Finding more backers

Our email list is getting pretty healthy and we’re getting more twitter followers everyday, but will that translate into sales and backers? It’s hard to say until you actually require people to put their hands in their pockets. So, more is more, but where can we find these new people who will be interested?

I’ve played with Facebook ads before for a previous failed start up so I have some experience with it. My initial disgust with paying for something I should be getting for ‘free’ wore off before when I realised that even though I have several hundred friends on facebook not all of them are really interesting in my projects. They might think they’re cool, but not enough to actually want to pay for them.

Instead we can use the demographics built into facebook to reach out to our ‘perfect potential customers’. So, men, living in the developed world, 18-35, single and interested in VR and simulation games. Putting that into the facebook ad generator gives me about 2m people who might want to give me their email for the raffle. I supposed I could include women as well but if my google analytics figures are reasonably accurate the feelThree is a 97.7% male interest. The prices for 1000 impressions isn’t to outrageous, about £0.24-£1.30, or they let you just pay for ‘clicks’. One of the best things though is the ability to use different pictures and see which is the most effective, plus trying the same advert with some slight variations and seeing which is more effective.

All you need is cash! :p

One of the more important things I can do to promote the project right now though is to create a decent 2 minute video explaining how it works and why it’s so amazing, but that will have to wait until I reinstall my broken Windows 7 installation. Then I’ll have to finally figure out how to properly animate the omnichain since that’s what people will want to see rendered…

I also added some tweet and like buttons to each post, at the top and bottom, just making it a little easier for people to share any posts they like and hopefully spread the word a little easier. I also got rid of the ‘DISCUS’ comment system, since I added it I’ve only had a few comments since you have to sign up to write anything, it looks like people couldn’t be bothered. I reimplemented the old system and added a ‘math-captcha’ so you have to solve an easy math problem to post, that should be enough to ward off the bot-spam my site is now attracting….

I also changed the ‘about’ line on out twitter account to read ‘Oculus Rift’ rather than #oculusrift which has moved us up to position 21 (from about 150) when you search for ‘oculus rift’ in twitter. I’m not 100% sure how they organise the list but I think it’s a combination of ‘oculus rift’ in your name, how many followers you have and where ‘oculus rift’ appears in your desciption, since a few people are higher than us and have less followers… It now reads ‘Oculus Rift Motion Simulator! ‘ and will take Twitter about a week to rejiggle the names. I doubt it will give us a million extra followers but Oculus get quite a lot of followers everyday, about 100, so if they search for them and click follow on us too just below them it’s a simple way to pick up potential customers.

Still no word from the HAXLR8R organisers, although they moved the deadline to the end of the month. My email to our mailing list asking for support was moderately successful, 14 people tweeted their support to @haxlr8r, nothing amazing but it shows we’re trying. 🙂

Feel Three Update #1

Hi,

Just a quick update on the state of the project for any of you guys that were wondering if the project was still happening, well it is! We didn’t want to send emails until we had set up an unsubscribe function set up, which actually happened a few weeks ago, and something good to say. So rest assured we’re still committed to restraining our updates to important stuff and you so desire, you can unsubscribe at any time. We still hope that won’t happen because you’ll miss out on being in the new improved raffle… read on…

With regard to the Kickstarter, we’re currently looking hard at the options and *may* have an important announcement in a couple of weeks…

Now, nothing is yet set in stone but we might be welcoming an associate professor of a European University to the team. He has a Phd in Robotics, which should be extremely handy, as well as coding and electronic engineering skills. We’re still working on the details but the signs look extremely positive, and he’s also been working on a motion simulator of his own.

Assuming we work out the details we’ll also be applying to HAXLR8R shortly, this is a hardware accelerator which runs in Shenzhen, China for 4 months early next year. 111 days of prototyping, coding, finding a factory to work with and designing for manufacture. In exchange for a small slice of equity this is a major shortcut through the process and allow us to hit the market about the same time as some are estimating for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift.

We have one major disadvantage compared to the type of other teams that will be applying, in that we can’t really demo a full size prototype, the tooling for a small run of panels is just too expensive. In the mean time we’re working on our scale model as well as a version of the design in Unity3D that you can walk around and see inside the Oculus Rift.

One major advantage we do have is you guys! We want the organisers of HAXLR8R see the buzz and excitement of people who want to support a new design of motion simulator that is not only a radical departure from what is already available, as well as being stylist, safe and most importantly, affordable. It’s not enough just to have a great product, you also need customers. If HAXLR8R see that there is a established base of potential customers we’re more likely to be selected.

