VR headsets are more and more common, but they aren’t perfect devices. That meant [Douglas Lanman] had a choice of problems to address when he joined Facebook Reality Labs several years ago. Right from the start, he perceived an issue no one seemed to be working on: the fact that the closer an object in VR is to one’s face, the less “real” it seems. There are several reasons for this, but the general way it presents is that the closer a virtual object is to the viewer, the more blurred and out of focus it appears to be. [Douglas] talks all about it and related issues in a great presentation from earlier this year (YouTube video) at the Electronic Imaging Symposium that sums up the state of the art for VR display technology while giving a peek at the kind of hard scientific work that goes into identifying and solving new problems.
[Douglas] chose to address seemingly-minor aspects of how the human eye and brain perceive objects and infer depth, and did so for two reasons: one was that no good solutions existed for it, and the other was that it was important because these cues play a large role in close-range VR interactions. Things within touching or throwing distance are a sweet spot for interactive VR content, and the state of the art wasn’t really delivering what human eyes and brain were expecting to see. This led to years of work on designing and testing varifocal and multi-focal displays which, among other things, were capable of presenting images in a variety of realistic focal planes instead of a single flat one. Not only that, but since the human eye expects things that are not in the correct focal plane to appear blurred (which is itself a depth cue), simulating that accurately was part of things, too.
The entire talk is packed full of interesting details and prototypes. If you have any interest in VR imaging and headset design and have a spare hour, watch it in the video embedded below.
It’s official: smartphone-based VR is dead. The two big players in this space were Samsung Gear VR (powered by Oculus, which is owned by Facebook) and Google Daydream. Both have called it quits, with Google omitting support from their newer phones and Oculus confirming that the Gear VR has reached the end of its road. Things aren’t entirely shut down quite yet, but when it does it will sure leave a lot of empty headsets laying around. These things exist in the millions, but did anyone really use phone-based VR? Are any of you sad to see it go?
In case you’re unfamiliar with phone-based VR, this is how it works: the user drops their smartphone into a headset, puts it on their head, and optionally uses a wireless controller to interact with things. The smartphone takes care of tracking motion and displaying 3D content while the headset itself takes care of the optics and holds everything in front of the user’s eyeballs. On the low end was Google Cardboard and on the higher end was Daydream and Gear VR. It works, and is both cheap and portable, so what happened?
In short, phone-based VR had constraints that limited just how far it could go when it came to delivering a VR experience, and these constraints kept it from being viable in the long run. Here are some of the reasons smartphone-based VR hit the end of the road: Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Is Anyone Sad Phone VR Is Dead?”→
By now we’ve all seen the cheap headsets that essentially stick a smartphone a few inches away from your face to function as a low-cost alternative to devices like Oculus Rift. Available for as little as a few dollars, it’s hard to beat these gadgets for experimenting with VR on a budget. But what about if you’re more interested in working with augmented reality, where rendered images are superimposed onto your real-world view rather than replacing it?
As it turns out, there are now cheap headsets to do that with your phone as well. [kvtoet] picked one of these gadgets up for $30 USD on AliExpress, and used it as a base for a more capable augmented reality experience than the headset alone is capable of. The project is in the early stages, but so far the combination of this simple headset and some hardware liberated from inexpensive Chinese smartphones looks to hold considerable promise for delivering a sub-$100 USD development platform for anyone looking to jump into this fascinating field.
On their own, these cheap augmented reality headsets simply show a reflection of your smartphone’s screen on the inside of the lenses. With specially designed applications, this effect can be used to give the wearer the impression that objects shown on the phone’s screen are actually in their field of vision. It’s a neat effect to be sure, but it doesn’t hold much in the way of practical applications. To turn this into a useful system, the phone needs to be able to see what the wearer is seeing.
To that end, [kvtoet] relocated a VKWorld S8 smartphone’s camera module onto the front of the headset. Beyond its relatively cost, this model of phone was selected because it featured a long camera ribbon cable. With the camera on the outside of the headset, an Android application was created which periodically flashes a bright LED and looks for reflections in the camera’s feed. These reflections are then used to locate objects and markers in the real world.
In the video after the break, [kvtoet] demonstrates how this technique is put to use. The phone is able to track a retroreflector laying on the couch quickly and accurately enough that it can be used to adjust the rendering of a virtual object in real time. As the headset is moved around, it gives the impression that the wearer is actually viewing a real object from different angles and distances. With such a simplistic system the effect isn’t perfect, but it’s exciting to think of the possibilities now that this sort of technology is falling into the tinkerer’s budget.
