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 Rift Goes from Virtual to Augmented Reality

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[William Steptoe] is a post-doctoral research associate at University College London. This means he gets to play with some really cool hardware. His most recent project is an augmented reality update to the Oculus Rift. This is much more than hacking a pair of cameras on the Rift though. [William] has created an entire AR/VR user interface, complete with dockable web browser screens. He started with a stock Rift, and a room decked out with a professional motion capture system. The Rift was made wireless with the addition of an ASUS Wavi and a laptop battery system. [William] found that the wireless link added no appreciable latency to the Rift. To move into the realm of augmented reality, [William] added a pair of Logitech C310 cameras. The C310 lens’ field of view was a bit narrow for what he needed, so lenses from a Genius WideCam F100 were swapped in. The Logitech cameras were stripped down to the board level, and mounted on 3D printed brackets that clip onto the Rift’s display. Shapelock was added to the mounts to allow the convergence of the cameras to be easily set.

Stereo camera calibration is a difficult and processor intensive process. Add to that multiple tracking systems (both the 6DOF head tracking on the Rift, and the video tracker built-in to the room) and you’ve got quite a difficult computational process. [William] found that he needed to use a Unity shader running on his PC’s graphics card to get the system to operate in real-time.  The results are quite stunning. We didn’t have a Rift handy to view the 3D portions of [William's] video. However,  the sense of presence in the room still showed through. Videos like this make us excited for the future of augmented reality applications, with the Rift, the upcoming castAR, and with other systems.

[Read more...]

InfinitEye HMD Brings 210 Degree FOV to the Party

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Head mounted displays are coming in hot and heavy this year. InfinitEye doesn’t have an official web page yet, so we’re linking to a review done by TheRoadToVR. Note that this is the second version of the display. InfinitEye released plans for their V1 HMD back in February. The InfinitEye prototype looks strikingly like the early Oculus Rift prototypes. Gaffers tape and what appears to be the frame from a face shield hold together the optical system. It’s this optical system which is interesting. InfinitEye has decided to go with head mounted LCD screens, similar to the rift, and unlike castAR’s projection system.

The InfinitEye team decided to go with two screens, giving them a whopping 1280×800 resolution per eye. The optics are also simple – fresnel lenses. This is all similar to the first version of the goggles, however the InfinitEye team claims that this new edition provides a 210 degree field of view. What we don’t know is exactly what they changed. We’re curious if the wider field of view will reduce the Sim Sickness some of us have felt with the rift – though to be fair, almost any head mounted display requires some time to adjust. What we are sure of is that the future is bright for virtual (and augmented) reality.

[Read more...]

CastAR Goes Live on Kickstarter

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[Jeri, Rick and the Technical Illusions crew] have taken the castAR to Kickstarter. We’ve covered castAR a couple of times in the past, but the Kickstarter includes a few new features just ripe for the hacking. First, castAR is no longer confined to a retro-reflective surface. In fact, it’s no longer confined to augmented reality. An optional clip on adapter converts castAR into a “free” augmented reality or a full virtual reality system.

[Jeri] has also posted a video on her YouTube channel detailing the entire saga of castAR’s development (embedded after the jump). The video has a real “heart to heart” feel to it, and is definitely worth watching. The story starts with the early days (and late nights) [Rick] and [Jeri] spent at Valve. She goes through the split with Valve and how the two set up a lab in [Rick's] living room. [Jeri] also outlines some of the technical aspects of the system. She explains how the optics have been reduced from several pounds of projectors to the mere ounces we see today.

Another surprise addition is the lower level tier rewards of the campaign. The castAR tracking system is offered. The campaign page says the tracking system can be mounted to anything from robots to other VR headsets. The possibilities for hacking are almost endless. We’re curious about setting up our own swarm of quadcopters similar to the UPENN Grasp Lab. The RFID tracking grid is also offered as a separate option. In the gaming system this will be used for tracking tabletop game pieces. Based upon the Kickstarter page, it sounds as if the grid will not only use RFID, but a camera based tracking system. We’re definitely curious what possibilities this will hold.

As of this writing, the castAR Kickstarter campaign is already well past the halfway mark on its way to a $400,000 USD goal.

[Read more...]

[Jeri] spills the beans on her AR glasses

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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.