Raspberry Pi Projection Mapping Crash Course

Projection mapping might not be a term you’re familiar with, but you’ve certainly seen the effect before. It’s when images are projected onto an object, usually one that has an interesting or unusual shape, to create an augmented reality display. Software is used to map the image or video to the physical shape it’s being projected on, often to surreal effect. Imagine an office building suddenly being “painted” another color for the Holidays, and you’ll get the idea.

This might seem like one of those things that’s difficult to pull off at the hobbyist level, but as it turns out, there’s a number of options to do your own projection mapping with the lowly Raspberry Pi. [Cornelius], an avid VJ with a penchant for projection mapping, has done the legwork and put together a thorough list of different packages available for the Pi in case you want to try your hand at the futuristic art form. Many of them are even open source software, which of course we love around these parts.

[Cornelius] starts by saying he’s had Pis running projection installations for as long as three years, and while he doesn’t promise the reader it’s always the best solution, he says its worth getting started on at least. Why not? If the software’s free and you’ve already got a Raspberry Pi laying around (we know you do), you just need a projector to get into the game.

There’s a lot of detail given in the write-up, including handy pro and con lists for each option, so you should take a close look at the linked page if you’re thinking of trying your hand at it. But the short version is that [Cornelius] found the paid package, miniMAD, to be the easiest to get up and running. The open source options, ofxPiMapper and PocketVJ, have a steeper learning curve but certainly nothing beyond the readers of Hackaday.

To make things easier, [Cornelius] even goes on to give the reader a brief guide on setting up ofxPiMapper, which he says shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or so using its mouse and keyboard interface. It would be interesting to see somebody combine this with the Raspberry Pi integrated projector we saw a couple years back to make a highly portable mapping setup.

Bringing Augmented Reality to the Workbench

[Ted Yapo] has big ideas for using Augmented Reality as a tool to enhance an electronics workbench. His concept uses a camera and projector system working together to detect objects on a workbench, and project information onto and around them. [Ted] envisions virtual displays from DMMs, oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and other instruments projected onto a convenient place on the actual work area, removing the need to glance back and forth between tools and the instrument display. That’s only the beginning, however. A good camera and projector system could read barcodes on component bags to track inventory, guide manual PCB assembly by projecting which components go where, display reference data, and more.

An open-sourced, accessible machine vision system working in tandem with a projector would open a lot of doors. Fortunately [Ted] has prior experience in this area, having previously written the computer vision code for room-scale dynamic projection environments. That’s solid experience that he can apply to designing a workbench-scale system as his entry for The Hackaday Prize.

Robot Maps Rooms with Help From iPhone

The Unity engine has been around since Apple started using Intel chips, and has made quite a splash in the gaming world. Unity allows developers to create 2D and 3D games, but there are some other interesting applications of this gaming engine as well. For example, [matthewhallberg] used it to build a robot that can map rooms in 3D.

The impetus for this project was a robotics company that used a series of robots around their business. The robots navigate using computer vision, but couldn’t map the rooms from scratch. They hired [matthewhallberg] to tackle this problem, and this robot is a preliminary result. Using the Unity engine and an iPhone, the robot can perform in one of three modes. The first is a user-controlled mode, the second is object following, and the third is 3D mapping.

The robot seems fairly easy to construct and only carries and iPhone, a Node MCU, some motors, and a battery. Most of the computational work is done remotely, with the robot simply receiving its movement commands from another computer. There’s a lot going on here, software-wise, and a lot of toolkits and software packages to install and communicate with one another, but the video below does a good job of showing what you’ll need and how it all works together. If that’s all too much, there are other robots with a form of computer vision that can get you started into the world of computer vision and mapping.

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Leap Motion Announces Open Source Augmented Reality Headset

Leap Motion just dropped what may be the biggest tease in Augmented and Virtual Reality since Google Cardboard. The North Star is an augmented reality head-mounted display that boasts some impressive specs:

  • Dual 1600×1440 LCDs
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 100 degree FOV
  • Cost under $100 (in volume)
  • Open Source Hardware
  • Built-in Leap Motion camera for precise hand tracking

Yes, you read that last line correctly. The North Star will be open source hardware. Leap Motion is planning to drop all the hardware information next week.

Now that we’ve got you excited, let’s mention what the North Star is not — it’s not a consumer device. Leap Motion’s idea here was to create a platform for developing Augmented Reality experiences — the user interface and interaction aspects. To that end, they built the best head-mounted display they could on a budget. The company started with standard 5.5″ cell phone displays, which made for an incredibly high resolution but low framerate (50 Hz) device. It was also large and completely unpractical.

The current iteration of the North Star uses much smaller displays, which results in a higher frame rate and a better overall experience.  The secret sauce seems to be Leap’s use of ellipsoidal mirrors to achieve a large FOV while maintaining focus.

We’re excited, but also a bit wary of the $100 price point — Leap Motion is quick to note that the price is “in volume”. They also mention using diamond tipped tooling in a vibration isolated lathe to grind the mirrors down. If Leap hasn’t invested in some injection molding, those parts are going to make the whole thing expensive. Keep your eyes on the blog here for more information as soon as we have it!

HandHolo: A Homebrew ARG

Taking a dive into VR or augmented reality — once, dreamed-of science fiction — is not only possible for the average consumer, but crafting those experiences is as well! Hackaday.io user [kvtoet]’s HandHolo is a homebrew method to cut your teeth on peeking into a virtual world.

This project requires a smartphone running Android Oreo as its backbone, a Bluetooth mouse, a piece of cardboard and a small mirror or highly reflective surface. The phone is slotted into the cardboard housing — prototype with what you have! — above the mouse, and the mirror angled opposite the screen reflects the image back to the user as they explore the virtual scene.

Within Unity, [kvtoet]’s used a few scripts that access phone functions — namely the gyroscope, which is synchronised to the mouse’s movements. That movement is translated into exploration of the virtual space built in Unity and projected onto the portal-like mirror. Check it out!

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Magic Leap Finally Announced; Remains Mysterious

Yesterday Magic Leap announced that it will ship developer edition hardware in 2018. The company is best known for raising a lot of money. That’s only partially a joke, since the teased hardware has remained very mysterious and never been revealed, yet they have managed to raise nearly $2 billion through four rounds of funding (three of them raising more than $500 million each).

The announcement launched Magic Leap One — subtitled the Creator Edition — with a mailing list sign up for “designers, developers and creatives”. The gist is that the first round of hardware will be offered for sale to people who will write applications and create uses for the Magic Leap One.

We’ve gathered some info about the hardware, but we’ll certainly begin the guessing game on the specifics below. The one mystery that has been solved is how this technology is delivered: as a pair of goggles attaching to a dedicated processing unit. How does it stack up to current offerings?

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Home Brew Augmented Reality

In July of 2016 a game was released that quickly spread to every corner of the planet. Pokemon Go was an Augmented Reality game that used a smart phone’s GPS location and camera to place virtual creatures into the person’s real location. The game was praised for its creativity and was one of the most popular and profitable apps in 2016. It’s been download over 500 million times since.

Most of its users were probably unaware that they were flirting with a new and upcoming technology called Augmented Reality. A few day ago, [floz] submitted to us a blog from a student who is clearly very aware of what this technology is and what it can do. So aware in fact that they made their own Augmented Reality system with Python and OpenCV.

In the first part of a multi-part series – the student (we don’t know their name) walks you through the basic structure of making a virtual object appear on a real world object through a camera. He 0r she gets into some fairly dense math, so you might want to wait until you have a spare hour or two before digging into this one.

Thanks to [floz] for the tip!