DIY Haptic-Enabled VR Gun Hits All The Targets

This VR Haptic Gun by [Robert Enriquez] is the result of hacking together different off-the-shelf products and tying it all together with an ESP32 development board. The result? A gun frame that integrates a VR controller (meaning it can be tracked and used in VR) and provides mild force feedback thanks to a motor that moves with each shot.

But that’s not all! Using the WiFi capabilities of the ESP32 board, the gun also responds to signals sent by a piece of software intended to drive commercial haptics hardware. That software hooks into the VR game and sends signals over the network telling the gun what’s happening, and [Robert]’s firmware acts on those signals. In short, every time [Robert] fires the gun in VR, the one in his hand recoils in synchronization with the game events. The effect is mild, but when it comes to tactile feedback, a little can go a long way.

The fact that this kind of experimentation is easily and affordably within the reach of hobbyists is wonderful, and VR certainly has plenty of room for amateurs to break new ground, as we’ve seen with projects like low-cost haptic VR gloves.

[Robert] walks through every phase of his gun’s design, explaining how he made various square pegs fit into round holes, and provides links to parts and resources in the project’s GitHub repository. There’s a video tour embedded below the page break, but if you want to jump straight to a demonstration in Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx, here’s a link to test firing at 10:19 in.

There are a number of improvements waiting to be done, but [Robert] definitely understands the value of getting something working, even if it’s a bit rough. After all, nothing fills out a to-do list or surfaces hidden problems like a prototype. Watch everything in detail in the video tour, embedded below.

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Dummy The Robot Arm Is Not So Dumb

[Zhihui Jun] is a name you’re going to want to remember because this Chinese maker has created quite probably one of the most complete open-source robot arms (video in Chinese with subtitles, embedded below) we’ve ever seen. This project has to be seen to be believed. Every aspect of the design from concept, mechanical CAD, electronics design and software covering embedded, 3D GUI, and so on, is the work of one maker, in just their spare time! Sound like we’re talking it up too much? Just watch the video and try to keep up!

After an initial review of toy robots versus more industrial units, it was quickly decided that servos weren’t going to cut it – too little torque and lacking in precision. BLDC motors offer great precision and torque when paired with a good controller, but they are tricky to make small enough, so an off-the-shelf compact harmonic drive was selected and paired with a stepper motor to get the required performance. This was multiplied by six and dropped into some slick CNC machined aluminum parts to complete the mechanics. A custom closed-loop stepper controller mounts directly to the rear of each motor. That’s really nice too.

Stepper controller mounts on the motor rear – smart!

Control electronics are based around the STM32 using an ESP32 for Wi-Fi connectivity, but the pace of the video is so fast it’s hard to keep up with how much of the design operates. There is a brief mention that the controller runs the LiteOS kernel for Harmony OS, but no details we can find. The project GitHub has many of the gory details to pore over perhaps a bit light in places but the promise is made to expand that. For remote control, there’s a BLE-connected teaching device (called ‘Peak’) with a touch screen, again details pending. Oh, did we mention there’s a force-feedback (a PS5 Adaptive Trigger had to die for the cause) remote control unit that uses binocular cameras to track motion, with an AHRS setup giving orientation and that all this is powered by a Huawei Atlas edge AI processing system? This was greatly glossed over in the video like it was just some side-note not worth talking about. We hope details of that get made public soon!

Threading a needle through a grape by remote control

The dedicated GUI, written in what looks like Unity, allows robot programming and motion planning, but since those harmonic drives are back-drivable, the robot can be moved by hand and record movements for replaying later. Some work with AR has been started, but that looks like early in the process, the features just keep on coming!

Quite frankly there is so much happening that it’s hard to summarise here and do the project any sort of justice, so to that end we suggest popping over to YT and taking a look for yourselves.

We love robots ’round these parts, especially robot arms, here’s a big one by [Jeremy Fielding],  and if you think stepper motors aren’t necessary, because servo motors can be made to work just fine, you may be right.

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Trigger assembly for PS5 controller in palm of hand

How The PS5’s Genuinely Clever Adaptive Triggers Work

Sony’s Playstation 5 console and its DualSense controllers aren’t exactly new, but the triggers of the controllers have a genuinely interesting design that is worth examining. The analog triggers on the PS5 controllers are generally described as having “variable resistance”, but it turns out that’s not the whole story. Not only is the trigger capable of variable resistance when being pressed, but it can also push back in variable ways and with varying amounts of force. How it works is pretty clever.

Trigger assembly being moved in palm of handThe feedback for the trigger assembly is handled by a lever, a geared wheel, and a worm gear on an electric motor. Under normal circumstances, nothing interferes with the trigger at all and it works like a normal analog trigger. But when the motor moves the lever into place, trigger movement now has to overcome the added interference with a mechanical disadvantage. The amount of resistance felt can be increased a surprising amount by having the motor actively apply additional force to counter the trigger’s movement.

That’s not all, either. The motor can also actively move the lever into (or out of) position, which means that pulling the trigger not only has the ability to feel smooth, mushy, or stiff in different places, but it can also actively push back. This feedback can be introduced (or removed) at any arbitrary point along the trigger’s range of motion. A trigger pull can therefore feel like it has a sharp breakpoint, a rough travel, a hard stop, an active recoil, or any combination of those at any time.

