Low-Cost Head Mounted Display From FPV Gear

A common complaint we’ve seen on many of the recent cyberdeck builds is that they don’t offer any display technology more advanced than a tablet-sized IPS panel. The argument goes that to be a true deck in the Gibsonian sense, it’s got to have some kind of virtual reality interface or at least a head mounted display. Unfortunately such technology is expensive, and often not particularly hacker friendly.

But assuming you can settle for a somewhat low-tech alternative, the simple head mounted display that [Jordan Brandes] has been fiddling with is certainly a viable option. By mounting a five inch 800×480 TFT LCD to the front of a pair of goggles designed for first person view (FPV) flying, you can throw together a workable rig for around $30 USD. Add in some headphones, and you’ve got a fairly immersive experience for not a lot.

Naturally the display will show whatever HDMI signal you give it, but in his case, [Jordan] has mounted a Raspberry Pi to the back of it to make it a complete wearable computer. With a Bluetooth travel keyboard in the mix, he’s even able to get some legitimate work done with this setup. If he ends up combining this with the ultrasonic keyboard he was working on earlier in the year, he’ll be getting pretty close to jacking into cyberspace for real.

Hackers have been chasing cheap head mounted displays for years now. Back in 2007 the best you could do for this kind of money was a 300×240 black and white monocle. Getting our hands on the good stuff is still harder than we’d like, but at least we’re moving in the right direction.

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Head-Tracking NES Water Blaster Is Good Summer Fun

Super Soakers were great fun back in the day, but adults tend to get tired of the manual labour of pumping pretty quickly. [Sean] decided to build something a touch more modern, coming up with this head-tracking water blaster.

The water spray tracks the movement of the wearer’s head. With a camera mounted on the nozzle, this allows the user to simply look to designate targets. Similar technology is used in military fighter jets.

To eliminate pumping, the build instead enlists the services of an electric pump, powered by a 12 V battery. Pushing water through a tube into a 3D printed nozzle, it provides a fat stream of water with around 5 meters range, with little effort from the user. The nozzle is fitted into a NES Zapper, and attached to a servo pan-tilt platform. The camera is mounted on the water gun, and hooked up to a set of Fat Shark FPV goggles with an IMU unit. When the user looks around, the water gun moves in sync with their head movements. This allows for the user to look at targets to hit them with the water stream, a very intuitive method of aiming.

It’s a fun build that’s perfect for the summer, and an easy one to recreate for anyone with some spare servos and FPV gear. Of course, with a little face-tracking software, it would be easy to hit targets automatically. Video after the break.

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An Epic Story Of 1980s FPV Flight

A staple of today’s remote-controlled flight is the so-called FPV transmitter, allowing the pilot of a multirotor or other craft to see the world from onboard, as a pilot might do. It’s accessible enough that it can be found on toy multirotors starting at not much more than pocket money prices, and reliable enough that in its better incarnations it can send back high definition video at surprisingly long range.

In case you think of FPV flight as a recent innovation, the video below the break from [Larry Mitschke] should come as a revelation. In 1986 he was a bona-fide rockstar playing in a band, whose radio-controlled flight hobby led him into creating an FPV system for his planes and soaring above the Texas countryside at significant distance from his base while flying it watching a CRT screen.

The video is quite long but extremely watchable, all period footage with his narration here in 2020. We see his earliest experiments with a monochrome security camera and a video sender, and a whole host of upgrades until finally he can fly three miles from base with good quality video. 70 cm amateur TV makes an appearance with a steerable tracking antenna, he even makes a talking compass for when he loses himself. It’s an epic tale of hacking with what seems rudimentary equipment by our standards but was in fact the cutting edge of available video technology at a time when the state of the video art was moving rather fast. This is the work that laid the path for today’s $30 FPV toys, and for flying FPV from space.

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This FPV Tank Explores The Lawn

Radio control is good and all, and it’s always fun to watch a little vehicle scoot about the backyard. But there’s always something to be said for feeling as though you’re really in control. First person view, or FPV, is the way to do it, and [Brian] has gone down that route with this tidy tank build.

