Featuring an overclocked Raspberry Pi Zero W, a ST7789VW 240×240 IPS display running at 60 Hz, and a front-mounted camera, the wearable makes a great low-cost platform for augmented reality experiments. [Teemu] has already put together an impressive hand tracking demonstration that can pick out the position of all ten fingers in near real-time. The processing has to be done on his desktop computer as the Zero isn’t quite up to the task, but as you can see in the video below, the whole thing works pretty well.
Structurally, the head-mounted unit is made up of nine 3D printed parts that clip onto a standard pair of glasses. [Teemu] says the parts will probably need to be tweaked to fit your specific frames, but the design is modular enough that it shouldn’t take too much effort. He’s using 0.6 mm PETG plastic for the front reflector, and the main lens was pulled from a cheap pair of VR goggles and manually cut down into a rectangle.
The evolution of the build has been documented in several videos, and it’s interesting to see how far the hardware has progressed in a relatively short time. The original version made [Teemu] look like he was cosplaying as a Borg drone from Star Trek, but the latest build appears to be far more practical. We still wouldn’t try to wear it on an airplane, but it would hardly look out of place at a hacker con.
Long before the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive came along, some of the biggest names in gaming tried to develop practical stereoscopic displays. These early attempts at virtual reality (VR) were hindered by the technical limitations of their time, and most never progressed beyond the prototype stage. Of the ones that did make it to retail shelves, none managed to stick around for very long. The best known example is Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, which ended up being a financial disaster upon its release in 1995 and some regard as the gaming giant’s greatest blunder.
Despite these public failures, Radica still felt compelled to throw their hat into the ring. Best known for their line of relatively simplistic LCD handheld games, the company produced several rudimentary stereoscopic stand-alone titles in the late 1990s to try and cash in on the VR fad. Among the later entries in this series was 1999’s NASCAR i-Racer, which at least externally, looks quite a bit like modern VR headset.
Featuring a head-mounted stereoscopic display, a handheld controller, force feedback, and integrated headphones, you’d certainly be forgiven for thinking the i-Racer was ahead of its time. But its reliance on the primitive LCD technology that put Radica on the map, combined with the need to keep the game as cheap as possible, keeps the experience planted firmly in the 1990s. But perhaps there’s something we can do about that.
Google giving up on one of their projects and leaving its established userbase twisting in the wind hardly counts as news anymore. In fact, it’s become something of a meme. The search giant is notorious for tossing out ideas just to see what sticks, and while that’s occasionally earned them some huge successes, it’s also lead to plenty of heartache for anyone unlucky enough to still be using one of the stragglers when the axe falls.
So when the search giant acknowledged in early March that they would no longer be selling their Cardboard virtual reality viewer, it wasn’t exactly a shock. The exceptionally low-cost VR googles, literally made from folded cardboard, were a massive hit when they were unveiled back in 2014. But despite Google’s best efforts to introduce premium Cardboard-compatible hardware with their Daydream View headset two years later, it failed to evolve into a profitable business.
Of course if you knew where to look, the writing had been on the wall for some time. While the Daydream hardware got a second revision in 2017, and Google even introduced a certification program to ensure phones would work properly with the $100 USD headset, the device was discontinued in 2019. On the software side, Android 7 “Nougat” got baked-in VR support in 2016, but it was quietly removed by the time Android 11 was released in the fall of 2020.
With Cardboard no longer available for purchase, Google has simply made official what was already abundantly clear: they are no longer interested in phone-based virtual reality. Under normal circumstances, anyone still using the service would be forced to give it up. Just ask those who were still active on Google+ or Allo before the plug was pulled.
But this time, things are a little different. Between Google’s decision to spin it off into an open source project and the legions of third party viewers on the market, Cardboard isn’t going down without a fight. The path ahead might be different from what Google originally envisioned, but the story certainly isn’t over.
Augmented reality (AR) and natural gesture input provide a tantalizing glimpse at what human-computer interfaces may look like in the future, but at this point, the technology hasn’t seen much adoption within the open source community. Though to be fair, it seems like the big commercial players aren’t faring much better so far. You could make the case that the biggest roadblock, beyond the general lack of software this early in the game, is access to an open and affordable augmented reality headset.
Which is precisely why [Graham Atlee] has developed the Triton. This Creative Commons licensed headset combines commercial off-the-shelf components with 3D printed parts to provide a capable AR experience at a hacker-friendly price. By printing your own parts and ordering the components from AliExpress, basic AR functionality should cost you $150 to $200 USD. If you want to add gesture support you’ll need to add a Leap Motion to your bill of materials, but even still, it’s a solid deal.