Virtual reality systems have been at the forefront of development for several decades. While there are commercial offerings now, it’s interesting to go back in time to when the systems were much more limited. [Colin Ord] recently completed his own VR system, modeled on available systems from 20-30 years ago, which gives us a look inside what those systems would have been like, as well as being built for a very low cost using today’s technology.
The core of this project is a head tracker, which uses two BBC Microbits as they have both the accelerometer and compass needed to achieve the project goals. It is also capable of tracking an item and its position in the virtual space. For this project, [Colin] built everything himself including the electronics and the programming. It also makes use of Google Cardboard to hold the screen, lenses, and sensors all in the headset. All of this keeps the costs down, unlike similar systems when they were first unveiled years ago.
The ground-up approach that this project takes is indeed commendable. Hopefully we can see the code released, and others can build upon this excellent work. You could even use it to take a virtual reality cycling tour of the UK.
Hands up if you’ve had the misfortune to work in an office with a fondness for following the latest fads. Paperless office, how long did that last? Or moving from physical telephones to a flaky VOIP application on your Windows computer, that’s sure to be a resounding success! We’ve all been there at some point, haven’t we?
He was in luck with the headphone amplifier, because the USB audio codec turns out to have an unused audio-in function as well as some HID input lines. His headset has a set of buttons as well as the microphone, which switch in and out a set of resistors to indicate which of them is pressed. Some work with a microcontroller to detect this resulted in a working interface, which he put along with the microphone circuitry on a beautifully done piece of protoboard.
Most constructors would have been happy at this point, but not [Joshua]. He proceeded to design a PCB to fit into the space around the headset socket, to contain the circuitry and better fit within the case. The result is an exceptionally high quality piece of work which he admits consumed a huge amount of resources but for which we applaud him.
Solar power has surged ahead in recent years, and access for the individual has grown accordingly. Not waiting around for a commercial alternative, Instructables user [taifur] has gone ahead and built himself a solar-powered Bluetooth headset.
Made almost completely of recycled components — reducing e-waste helps us all — only the 1 W flexible solar panel, voltage regulator, and the RN-52 Bluetooth module were purchased for this project. The base of the headset has been converted from [taifur]’s old wired one, meanwhile a salvaged boost converter, and charge controller — for a lithium-ion battery — form the power circuit. An Apple button makes an appearance alongside a control panel for a portable DVD player (of all things), and an MP4 player’s battery. Some careful recovery and reconfiguration work done, reassembly with a little assistance from the handyman’s secret weapon — duct tape — and gobs of hot glue bore a wireless fruit ready to receive the sun’s bounty.
In all of Microsoft’s grand wisdom they found it necessary to make the new Xbox One headset adapter without a standard 2.5 mm headset jack. People have invested great amounts of money in quality headsets for previous game platforms that now cannot jack into the Xbox One controllers. This may seem like a déjà vu hack from a week ago but it is different and adds more solutions for the annoying Xbox One headset compatibility problem.
[Jon Senkiw] A.K.A [Xandrel] wasn’t having any of this Microsoft nonsense so he cracked open the headset adapter case that plugs into the Xbox One controller. He photographed the PCB and wiring and realized he could fit a 2.5 mm headset jack from an old donor cellphone into the case. A dap of hot glue, some AWG 30 jumper wires and a bit of plastic trimming was all it took to get a jack inside the headset adapter just the way Microsoft should have done from the factory.
Previously when [octanechicken] added a 2.5 mm female phone adapter at the end of the cable he did not connect the black wire to anything being it was the 2nd side of a push-pull speaker. However, from looking at [Jon’s] photos he connected the speaker output wire to a solder pad on the PCB where the black wire originally connected, marked HPL, and he had nothing connected to the HPR pad. This seemed to work for [Jon] just fine, but is the opposite of what [octanechicken] did last week when he connected the blue wire to the speaker output which would have traced back to the HPR pad on the PCB.
This hack makes these controllers backwards compatible without too much issue being reported. If you have issues please report here or on [Jon’s] SE7ENSINS thread. He has also made comments on the thread that he is willing to help mod headsets, so if you’re not able to hack this yourself [Jon] might be willing to help.