The tank is 3D printed, from the chassis right down to the wheels. There’s even a moving “eye” up front containing the FPV camera, controlled by a servo, allowing the driver to look up and down. A 5.8 GHz transmitter is used to send the signal back to the driver’s goggles. The tracks are a snap-together design that are fully 3D printed, requiring no additional metal links or hardware. Forward propulsion is courtesy of a pair of 12 volt gear motors, driven from an L298N motor driver. An Arduino Nano is used in conjunction with Spektrum RC gear to receive signals and tell the tank where to go.

It’s a tidy build that would be great fun to drive through the bushes or through the house. We’ve seen even tinier builds used to inspect crawlspaces. If you build one of your own, be sure to let us know.

RC Trike Handles Great With Rear Steering

Small robotics builds with three wheels are plentiful. The most typical configuration is to have the two front wheels drive and turn the vehicle in a skid-steer configuration. The third wheel is often a simple caster. However, this isn’t the only way to go, and [markus.purtz] has put together a build that does things differently.

The build is a small, radio-controlled FPV trike. Instead of the usual skid-steer setup, the rear wheel is mounted on a pair of horizontal bearings which allows it to pivot left and right. A servo is used to control the rear wheel position, with a pair of tie rod ends used to connect the horn to the rear steering assembly. It’s not the only unconventional design choice, either – magnets are used to affix the top plate to the vehicle chassis, rather than screws or clips. For video, the user can mount either a small dedicated FPV camera, or a GoPro with the included mount.

Without any code or control details posted, we can’t be 100% sure how it all works. However, from the video, it appears that both front wheels are being driven at the same speed, with steering handled solely by the rear wheel. This is apparent when driving on a smooth surface, where the vehicle can be seen to slide when turning. While it’s unlikely this setup has many advantages over a simpler differential steering build with a caster, it does show that rear steering can be effective on its own.

It’s a build that shows off the benefits of using proper bearings and mechanical parts in a design. With today’s online marketplaces, it’s never been easier to find what you need. Parts are on Thingiverse for those interested in replicating the design. Meanwhile little FPV bots remain popular, and we’re sure we’ll continue to see them coming in. Video after the break.

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Tiny Tank Inspects Your Crawlspace

If you’ve got some drone or FPV part lying around, this is the build for you. It’s a remote controlled tank, with a camera and video transmitter, that’s only 65 mm x 40 mm x 30 mm in size. Why on Earth would you ever build something so small? You can look around in your crawlspace, I guess. Any way you look at, this thing is tiny.

The tank has traditional tank skid steering through two brushless motors. The battery is one cell, as that’s just about the largest battery you can put in a vehicle so small, and the camera is just off-the-shelf quadcopter stuff set into a 3D printed enclosure. There are a few LEDs for lights. Other than that, it’s just so tiny and so cute.

The builder behind this tank, [honnnest], put up a video going through the build and demonstrating what kind of video you can expect from a tank this small. It’s a bit fast for a tank, and that’s not even considering the scale effects, but if the chassis is 3D printed, you can always print a few reduction gears, too.

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Perfecting The Open Source RC Controller

Over the last few months we’ve seen an influx of homebrew RC controllers come our way, and we’re certainly not complaining. While the prices of commercial RC transmitters are at an all-time low, and many of them can even run an open source firmware, there’s still nothing quite like building the thing yourself. How else are you going to get exactly what you want?

For this entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, [Vitor de Miranda Henrique] is working on his own version of the ultimate open source remote control. His design follows some of the trends we’ve already seen in terms of outward design and hardware expandability, but also branches off into some new territory with features such as dual integrated displays.

Why does your controller need two displays? The top 4.3 inch TFT is linked up to a 5.2 GHz video receiver, which makes it perfect for controlling vehicles in “first-person” view, such as drones. The lower screen is a 2.8 inch touch screen from Adafruit, which is intended to be used for navigating through menus and options once the firmware is fully fleshed out.

Powering the controller is a ESP32 and dual MCP23017 GPIO expanders to connect up to the array of input devices available to the user. The current iteration of the controller has ten switches, two encoders, some buttons, and a pair of scroll wheels for good measure. Oh, and of course there are a couple of joysticks in the mix as well. All the devices terminate at a custom PCB in the back of the controller which looks to make modifying and adding input devices simple and neat.

We’ve previously seen the Alpha V1, an open source controller with a fairly similar setup, albeit without the dual displays. If even that one is a bit more complex than you’d like, you can always just do it with an Arduino.