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.
TVs are usually something you sit and passively watch. Not so for [Nate Damen’s] interactive, wearable TV head project, aka Atltvhead. If you’re walking around Atlanta, Georgia and you see him walking around with a TV where his head should be, introduce yourself! Or sign into Twitch chat and take control of what’s being displayed on the LEDs which he’s attached to the screen. Besides being wearable technology, it’s also meant to be an interactive art piece.
For this, his third version, the TV is a 1960’s RCA Victor Portable Television. You can see some of the TVs he found for previous versions on his hackaday.io page. They’re all truly vintage. He gutted this latest one and attached WS2812 LED strips in a serpentine pattern inside the screen. The LEDs are controlled by his code and the FastLED library running on an ESP8266. Power comes from four NiMH AA-format batteries, giving him 5 V, which he regulates down to 3.3 V. His phone serves as a WiFi hotspot.
[Nate] limits the commands so that only positive things can be displayed, a heart for example. Or you can tweak what’s being displayed by changing the brightness or make the LEDs twinkle. Judging by the crowds we see him attracting in the first video below, we’d say his project was a huge success. In the second video, Nate does a code walkthrough and talks about some of his design decisions.
If you think of wearable electronic projects, in many cases what may come to mind are the use of addressable LEDs, perhaps on strips or on sewable PCBs like the Neopixel and similar products. They make an attractive twinkling fashion show, but there remains a feeling that in many cases once you have seen one project, you have seen them all.
So if you are tiring of static sewable LED projects and would like to look forward to something altogether more exciting, take a look at some bleeding-edge research from a team at KAIST, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science & Technology. They have created OLED fibres and woven them into fabric in a way that appears such that they can be lit at individual points to create addressable pixels. In this way there is potential for fabrics that incorporate entire LED displays within their construction rather than in which they serve as a substrate.
The especially interesting feature of the OLED fibres from the KAIST team is that their process does not require any high temperatures, meaning that a whole range of everyday textile fibres can be used as substrates for OLEDs. The results are durable and do not lose OLED performance under tension, meaning that there is the possibility of their becoming practical fabrics for use in garments.
While this technology is a little way away from a piece of clothing you might buy from a store, the fact that it does not rely on special processes during weaving means that when the fibres become commercially available we are likely to see their speedy adoption. Meanwhile you can buy conductive fabric, but you might have to take a multimeter to the store to find it.