Haptic Feedback “Rifle” Lets You Take Aim In VR

There was a time when virtual reality seemed like it would remain in the realm of science fiction at least for the foreseeable future. Then we were blessed with products like the Power Glove and Virtual Boy which seemed to make it more of a reality, if not a clunky and limited one. Now, though, virtual reality is taking more of a center stage as the technology for it improves and more and more games are released. We can see no greater proof of this than the fact that some gamers are building their own custom controllers to interact with the virtual world in more meaningful ways, like this game controller specifically built for first-person shooter games.

The controller is based on an airsoft gun but completely lacks the ability to fire a projectile, instead using the gun as a base for building the controller. In fact, the gun’s operation is effectively reversed in order to immerse the player into the game by using haptic feedback provided by pressurized air. The air is pumped in to what would be the front of the barrel and is discharged through the receiver when a trigger pull is detected in order to generate a recoil effect. The controller includes plenty of other features as well, including the ability to reload ammunition, change the firing mode, and track motion thanks to its pair of integrated Oculus controllers.

All of the parts for this controller are either 3D printed or readily available off-the-shelf, making this an ideal platform for customization and improvement. There’s also a demo game available from Unity which allows for a pretty easy setup for testing. While the controller looks like an excellent way to enjoy an FPS virtual reality experience, if you’re looking for a more general-purpose controller we are also starting to see a lot of development on that end as well.

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Teaching A Machine To Be Worse At A Video Game Than You Are

Is it really cheating if the aimbot you’ve built plays the game worse than you do?

We vote no, and while we take a dim view on cheating in general, there are still some interesting hacks in this AI-powered bot for Valorant. This is a first-person shooter, team-based game that has a lot of action and a Counter-Strike vibe. As [River] points out, most cheat-bots have direct access to the memory of the computer which is playing the game, which gives it an unfair advantage over human players, who have to visually process the game field and make their moves in meatspace. To make the Valorant-bot more of a challenge, he decided to feed video of the game from one computer to another over an HDMI-to-USB capture device.

The second machine has a YOLOv5 model which was trained against two hours of gameplay, enough to identify friend from foe — most of the time. Navigation around the map was done by analyzing the game’s on-screen minimap with OpenCV and doing some rudimentary path-finding. Actually controlling the player on the game machine was particularly hacky; rather than rely on an API to send keyboard sequences, [River] used a wireless mouse dongle on the game machine and a USB transmitter on the second machine.

The results are — iffy, to say the least. The system tends to get the player stuck in corners, and doesn’t recognize enemies that pop up at close range. The former is a function of the low-res minimap, while the latter has to do with the training data set — most human players engage enemies at distance, so there’s a dearth of “bad breath range” encounters to train to. Still, we’re impressed that it’s possible to train a machine to play a complex FPS game at all, let alone this well.

Porting Quake To An IPod Classic Is No Easy Task

We didn’t think we’d see another hack involving the aging iPod Classic here on Hackaday again, yet [Franklin Wei] surprises us with a brand new port of Quake for the sixth-generation iPod released some thirteen years ago. Is Quake the new 90s FPS that’ll get put into every device hackers can get their hands on?

The port works on top of RockBox, a custom firmware for the iPod and other portable media players. This isn’t the first game on the device. A source port of Doom has been available for years. [Franklin] decided to use Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) to make his job easier. That doesn’t mean this was an easy task though, as [Franklin] describes very interesting bugs that kept him from finishing his work for about two years.

The first problem was that the GCC compiler he was using was apparently not optimizing time-critical sound mixing routines. [Franklin] decided enough was enough and dug into ARM assembly to re-write those parts of the code by hand. He managed to squeeze out a speed increase of about 60%. Even better, he ran into a prime example of a bug that would get triggered by a very specific sound sample length running through his code. Thankfully, with all of that sorted, the port is now released and we can all enjoy cramping our hands around tiny screens to frag some low-poly monsters.

If you need to repair your sixth-generation iPod before you can do that though, no need to worry since they seem to not be so hard to service by yourself. And if the battery life and disk space aren’t quite what they used to be, there’s also the option to bulk it up for winter. Check out the Quake port in action after the break.

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Counter-Strike At 20: Two Hackers Upend The Gaming Industry

Choices matter. You’ve only got one shot to fulfill the objective. A single coordinated effort is required to defuse the bomb, release the hostages, or outlast the opposition. Fail, and there’s no telling when you’ll get your next shot. This is the world that Counter-Strike presented to PC players in 1999, and the paradigm shift it presented was greater than it’s deceptively simple namesake would suggest.

