Continue reading “castAR comes to Maker Faire NY 2013”

The 14th game for the Nintendo Power Pad

Released 25 years ago, the Nintendo Power Pad, a plastic mat that plugged into an NES, saw very limited success despite its prevalence in basements and attics. In total, only six games for the Power Pad were released in North America, and only 13 worldwide. The guys over at cyborgDino thought they should celebrate the sliver anniversary of the Power Pad by creating its 14th game, using an Arduino and a bit of playing around in Unity 3D.

The first order of business was to read the button inputs on the Power Pad. Like all NES peripherals, the Power Pad stores the state of its buttons in a shift register that can be easily read out with an Arduino. With a bit of help from the UnoJoy library, it was a relatively simple matter to make the Power Pad work as intended.

The video game cyborgDino created is called Axis. It’s a bit like a cross between Pong and a tower defense game; plant your feet on the right buttons, and a shield pops up, protecting your square in the middle of the screen from bouncing balls. It’s the 14th game ever created for the Power Pad, so that’s got to count for something.

Video of the game below.

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Android on your netbook

Looks like there’s a pretty easy way to install Ice Cream Sandwich, the newest version of Android, on your Netbook. Actually this is limited to a few types of hardware including netbooks like the eeePC. That’s because the ISO files used during installation have been tailored to the hardware used on those devices. As with other Linux distros, the ISO file can be loaded on a thumb drive using Unetbootin. From there you can give it a whirl as a Live CD (or USB as it were) or choose to install it on your hard drive. We haven’t given it a spin as the eeePC version doesn’t want to boot on our Dell Mini 9, but we don’t see a reason why this couldn’t be set up as a dual boot option.

Now why would you want to run Android on your netbook? We’ve already seen that there’s a way to run Android apps in Ubuntu. We bet some people just love Android, and others just hate the Unity desktop that Ubuntu now uses… especially when the Netbook Remix had a lot of good things going for it.