Virtual reality systems are getting better and better all the time, but they remain largely ocular and auditory devices, with perhaps a little haptic feedback added in for good measure. That still leaves 40% of the five canonical senses out of the mix, unless of course this trigeminal nerve-stimulating VR accessory catches on.
While you may be tempted to look at this as a simple “Smellovision”-style olfactory feedback, the work by [Jas Brooks], [Steven Nagels], and [Pedro Lopes] at the University of Chicago’s Human-Computer Integration Lab is intended to provide a simulation of different thermal regimes that a VR user might experience in a simulation. True, the addition to an off-the-shelf Vive headset does waft chemicals into the wearer’s nose using three microfluidics pumps with vibrating mesh atomizers, but it’s the choice of chemicals and their target that makes this work. The stimulants used are odorless, so instead of triggering the olfactory bulb in the nose, they target the trigeminal nerve, which also innervates the lining of the nose and causes more systemic sensations, like the generalized hot feeling of chili peppers and the cooling power of mint. The headset leverages these sensations to change the thermal regime in a simulation.
The video below shows the custom simulation developed for this experiment. In addition to capsaicin’s heat and eucalyptol’s cooling, the team added a third channel with 8-mercapto-p-menthan-3-one, an organic compound that’s intended to simulate the smoke from a generator that gets started in-game. The paper goes into great detail on the various receptors that can be stimulated and the different concoctions needed, and full build information is available in the GitHub repo. We’ll be watching this one with interest.
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?”→
Long cables are only neat once – before they’re first unwrapped. Once that little cable tie is taken off, a cable is more likely to end up rats-nested than neatly coiled.
Preventing that is the idea behind this 3D-printed cable reel. The cable that [Kevin Balke] wants to make easier to deal with is a 50 foot (15 meters) long Vive lighthouse sync cable. That seems a bit much to us, but it makes sense to separate the lighthouses as much as possible and mount them up high enough for the VR system to work properly.
[Kevin] put a good deal of effort into making this cable reel, which looks a little like an oversize baitcasting-style fishing reel. The cable spool turns on a crank that also runs a 5:1 reduction geartrain powering a shaft with a deep, shallow-pitch crossback thread. An idler runs in the thread and works back and forth across the spool, laying up the incoming cable neatly. [Kevin] reports that the reciprocating mechanism was the hardest bit to print, as surface finish affected the mechanism’s operation as much as the geometry of the mating parts. The video below shows it working smoothly; we wonder how much this could be scaled up for tidying up larger cables and hoses.
The HTC Vive Tracker adds real-world objects to your virtual world. While these real-world objects in virtual environments are now mostly limited to a Nintendo Zapper for a Duck Hunt clone and a tennis racket, the future is clear: we’re going to be playing Duck Hunt and Wii Sports while wearing headsets. The future is so bright, it burns.
Of course, with any piece of neat computing hardware, there’s an opportunity for building an Open Source clone. That’s what [Drix] is doing with his Hackaday Prize entry. He’s created an Open Source Vive Tracker. It’s called the HiveTracker, and it is right now the best solution for tracking objects in a 3D space.
After a few missteps with ultrasonic and magnetic approaches, the team decided to piggyback on the HTC Vive lighthouses. These two base stations scan a laser beam across the room, first vertically, then horizontally. It’s an incredible piece of technology that [Alan Yates] talked about at the 2016 Hackaday Superconference.
While most microcontrollers don’t operate fast enough to see these laser sweeps, the team behind the HiveTracker found one microcontroller, with Bluetooth, and a feature called ‘PPI’. This programmable peripheral interconnect is kinda, sorta like a cross-bar, but designed for more real-time control of applications. With the right software, the team behind the HiveTracker was able to detect the lighthouses and send position and orientation data back to a computer.
This is a stupendous amount of work, and the results are remarkable. You can check out the video below and see that, yes, this is a real, Open Source Vive Tracker.
It turns out that there were a few challenges to work around and a few new problems to solve, not least of which was mapping VR controllers to control an N64 game in a sensible way. One thing that wasn’t avoidable is that the N64’s rendered world may now pop in 3D, but it still springs forth from a rectangular stage. The N64, after all, is still only rendering a world in a TV-screen-sized portion; anything outside that rectangular window doesn’t really exist, and there’s no way around it as long an emulated N64 is running the show. Still, the result is impressive, and a video demo is embedded below where you can see the effect for yourself.
This video demonstrates a really interesting experiment: sticking a Vive Tracker onto an ordinary chair in order to sync it up perfectly with its VR counterpart. The result? A chair that is visible in VR as a virtual object, but has a 1:1 physical world version occupying the same space. This means that unlike any other virtual object, this chair can be seen, touched, felt, moved, and actually sat in while the user is immersed in VR.
The purpose of this experiment seems to have been to virtually explore seating arrangements for real-world environments, and spawned a theatre planning tool by design studio [Agile Lens]. But we wonder if there’s unrealized potential in the idea of connecting physical objects that can be touched and held (or sat on) with their VR counterparts. Video demos of the chair test are embedded below.
Here is a virtual spray painting project with a new and DIY twist to it. [Adam Amaral]’s project is an experiment in using the Vive Tracker, which was released earlier this year. [Adam] demonstrates how to interface some simple hardware and 3D printed parts to the Tracker’s GPIO pins, using it as a custom peripheral that is fully tracked and interactive in the Vive’s VR environment. He details not only the custom spray can controller, but also how to handle the device on the software side in the Unreal engine. The 3D printed “spray can controller” even rattles when shaken!
There’s one more trick. Since the Vive Tracker is wireless and completely self-contained, the completed rattlecan operates independently from the VR headset. This means it’s possible to ditch the goggles and hook up a projector, then use the 3D printed spray can to paint a nearby wall with virtual paint; you can see that part in action in the video embedded below.