Flying a Drone with an Oculus Rift 

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Controlling autonomous vehicles remotely with the use of virtual reality headsets seems like an obvious next step. Already, a few UAV companies have begun experimenting with these types of ideas by integrating Oculus Rift developer kits into their hovering quadcopters and drones. Parrot released a video on their blog showing that they developed a head-tracking system for their Bebop Drone in an effort to bring FPV flights to fruition. It looks like a lot of fun and we want to try one of these out asap!

As for technical specifications, they can be found in the YouTube description of the video embedded below. A quick glance showed that the operating system is based on Android and uses WiFi to connect the handheld tablet to the autonomous vehicle floating above. The range is a whopping 2km, giving plenty of freedom to explore. Moving one’s head swivels the attached camera giving a more immersive flying experience.

This isn’t the first example of FPV drones that we have seen. Previously, we covered an Oculus Rift + Head Tracking setup and another similar integration with a Black Armor Drone. We are bound to see virtual reality equipment used to control drones more and more as developers get their hands on cutting edge hardware like the Oculus developer kit 2 hardware which is currently shipping.

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VRcade’s The Nightmare Machine (Kickstarter Campaign)

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Aiming to be the leader in Virtual Reality horror experiences is the immersive VR haunted house in Seattle called ‘The Nightmare Machine’ which promises to be one of the most terrifying events this Halloween. But they need some assistance raising money to achieve the type of scale on a large public level that the project is attempting. The goal is $70,000 within a 30 day period which is quite the challenge, and the team will need to hustle every single day in order to accomplish it.

Yet the focus of the project looks good though, which is to lower the massive barriers of entry in VR that are associated with high hardware costs and provide people with a terrifying 5 minutes of nightmare-inducing experiences. This type of fidelity and range is usually only seen in military research facilities and university labs, like the MxR Lab at USC. And, their custom-built head mounted displays bring out this technology into the reach of the public ready to scare the pants off of anyone willing to put on the VR goggles.

The headsets are completely wireless, multi-player and contain immersive binaural audio inside. A motion sensing system has also been integrated that can track movements of the users within hundreds of square feet. Their platform is a combination of custom in-house and 3rd party hardware along with a slick software framework. The technology looks amazing, and the prizes given out through the Kickstarter are cool too! For example, anyone who puts in $175 or more gets to have their head 3D scanned and inserted into the Nightmare Machine. The rest of the prices include tickets to the October showcase where demos of the VR experience will be shown.

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Flex Sensing for a DIY Data Glove

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[Cyber] has been testing out intuitive input methods for virtual reality experiences that immerse the user further into the virtual world than archaic devices like a keyboard or mouse would allow. One of his biggest interests so far was the idea of a data glove that interacts with an Arduino Uno to interface with a PC. Since commercial products are yet to exist on a readily available level, [Cyber] decided to build his own.

He started out with a tiny inertial measurement unit called a Pololu MinIMU-9 v2 that tracks orientation of the 3-axis gyro and accelerometer. The USB interface was soldered into place connecting the wires to an Arduino Uno. From there, he hooked up a flex sensor from Spectra Symbol (which were supposedly used in the original Nintendo Power Gloves) and demoed the project by tracking the movement of one of his fingers. As the finger bent, the output printed on the serial monitor changed.

[Cyber] still needs to mount a glove on this system and construct a proper positional tracking method so that physical movement will be mirrored in a simulation.

[Cyber's] day job has had him busy these last few months, which has forced the project into a temporary hold. Recently though, [Cyber] has been an active member and an influence in the local Orange County VR scene helping to build a nice development culture, so we’re hoping to see more updates from him soon.

To view what he has done up to this point, click the link at the top of the page, and check out the video after the break:

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3D Printed Virtual Reality Goggles

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Oculus, as we know, was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion, and now the VR community has been buzzing about trying to figure out what to do with all this newly accessible technology. And adding to the interest, the 2nd iteration of the development kits were released, causing a resurgence in virtual reality development as computer generated experiences started pouring out from of every corner of the world. But not everyone can afford the $350 USD price tag to purchase one of these devices, bringing out the need for Do-It-Yourself projects like these 3D printed wearable video goggles via Adafruit.