The trick here is that [Graham] is using the reflectors from a surprisingly cheap AR headset designed to work with a smartphone. By combining these mass produced optics with a six inch 1440 x 2560 LCD panel inside of the Triton’s 3D printed structure, projecting high quality images over the user’s field of view is far simpler than you might think.
If you want to use it as a development platform for gesture interfaces you’ll want to install a Leap Motion in the specifically designed socket in the front, but otherwise, all you need to do is plug in an HDMI video source. That could be anything from a low-power wearable to a high-end gaming computer, depending on what your goals are.
[Graham] has not only provided the STLs for all the 3D printed parts and a bill of materials, but he’s also done a fantastic job of documenting the build process with a step-by-step guide. This isn’t some theoretical creation; you could order the parts right now and start building your very own Triton. If you’re looking for software, he’s also selling a Windows-based “Triton AR Launcher” for the princely sum of $4.99 that looks pretty slick, but it’s absolutely not required to use the hardware.
Of course, plenty of people are more than happy to stick with the traditional keyboard and monitor setup. It’s hard to say if wearable displays and gesture interfaces will really become the norm, of they’re better left to science fiction. But either way, we’re happy to see affordable open source platforms for experimenting with this cutting edge technology. On the off chance any of them become the standard in the coming decades, we’d hate to be stuck in some inescapable walled garden because nobody developed any open alternatives.
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.
The Wii controller will likely go down in history as the hacker’s favorite repurposed input device, and there’s no question that the Raspberry Pi is the community’s top pick in terms of Linux single board computers. So it should come as little surprise that somebody has finally given us the cross-over episode that the hacking community deserves: the PiChuk, a Pi Zero inside of Nintendo’s motion-sensing “nunchuk”.
Veterans of Wii Sports might be wondering how the hero of our story, a hacker by the name of [keycaps], managed to pull off such a feat. The Pi Zero is small, but it’s not that small. The trick is that the case of the nunchuk has been extended by way of a new 3D printed bottom half.
There’s more than just a Pi Zero along for the ride, as well. [keycaps] has manged to sneak in a 750 mAh LiPo and an Adafruit Powerboost, making the device a completely self-contained system. Interestingly, the original nunchuk PCB remains more or less untouched, with just a couple of wires connected to the Pi’s GPIO ports so it can read the button and stick states over I2C.
We know you’re wondering why [keycaps] went through the trouble of breaking out the HDMI port on the bottom. It turns out, the PiChuk is being used to drive a Vufine wearable display; think Google Glass, but without the built-in computing power. The analog stick and motion sensing capabilities of the controller should make for a very natural input scheme, as far as wearable computers go.
The personal computers in science fiction books, movies, and games are way cooler than the dinky pieces of hardware we’re stuck with in the real world. Granted the modern laptop has a bit more style than the beige boxes of yesteryear, but they still aren’t half as l33t as the custom PowerBooks in Hackers. Luckily for those who dream of jacking into the Matrix, the average hacker now has access to the technology required to make a custom computer to whatever fanciful specifications they wish.
A perfect example is this “cyberdeck” created by [Tinfoil_Haberdashery]. Inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer, this wild-looking machine is more than just a cosplay prop or conversation piece. It packs in enough power to be a daily-driver computer, as well as some special features which make it well suited for field work.
The body of the cyberdeck is 3D printed, but as [Tinfoil_Haberdashery] doesn’t have a 3D printer big enough to do the whole thing in one piece he had to break it up into subsections. He added a dovetail pattern to the edges of each piece, which makes for much stronger joint than simply gluing it together. A worthwhile tip if you ever find yourself in need of printing something really big.
Raspberry Pi aficionados might be disappointed to see the Intel NUC motherboard inside; which features a 3.4 Ghz dual-core CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and a roomy 500 GB SSD in an incredibly small package. To keep everything running the machine can take up to twelve 18650 cells, giving it a maximum run-time of sixteen hours or so. There’s even a 12 V power jack so he can power a soldering iron and other low voltage gadgets off of the deck’s batteries in a pinch. The integrated charger can take anywhere from 6 to 30 V, which gives [Tinfoil_Haberdashery] the ability to charge up from a wide array of sources.
But perhaps the best feature of the cyberdeck is the display. It uses a Fat Shark Transformer, a five inch 720p display designed for FPV drone use, which can not only fold flat against the deck for storage, but can be removed and slipped into a pair of goggles. This gives the cyberdeck a head mounted display that looks like something straight out of the movies. It even supports 3D, if you’re willing to cut the resolution in half.