So we’ve added a couple of extra ways for you to spread the news, a couple of single click buttons on the website where you get your twitter friends to also apply to the raffle and help people like our facebook page. For each of these buttons we’ll give you another 10 entries into the raffle each.

Now, it’s no use telling your friends about this when you want to win it yourself right? No problem, we’re now giving TWO simulators away, with the same terms as before.

Head over to the website and click the buttons at the bottom of the first page.

The last piece of cool news is that we received a message from a journalist wanting a demo so she could write an article in the New York Times Magazine! So help spread the word and maybe she’ll get her wish sometime next year!

Thanks

The Feel Three Team.

Low cost methods to increase perceived field of view in virtual reality headsets without additional electronics.

Human vision is about 210°, we can see pretty much 180° side to side and moving our eyes can see slightly behind our head. Useful for noticing predators sneaking up on us… The DK1 from Oculus was 110°, the DK2 is about 100°. This was due to a few reasons but it’s generally expected the FOV will increase in the next iteration. A low FOV tends to pull you out of the experience, no one wants that blinkered feeling you get in a diving mask. When I was a boy these were made from black rubber, so the tunnel effect was really pronounced, modern masks are made from clear silicone. Your view is still blocked but since light passes through you can still sense movement from your outer peripheral vision. Much nicer.

lightpackSome creative people took this idea and turned it around to create LED strips that project an average light reading and display it on the wall behind your TV. Ambilight and lightpack are of limited use, but a cool idea. It didn’t take long for someone to suggest putting one inside an Oculus Rift to increase the perception of a wide FOV but HMD’s are quite a bit too small for this to work well. It also seems Apple has a Patent for this idea but my following suggestions are not the same.

Still the idea is quite good, most of our vision is concentrated in a 6° arc and the amount of detail we can perceive drops off away from the center of our retina. A method of putting extra light into our peripheral vision would be really nice, especially if we can do it for ‘free’.

But how? I thought of a couple of possibilities, but please remember this is just idle speculation, a thought experiment, although if Oculus want to hire me to try them out they better hurry up before I apply to the HAXLR8R program 🙂

Well, first we would need white (or probably neutral grey) borders around the screen to allow for some reflectivity.

A fairly simple idea is to create a clear plastic rectangle that fits around the edge of the lens, this refracts a small portion of the image out and onto the sides of the borders. We might sacrifice 2° of ‘real’ FOV to create an impression of an extra 10° or so, on all four borders, per eye. This ‘lens’ might have to be precisely aligned however since we might need to increase the luminance at the edge of the screen to compensate for the loss of light as it’s refracted. Screenshot 2014-10-17 20.47.43

 

Look at the simple example I drew in Inventor. The right side shows the normal eye -> lens -> screen. BUT the version on the left has a strip of clear plastic around the edges. Now part of this light is refracted out and onto the HMD plastic panels on the side. We lose a little detail but make the Rift feel less contricted and enclosed.

 


 

Another idea would require some minor changes to the HMD casing but could produce a much more impressive effect. We would lose NO viewable area but could gain a really bright peripheral effect with some clever design engineering.

Consider that the current DK2 wastes a huge amount of screen estate. This is the nature of the design and not a massive flaw, but we’re throwing away pixel light that could be used in out peripheral vision.

UE4Rollercoaster-2014-05-10-11-46-29-72 Each of the eight corners are only displaying black. Instead we could cover these areas with translucent plastic that bounces these pixels light out to the edges of the screen in a similar way that fiber optics can relocate light. Instead of wasting this potential light we can add it to the experience and a 110° FOV could be perceived as perhaps 130°, bringing us one step closer to a more immersion.

Here is a very crude example. The top of the right screen is sampled, the corner is illuminated and reflected into the top border. This doesn’t have to be quite so general, we can split the areas up into smaller bands to improve the effect.

 

coaster with border

 

Wide angle, low distortion camera tracking for the Oculus Rift

I thought I would write a quick demo about one problem of the Oculus Rift DK2 that not been addressed, the coverage of the positional tracking camera. Generally it works really quite well, but if you move outside it’s field of view then tracking will stop, immersion will be lost and the experience degraded. The camera is pretty standard, they’ve not designed anything new, just adapted a fast, reliable (and cheap) off the shelf sensor. It doesn’t have an amazing field of view so it’s quite easy to move outside this range.

m_5329e14e84308_s

52º is actually pretty narrow…

If Oculus hopes to have a system whereby you can navigate a whole room then 52º just can’t cut it. A 90º view would mean you could place the camera in the corner of a room and it would be able to look along the walls.