The reckless push forward mantra of Unreal Tournament coupled with the unrelenting speed of Quake dominated the PC FPS mind-share back then. Deathmatch with a side of CTF (capture the flag) was all anyone really played. With blazing fast respawns and rocket launchers featured as standard kit, there was little thought put towards conservative play tactics. The same sumo clash of combatants over the ever-so inconveniently placed power weapon played out time and again; while frag counts came in mega/ultra/monster-sized stacks. It was all easy come, easy go.

Counter-Strike didn’t follow the quick frag, wipe, repeat model. Counter-Strike wasn’t concerned with creating fantastical weaponry from the future. Counter-Strike was grounded in reality. Military counter terrorist forces seek to undermine an opposing terrorist team. Each side has their own objectives and weapon sets, and the in-game economy can swing the battle wildly at the start of each new round. What began as a fun project for a couple of college kids went on to become one of the most influential multiplayer games ever, and after twenty years it’s still leaving the competition in the de_dust(2).

Even if you’ve never camped with an AWP, the story of Counter-Strike is a story of an open platform that invited creative modifications and community-driven development. Not only is Counter-Strike an amazing game, it’s an amazing story.

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Screen Shake In VR, Minus The Throwing Up

In first-person games, an effective way to heighten immersion is to give the player a sense of impact and force by figuratively shaking the camera. That’s a tried and true practice for FPS games played on a monitor, but to [Zulubo]’s knowledge, no one has implemented traditional screen shake in a VR title because it would be a sure way to trigger motion sickness. Unsatisfied with that limitation, some clever experimentation led [Zulubo] to a method of doing screen shake in VR that doesn’t cause any of the usual problems.

Screen shake doesn’t translate well to VR because the traditional method is to shake the player’s entire view. This works fine when viewed on a monitor, but in VR the brain interprets the visual cue as evidence that one’s head and eyeballs are physically shaking while the vestibular system is reporting nothing of the sort. This kind of sensory mismatch leads to motion sickness in most people.

The key to getting the essence of a screen shake without any of the motion sickness baggage turned out to be a mix of two things. First, the shake is restricted to peripheral vision only. Second, it is restricted to an “in and out” motion, with no tilting or twisting. The result is a conveyance of concussion and impact that doesn’t rely on shaking the player’s view, at least not in a way that leads to motion sickness. It’s the product of some clever experimentation to solve a problem, and freely downloadable for use by anyone who may be interested.

Speaking of fooling one’s senses in VR environments, here is a fascinating method of simulating zero gravity: waterproof the VR headset and go underwater.

[via Reddit]

Hackaday Links: June 22, 2014

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Solar Freakin’ Roadways! There’s been a lot of talk about how solar freakin’ roadways are an ill-conceived idea, and now [Dave Jones] is weighing in on the subject. Highlights include a quarter of the solar power generated being used to light the LEDs that form the lane markers, something that could easily be accomplished with paint. Oh, the solar freakin’ roadway campaign is over. Just over $2.2 million, if you’re wondering.

The Game Boy Micro is the best way to play GBA games, but finding one for a reasonable price just isn’t going to happen. [John Sparks] is making his own Macro Micros by casemodding a DS Lite.On the subject of Game Boy mods, [koji-Kendo] is improving the common frontlight Game Boy Color mod with optically clear UV curing glue. Without glue on the left, with glue on the right.

Need to label a panel with the function of all your switches and dials? Yeah, you could drop the panel into an engraver, till the engraved letters with enamel, or do some electroetching. You can also buy a pack or rub-on letters, available in any Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or the like.

MSI Afterburner is a utility that allows you to play with settings and monitor performance on MSI graphics cards. [Stephen] made a little device for MSI Afterburner that displays the current FPS and GPU load on an external LCD. Handy, seeing as how FPS and GPU load is the one thing you’ll want to know when you’re gaming fullscreen.

Realtime cloudmaps of the Earth. Using reasonably recent images take from five geostationary satellites, you can stitch together a real-time cloud map of the entire Earth. Here’s the software to do it. Now all you need is a projector and pair of frosted acrylic hemispheres, and you have a real-time globe.

Say you have a Kickstarter in the works, and you’re trying to figure out all the ways to get some buzz from the Internet public.. Here’s how you get it to the front page of hackaday.io using a bit of Perl. “So far, this page has been updated 02578 times.”