The design of this project is reminiscent of the VR2GO mobile viewer that came out of the MxR Lab (aka the research environment that spun out Palmer Lucky before he created Oculus). However, the hardware here is more robust and utilizes a 5.6″ display and 50mm aspheric lenses instead of a regular smart phone. The HD monitor is held within a 3D printed enclosure along with an Arduino Micro and 9-DOF motion sensor. The outer hood of the case is composed of a combination of PLA and Ninjaflex printing-filament, keeping the fame rigid while the area around the eyes remain flexible and comfortable. The faceplate is secured with a mounting bracket and a pair of aspheric lenses inside split the screen for stereoscopic video. Head straps were added allowing for the device to fit snugly on one’s face.

At the end of the tutorial, the instructions state that once everything is assembled, all that is required afterwards is to plug in a 9V power adapter and an HDMI cable sourcing video from somewhere else. This should get the console up and running; but it would be interesting to see if this design in the future can eliminate the wires and make this into a portable unit. Regardless of which, this project does a fantastic job at showing what it takes to create a homemade virtual reality device. And as you can see from the product list after the break, the price of the project fits under the $350 DK2 amount, helping to save some money while still providing a fun and educational experience.

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Cutting Ribbons with Robots and a Oculus Rift

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On June 26th, 2014, Clearpath Robotics opened up the doors to their brand new 12,000 square foot robot lair by bringing out a PR2 to cut the ceremonial ribbon and welcome everyone inside. And instead of just programming the ‘locate and destroy’ ribbon sequence, the co-founders opted to use an Oculus Rift to control the robot tearing through the material with flailing arms.

This was accomplished having Jake, the robot, utilize a Kinect 2.0 that fed skeleton tracking data via rosserial_windows, a windows-based set of extension for the Robot Operating System which we heard about in January. The software gathers in a stream of data points each with an X,Y,Z component allowing [Jake] to find himself within a 3D space.Then, the data was collected and published directly into the PR2’s brain. Inject a little python code, and the creature was able to route directions in order to move it’s arms.

Thus, by simply stepping in front of the Kinect 2.0, and putting on the Oculus Rift headset, anyone could teleoperate [Jake] to move around and wave its arms at oncoming ribbons. Once completed, [Jake] would leave the scene, journeying back into the newly created robot lair leaving pieces of nylon and polyester everywhere.

An earlier (un-smoothed) version of the full system can be seen after the break:

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Non-Lethal Electric Chair Brings the Death Row Experience Home

Non-Lethal electric chair for Oculus Rift Hackathon

One of our trusty tipsters named [Arman] wrote in to tell us about this awesome little Horror VR Hackathon that sought to create a non-lethal electric chair, for a seriously creepy and shocking experience.

[Arman] works in a small prototyping shop, so when a few guys from the local VR group called to ask for help building a non-lethal electric chair, he thought they were joking — until they showed up at the shop! Finally understanding what they really wanted to do, he hooked them up with an EL wire power supply (high voltage AC, low amperage) for their first prototype.

Unfortunately the EL power supply driver took too much juice, so they called [Arman] back the next day to hack together some of those joke gum shockers instead — he hooked them up to an Arduino and they work like a charm.  [Read more...]

Virtual Physical Reality With Kintinuous And An Oculus Rift

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The Kinect has long been able to create realistic 3D models of real, physical spaces. Combining these Kinect-mapped spaces with an Oculus Rift is something brand new entirely.

[Thomas] and his fellow compatriots within the Kintinuous project are modeling an office space with the old XBox 360 Kinect’s RGB+D sensors. then using an Oculus Rift to inhabit that space. They’re not using the internal IMU in the Oculus to position the camera in the virtual space, either: they’re using live depth sensing from the Kinect to feed the Rift screens.

While Kintinuous is very, very good at mapping large-scale spaces, the software itself if locked up behind some copyright concerns the authors and devs don’t have control over. This doesn’t mean the techniques behind Kintinuous are locked up, however: anyone is free to read the papers (here’s one, and another, PDF of course) and re-implement Kintinuous as an open source project. That’s something that would be really cool, and we’d encourage anyone with a bit of experience with point clouds to give it a shot.

Video below.

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