[Devin Coldewey] shared his experiences with some of the more unusual VR concepts on display at SIGGRAPH 2023. Some of these ideas are pretty interesting in their own right, and even if they aren’t going to actually become commercial products they give some insight into the kinds of problems that are being worked on. Read on to see if anything sparks ideas of your own.
In the area of haptics and physical feedback, Sony shared research prototypes that look like short batons in which are hidden movable weights. These weights can shift up or down on demand, altering their center of gravity. [Devin] states that these units had a mild effect on their own, but when combined with VR visuals the result was impressive. There’s a video demonstration of how they work. Continue reading “See Some Of The Stranger VR Ideas From SIGGRAPH”→
Light Fields are a subtle but critical element to making 3D video look “real”, and it has little to do with either resolution or field of view. Meta (formerly Facebook) provides a look at a prototype VR headset that provides light field passthrough video to the user for a more realistic view of their surroundings, and it uses a nifty lens and aperture combination to make it happen.
As humans move our eyes (or our heads, for that matter) to take in a scene, we see things from slightly different perspectives in the process. These differences are important cues for our brains to interpret our world. But when cameras capture a scene, they capture it as a flat plane, which is different in a number of important ways from the manner in which our eyes work. A big reason stereoscopic 3D video doesn’t actually look particularly real is because the information it presents lacks these subtleties.
Putting on a headset and using virtual monitors in VR instead of physical ones is a use case that pops up, but is it really something feasible? [Karl Guttag], who has long experience and a deep understanding of the technical challenges that face such devices, doesn’t seem to think so.
Eye tracking is a useful feature in social virtual reality (VR) spaces because it really enhances presence and communication when one’s avatar has a realistic gaze. Most headsets lack this feature, but EyeTrackVR has a completely open source solution ready for anyone willing to put it together.
EyeTrackVR is a combination of hardware, software, and 3D printable mounts for attaching a pair of microcontroller boards, cameras, and IR LEDs to just about any existing VR headset out there. An ESP32-based board and tiny camera module watches each eyeball, and under IR illumination the pupil presents as an easily-identified round black area. Software takes care of turning the camera’s view of the pupil into a gaze direction value that can be plugged into other software.
The project is still under active development, but in its current state is perfectly suitable for creating a functional system that can integrate into a variety of existing headsets with printed mounting brackets. Interested? Check out the intro and if it sounds up your alley, dive into the build guide which spells out everything you need to know. Check out the video below for a demo of EyeTrackVR working in VRChat, along with an overview of software support.
Lenses are a necessary part of any head-mounted display, but unfortunately, they aren’t always easy to source. Taking them out of an existing headset is one option, but one may wish for a more customized approach, and that’s where [WalkerDev]’s homebrewed “pancake” lenses might come in handy.
Engineering is all about trade-offs, and that’s especially true in VR headset design. Pancake lenses are compact units that rely on polarization to bounce light around internally, resulting in a very compact assembly at the cost of relatively poor light efficiency. That compactness is what [WalkerDev] found attractive, and in the process discovered that stacking two different Fresnel lenses and putting them in a 3D printed housing yielded a very compact pancake-like unit that gave encouraging results.
This project is still in development, and while the original lens assembly is detailed in this build log, there are some potential improvements to be made, so stay tuned if you’re interested in using this design. A DIY headset doesn’t mean you also must DIY the lenses entirely from scratch, and this option seems economical enough to warrant following up.
Want to experiment with mixing and matching optics on your own? Not only has [WalkerDev]’s project shown that off-the-shelf Fresnel lenses can be put to use, it’s in a way good news that phone-based VR is dead. Google shipped over 10 million cardboard headsets and Gear VR sold over 5 million units, which means there are a whole lot of lenses in empty headsets laying around, waiting to be harvested and repurposed.
[PyottDesign] recently wrapped up a personal project to create himself a custom AR/VR headset that could function as an AR (augmented reality) platform, and make it easier to develop new applications in a headset that could do everything he needed. He succeeded wonderfully, and published a video showcase of the finished project.
Getting a headset with the features he wanted wasn’t possible by buying off the shelf, so he accomplished his goals with a skillful custom repackaging of a Quest 2 VR headset, integrating a Stereolabs Zed Mini stereo camera (aimed at mixed reality applications) and an Ultraleap IR 170 hand tracking module. These hardware modules have tons of software support and are not very big, but when sticking something onto a human face, every millimeter and gram counts.
When the PlayStation VR2 headset was released, people wondered whether it would be possible to get the headset to work as a PC VR headset. That would mean being able to plug it into a PC and have it work as a VR headset, instead of it only working on a PS5 as Sony intended.
Enthusiasts were initially skeptical and at times despondent about the prospects, but developer [iVRy]’s efforts recently had a breakthrough. A PC-compatible VR2 is looking more likely to happen.
So far [iVRy] is claiming they have 6 DOF SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping), Prox sensor, and stereo camera data.
Most of the juicy bits are paywalled behind [iVRy]’s Patreon. We’re hoping the jailbreak process will eventually be open-sourced.