$25 Head Mounted Display

[Jake] sent in his source for a cheap head mounted display. In his writeup he notes that the spy video car comes with quite a pile of handy electronics – video tx/rx, camera and this simple black and white monocle head mounted display. (Which happens to be available as a replacement unit for a mere $20) The screen is a Kopin 300M (Black and white, 300×240 pixels) The display is actually somewhat usable out of the box, but he takes the time to note some simple mods that’ll improve the displays performance.

If you ever bought a virtual boy just to gut the display, then you know you want one. In fact, I’ve got a perfect project in mind for this particular toy.

29 thoughts on “$25 Head Mounted Display

  1. You could wire in a switch or a non-momentary toggle button for the PAL/NTSC “resistor” rather than hard-wiring it one way or the other…

    Also, using the middle pole for video and the end pole for the battery, isn’t that bad? As you plug it in you get voltage going in the video in, and back out the ground. Or between the voltage and video source pin… other such bad things.

  2. Hey, thanks for the kind words, everybody! I had a feeling they’d sell out pretty fast, as they had done so twice long before I posted anything. Luckily they do have a notification system, which is nice and spam-free.

    @draeath: Putting a switch is a good idea. I had thought about doing it myself, but I’ve never had reason to use a PAL signal in my life :) As to the pin arrangement, I think you’re looking at it backwards. The positive supply is on the tip, yes, but it’s the female socket that’s supplying this voltage. This means that the battery isn’t connected to anything until the plug is all the way in. You get video going into the v-in and ground to video-in for a brief second, not the other way around.

    @pyrofer: Nice hack, mate! I agree that stereo&color beats mono&mono, but yours is also a good deal bigger and more complicated. Still very cool though!

  3. I’ve been wanting a head mounted display for years, but I didn’t feel they where worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

    This one uses NTSC/PAL scan firmware to display the picture on the LCD. If you’re good at molding polymers you could make a far better one implementing 2 LCD’s.

    First thing I’d do is find another LCD with the exact dimensions with better picture quality and depth.

    It’d be cool to implement a channel switcher so you could watch multiple feeds. I’d probably use one with surveillance equipment, or maybe a x360 since it supports NTSC and PAL.

  4. This gave me a great idea. ive been looking for a miniature lcd with a decent resolution for an uber small projector project. what do you know, these mini lcd’s are used in the viewfinder for camcorders. now picture a lumenlab style projector one 20th of the size. hell yeah.

    Thanks for the idea jake


  5. Any way to strip the lcd and video receivers out attach the CCD to the other side of the “goggles” and add some more high powered IR LEDs to make a cheapo, but functional night vision system?

  6. @snazz: A properly adjusted one shouldn’t, because the optics make the image appear at infinite focus, so it will do you as much eye damage as looking at, I don’t know, mountains. That said, an improperly adjusted one may give you mild eye strain from maintaining close focus for a long period, but I don’t think it’s actually possible to damage your eyes by looking at things that are too close, reading in low light, or any of the stuff that old wives’ tales tell you can damage them.

    Of course the part is out of stock, wait for a random time between 30 days and forever and come back, you might be lucky :)

    @tripp: you have no idea how long I have wanted to do that exact thing for. If you can find a webcam that outputs TV signal directly, or a small board to convert from webcam output to NTSC/PAL, you’re probably onto a winner, and there is no shortage of instructions for enabling webcams to see infrared. If you do make one, promise me you’ll make the outsides of the eyepieces glow green, splinter cell / starcraft ghost style…

  7. “any way” like totally..

    “Sorry to ask, but don’t head mounted displays cause some sort of eye damage if used for prolonged amounts of time?”

    Poor refresh rates, and bright back lights inches from eyes, of course.. There may be some naysayers, but you can go look at actual research, and technical specs.

    “@tripp: Me and mumsy are having pudding and tea, please do join.”
    sorry, I had to do that.

  8. Eh, i wouldn’t bother trying to mod a webcam. Google “board camera” for an alternative that is just as cheap, small, and already puts out NTSC/pal video. they’re just as easy to infrared mod as webcams too–heck, some of ’em even come with super-bright ir illuminators built in!

  9. Nice SEO:

    yeah imma pass on the home made head mounted display thing. I thought about it a while back, and decided I would let science work out the kinks on these, and the price to go down. Im personally worried about eye damage. Ebay has these 2gb 1″ LCD video watches that might be worth looking at:


  10. Good to see a company in support if the the maker community. This is what they said when they sent me a notification that it was in stock, then wasnt by the time i checked the next day. Also, you can get $20 off the complete car kit with the coupon code _HACKER_. I lol’d.

    “A Message from the Wild Planet Engineering Team

    Thank you for your interest in the Spy Video Car Replacement Headset!

    Unfortunately, with all the great press in the maker community, we are unable to meet the demand for the replacement headset at this time. We did not anticipate so much interest in this as a stand-alone item, and it will take some time before our production capacity catches up with the demand. (We’re going full out to meet the Spy Video Car demand for the holiday season).

    If you can wait, we’ll notify you when we get the replacement headset in stock. The other option is that we do have inventory of the complete Spy Video Car available. In addition to the headset, The Spy Video Car is a remote controlled vehicle with a video camera mounted on the front to provide a first-person view from the vehicle for snooping and spying. The video image is transmitted via 2.4GHz signal and then displayed on a micro-LCD in the headset.

    Creative individuals could certainly imagine endless ways to reconfigure the various components that make up the Spy Video Car into new and exciting projects.

    Because we are unable to fulfill your request of the replacement headset, we would like to offer you a $20 discount on the Spy Video Car. To receive your discount, just enter the coupon code HACKER during checkout.

    Of course, if you prefer to wait, we will e-mail you when we get the replacement headsets in (early next year).

    Thank you, and happy hacking,
    Wild Planet Entertainment, Inc. “

  11. Hi there, I found this site a while back doing some research on HMD’s, was impressed enough that I kept an eye out for one of these units in second hand stores (we’re a little too far north for a toys’r’us around here)

    Found just the eyepiece laying around a thrift shop and for a whopping $2 it was mine. A little rummage around the for adapters and wire and had it up and running secondary screen for a laptop via S-video with USB power.

    I’ve worked with industrial robots in the past and would have killed for something like this at the time for some quick vision tests or on the fly reprogramming. Kudos on a well documented tear down.

    PS, I had a quick look at the next generation of spygear toys, seems they have a newer model, with an on board Mic and a tank tread setup as well as video. Hoping they offer similar replacement parts.

  12. Does anyone have an idea where to get these right now because I searched for about 2 hours now an did not finde it anywhere. I found a review but nothing else …
    I really want to buy one of these …
    sry for my bad english im not from an english speaking country …

  13. Just found this item at a good will. may go back now that ID what it is from. paid $0.69 for it was not able found it right off looking on my phone. Love find some the Spy-net and spy Gear items they have a lot of fun uses other than what they were made for.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.