VR Feels More Real with Leap Motion and This Rotation Sensor

You could have said this at any time in the last couple of decades: the world of virtual reality peripherals does not yet feel as though it has fulfilled its potential. From the Amiga-powered Virtuality headsets and nausea-inducing Nintendo Virtual Boy of the 1990s to today’s crop of advanced headsets and peripherals, there has always been a sense that we’re not quite there yet. Moments at which the shortcomings of the hardware intrude into the virtual world may be less frequent with the latest products, but still the goal of virtual world immersion seems elusive at times.

One of the more interesting peripherals on the market today is the Leap Motion controller. This is a USB device containing infra-red illumination and cameras which provide enough resolution for its software to accurately calculate the position of a user’s hands and fingers in three-dimensional space. This ability to track finger movement gives it the function of a controller for really complex interactions with and manipulations of objects in virtual worlds.

Even the Leap Motion has its shortcomings though, moments at which it ceases to be able to track. Rotating your hand, as you might for instance when aiming a virtual in-game weapon, confuses it. This led [Florian Maurer] to seek his own solution, and he’s come up with a hand peripheral containing a rotation sensor.

Inspired by a movie prop from the film Ender’s Game, it is a 3D-printed device that clips onto the palm of his hand between thumb and index finger. It contains both an Arduino Pro Micro and a bno055 rotation sensor, plus a couple of buttons for in-game actions such as triggers. It solves the problem with the Leap Motion’s rotation detection, and does not impede hand movement so much that he can’t also use his keyboard and mouse while wearing it. Sadly he does not yet seem to have posted any code, but he does treat us to a video demonstration which we’ve posted below the break.

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Arduino Meets da Vinci in a Gesture-controlled Surgical Robot

Lots of us get to take home a little e-waste from work once in a while to feed our hacking habits. But some guys have all the luck and score the really good stuff, which is how these robotic surgical tools came to be gesture controlled.

The lucky and resourceful hacker in this case is one [Julien Schuermans], who managed to take home pieces of a multi-million dollar da Vinci Si surgical robot. Before anyone cries “larcency”, [Julien] appears to have come by the hardware legitimately – the wrist units of these robots are consumable parts costing about $2500 each, and are disposed of after 10 procedures. The video below makes it clear how they interface with the robot arm, and how [Julien] brought them to life in his shop. A quartet of Arduino-controlled servos engages drive pins on the wrist and rotates pulleys that move the cables that drive the instruments. A neat trick by itself, but when coupled with the Leap Motion controller, the instruments become gesture controlled. We’re very sure we’d prefer the surgeon’s hands on a physical controller, but the virtual control is surprisingly responsive and looks like a lot of fun.

When we talk about da Vinci around here, it’s usually in reference to 3D printers or a Renaissance-style cryptex build. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t featured many surgical robot hacks – maybe it’s time we started.

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Mirror Monitor Responds To Your Gestures

[DerVonDenBergen] and his friend are working on a pretty slick mirror LCD with motion control called Reflecty — it looks like something straight out of the Iron Man movies or the Minority Report.

Like most mirror monitors they started with a two way mirror and a de-bezelled LCD — but then they added what looks like an art gallery light off the top — but instead of a light bulb, the arm holds a Leap Motion controller, allowing gesture commands to be given to the computer.

The effective range of the Leap Motion controller is about 8-10″ in front of the display allowing you to reach out and point at exactly what you want — and then squeeze your fist to click. A complete gallery of images is available over on Imgur, but stick around after the break to see a video of the display in action — we kind of want one.

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Follow Me: Making Servos Track Hand Motion with Leap

The Leap controller is one of those gadgets that is probably better for its cool factor rather than its practicality. The time of flight optical sensor reads gestures, but it is hardly a substitute for a mouse in many cases. It seems like the best uses for it we’ve seen are dedicated systems that need to know where your hands are. [Justin Platz] and [Kurt Clothier], for example, have an interesting demo that uses a Leap to control a Raspberry Pi. The Pi commands servo motors that move LED blocks to track your hand motion. Their code is available on GitHub.

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Interacting with Virtual Reality Brings us Even Closer to a Real Holodeck

One of our readers has been playing around with virtual reality lately, and has come up with a pretty cool beta run of his research — virtual interaction using your hands.

Using an Oculus Rift, the Leap Motion controller and a beta run of Unity 4.6, [Tomáš Mariančík] put together a test environment for physical interaction. The Leap Motion controller is capable of tracking your fingers with extremely high detail, which allows him to create a pair of virtual hands inside the test environment that almost perfectly mimic his movements. The hack here is making it all work together.

In the following demo he shows off by interacting with holographic menus, grabbing body parts off of anatomically correct human being (thanks to Unity3D), and manipulating his environment.

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