VR Telepresence Tank from Raspberry Pi, Google Cardboard, and Xbox Controller

It’s great to see different kinds of hardware and software tossed into a project together, allowing someone to mix things that don’t normally go together into something new. [Freddy Kilo] did just that with a project he calls his VR Robot Tank. It’s a telepresence device that uses a wireless Xbox controller to drive a tracked platform, which is itself headed by a Raspberry Pi.

The Pi has two cameras on a pan-tilt mount, and those cameras are both aimed and viewed via a Google Cardboard-like setup. A healthy dose of free software glues it together, allowing things like video streaming (with U4VL) and steering via the wireless controller (with xboxdrv). A bit of fiddling was required for some parts – viewing the stereoscopic cameras for example is done by opening and positioning two video windows just right so as to see them through the headset lenses. It doesn’t warp the image to account for the lens distortion in the headset, and the wireless range might be limited, but the end result seems to work well enough.

The tank is driven with the wireless controller while a mobile phone mounted in a headset lets the user see through the cameras; motion sensing in the phone moves those cameras whenever you move your head to look around. Remote Control hobbyists will recognize the project as doing essentially the same job as FPV setups for model aircraft (for example, Drone Racing or even Snow Sleds) but this project uses a completely different hardware and software toolchain. It demonstrates the benefits of having access to open tools to use as virtual “duct tape”, letting people stick different things together to test a concept. It proves almost anything can be made to work if you have a willingness to fiddle!

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Arduino + Servo + Scotch tape == An Interesting Conversation

If one could temporarily remove their sense of humor and cast a serious look into a Rube Goldberg machine, they would not say to themselves “well that looks simple.” Indeed, it would almost always be the case that one would find themselves asking “why all the complexity for such a simple task?”

Too often in hacking are we guilty of making things more complicated than they really need to be. Maybe it’s because we can see many different paths to a single destination. Maybe it’s because we want to explore a specific path, even though we know it might be a little harder to tread. Maybe it’s just because we can.


But imagine approaching a hack as simply a means to an end. Imagine if you did not have all of that knowledge in your head. All of those tools at your disposal. How would this change your approach? When [yavin427] decided to automate the leveling up process in his favorite video game, odds are he had never taken a game controller apart. Had never touched an oscilloscope. Indeed, he might have no knowledge of what a transistor or microcontroller even is. While many of our readers would have taken the more difficult path and tapped directly into the TTL of the controller to achieve maximum efficiency; it is most likely that [yavin427] would not have known how to do this, and thus would not have seen the many other paths to his end goal that would have been obvious to us. Yet he achieved his end goal. And he did it far easier and with less complication than many of us would have done.


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Computer control for your Xbox controller

This wiring nightmare lets [H. Smeitink] map all the buttons from an Xbox 360 controller to his PC. It gives him the ability to push control input from his PC to the console. But it goes a step further than that because it actually acts as a pass-through device. He connected a wired controller to the computer and uses a program he wrote to translate those inputs and send them to the hacked controller.

The software is written in C#. It’s got a recording function that lets him save the keypress data from the wired controller while it’s sent to the Xbox in real time. When he finds a combination that he uses frequently he plucks out those commands, sets them up as a macro, and assigns one of the buttons to execute it. The controller hack uses one transistor for each button, and a PIC 18F4550 which controls them and provides USB connectivity with the PC.

This isn’t one nice package like some integrated rapid-fire and macro solutions we’ve seen. But it certainly opens up a lot more possibilities. See for yourself in the clip after the break.

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Guitar Hero guitar controller

[Chuck] sent me this How-To on building your own custom Guitar Hero controller. I love the idea – the stock controller is a bit small for me. This one was built for a Child’s Play fund-raiser, so maybe you can score it and help get some games to some kids in need.

Remember, there are just 20 more days to get your entry in for the Design Challenge!