It’s a little hard to describe, but you can get a better idea of it all works in practice by watching part of this teardown by [TronicsFix] (video cued to about 9:17 where the trigger teardown begins.) It’s also embedded below, so give it a peek.

A small amount of force applied in the right place can produce outsized results, but a force feedback project doesn’t have to be subtle. One can always shake things up by mounting a whole bunch of solenoids onto a mouse.

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Spherical Keyboard Build Leaves Hacker Well-Rounded

Often times we as hackers don’t know what we’re doing, and we sally forth and do it anyway. Here at Hackaday, we think that’s one of the best ways to go about a new project, and the absolute fastest way to learn a whole lot as you go. Just ask [Aaron Rasmussen] regarding this spherical, standing 5×6 dactyl manuform keyboard build, which you can see in a three-part short video series embedded after the break.

[Aaron] gets right down to it in the first video. He had to get creative right away, slicing up the dactyl manuform model to fit on a tiny print bed. However, there’s plenty of room inside the sphere for all that wiring and a pair of Elite-C microcontrollers running QMK. Be sure to turn on the sound to hear the accompanying voice-overs.

The second video answers our burning question: how exactly does one angle grind a slippery sphere without sacrificing sheen or shine? We love the solution, which involves swaddling the thing in duct tape and foam.

You may be wondering how [Aaron] is gonna use any kind of mouse while standing there at the pedestal keyboard. While there is space for a mouse to balance on top, this question is answered in the third video, where [Aaron] learns the truth behind the iconic ThinkPad nubbin and applies this knowledge to build a force-feedback joystick/trackpoint mouse. Awesome answer, [Aaron]!

Not ready to go full-tilt, sci-fi prop ergo? Dip your toe in the DIY waters with a handy macropad.

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MIT’s Hair-Brushing Robot Untangles Difficult Robotics Problem

Whether you care to admit it or not, hair is important to self-image, and not being able to deal with it yourself feels like a real loss of independence. To help people with limited mobility, researchers at MIT CSAIL have created a hair-brushing robot that combines a camera with force feedback and closed-loop control to adjust to any hair type from straight to curly on the fly. They achieved this by examining hair as double helices of soft fibers and developed a mathematical model to untangle them much like a human would — by working from the bottom up.

It may look like a hairbrush strapped to a robot arm, but there’s more to it than that. Before it ever starts brushing, the robot’s camera takes a picture that gets cropped down to a rectangle of pure hair data. This image is converted to grayscale, and then the program analyzes the x/y image gradients. The straighter the hair, the more edges it has in the x-direction, whereas curly hair is more evenly distributed. Finally, the program computes the ratio of straightness to curliness, and uses this number to set the pain threshold.

The brush is equipped with sensors that measure the forces being exerted on the hair and scalp as it’s being brushed, and compares this input to a baseline established by a human who used it to brush their own hair. We think it would be awesome if the robot could grasp the section of hair first so the person can’t feel the pull against their scalp, and start by brushing out the ends before brushing from the scalp down, but we admit that would be asking a lot. Maybe they could get it to respond to exclamations like ‘ow’ and ‘ouch’. Human trials are still in the works. For now, watch it gently brush out various wigs after the break.

Even though we have wavy hair that tangles quite easily, we would probably let this robot brush our hair. But this haircut robot? We’re not that brave.

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Force Feedback Mouse Really Shakes Things Up

This is a very exciting time for those who like to spend their downtime exploring virtual worlds. The graphics in some big-budget titles are easily approaching photorealism, and immersive multi-channel sound can really make you believe you’ve been transported to another place or time. With another generation or two of GPU development and VR hardware, the line between gaming and reality is bound to get awful blurry.

That said, we’re still a far way off from the holodeck aboard the Enterprise. A high-end PC and the latest in VR can fool your eyes and ears, but that still leaves your other senses out of the fun. That’s why [Jatin Patel] has developed this clever force-feedback mouse using an array of solenoids.

The idea is pretty simple: a Python program on the computer listens for mouse click events, and tells an attached Arduino to fire off the solenoids when the player pulls the virtual trigger. It’s naturally not a perfect system, as it would seem that clicking in the game’s menus would also start your “gun” firing. But as you can see in the video after the break, when it works, it works very well. The moving solenoids don’t just vibrate the mouse around, the metallic clacking actually accentuates the gun sound effects from the game.

With this kind of tactile feedback and an omnidirectional treadmill to keep us moving, we’d be pretty close to fooling our senses into thinking we’re actually somewhere else. Which frankly, sounds quite appealing right about now.

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Feel The Virtual Road With Force Feedback

When you’re driving your virtual supercar around the Italian countryside the last thing you want is an inauthentic steering wheel feel, that’s where Open FFBoard comes in. Racing game enthusiasts will go to impossible and sometimes incredibly expensive lengths to build extravagant simulators. [Yannick] feels many of these products are just a little too pricey without much need.

Right now his board is still in a process of iteration, though it can integrate with Assetto Corsa already. You can see in the demo video after the break that it responds quite realistically to the video game state, however problems keep cropping up in search of solutions. Motor drivers burn out and power resistors are added: that energy has to go somewhere. Next up will be switching to the increasingly popular Trinamic drivers. Either way we can’t wait to see the next revision and to get another amazing simulator build sent in to us, maybe centered around the Open FFBoard.

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