Not everyone will want to want to sit near a corner….

Ideally we have a system that has 180º coverage so it can be placed on a suitable wall and the user has little danger of moving outside it’s field of view.

 

So just get a wide angle camera right?

iphone-accessories-fish-eye
Actually this isn’t an optimal solution since wide angle lens create not only a huge amount of distortion but the center of the lens, where the user is likely to spend most of their time, is compressed so the amount of ‘pixels on target’ is actually quite low. Great for expressive photography but not so much for tracking LEDs at sub milimeter accuracy…

Instead a better solution is to simply use multiple cameras at a slight angle to each other providing 180º+ coverage.Screenshot 2014-10-11 22.22.52 By this I mean we have three camera sensors on a single circuit board, not three separate cameras.

 

three lens camera

 

 

 

 

 

 

I created a quick playable demo in Unity to show the idea. A camera on either side of the central camera gives us significant overlap. The three bottom ‘screens’ show what each of the camera can see, when you move to the side the LED markers are transferred to the other camera.

We don’t have to worry about strictly lining up the images since they won’t be displayed. The cost is marginally more expensive, but imaging sensors are really very cheap, so the camera would only be a couple of dollars more expensive.** There is a slight processing overhead when moving from one sensor to the next as more markers would need to be tracked.

It is inevitable that Oculus will move to using camera on the HMD to track position (and pass through a picture to the user) but this may not come for another couple of consumer versions, so in the mean time using multiple low field of view cameras together to give a wide field of view tracking is quite possible.

You can ‘play’ the demo here. Press 1 and 2 to switch from a 90º camera watching three 72º overlapping cameras to a 160º camera in the same position and move your mouse. You can see the sphere behind the ‘displays’. In a real application the cameras would not move, the user would, but the demo allows you to move the camera to show how they would overlap and still give you a wide, undistorted field of view.

 

** A quick Goggle reveals the sensors in the Oculus camera are actually about $9 each! More than I hoped but still not crazy money…

 

The experts over on Reddit had this to say:

3rd_Shift: “It seems utterly preposterous to pursue a multiple camera solution with the added cost and complexity that entails when you could achieve the same result with a wide-angle lens and a higher resolution camera.”

Randomoneh “Have you ever used a fisheye lens?It seems like you’re confusing fisheye for rectilinear lens.”

My reply :

yes of course.

So lets see, how about just using say a lens like the rectilinear Nikon 13mm f/5.6, well we don’t actually need that lens, just clone it in plastic… it only has 118 degree field of view but we can’t go beyond that without going into fish eye territory…

http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/13mm.htm

But not to worry…. so we’ll clone in plastic which will make it cheaper right? Lets make it only 1% of the cost of its original price… despite the fact that it has 12 groups / 16 elements (ie 16 lens) and weighs over 1kg.

So 1% of the original price is about $80, yes, in 1979 the lens cost $8k.. now they’re, god knows… $25k+??

So $80 1kg plastic lens for 118 degrees vs. three $10 10g cameras for 180 degrees.

“utterly preposterous” you say….?

Please feel free to link to a nice 180 degree rectilinear lens for $30….

 

 

Wired 2014 Startup pitch for the motion simulator….

I might put this on the front page, it sums up everything nicely in 398 words…..

 

Since the invention of the classic six degree of freedom platform sixty years ago motion simulators haven’t changed much. They remain massive, ugly and slightly dangerous. Despite the advances in materials and engineering they still require large, powerful, and expensive motors to lift a platform to simulate movement. This keeps motion simulators stuck in the realm of an expensive niche product. After all who has £5,000 to £20,000 lying around?

With the dawning age of virtual reality gamers will no long be content to peer through a monitor screen and they’ll begin to demand a more visceral experience to match the feeling of being inside another world that the rift provides. The market for the first affordable motion simulator is potentially massive.

What is needed is a new design that gives the user not only an affordable, modular device but one that is safe, stylish and smart.

This is the philosophy behind the Feel Three Motion Simulator for Oculus Rift.

Instead of lifting a chair in a fixed rectangular frame, we use interlocking aluminium hexagonal and pentagonal panels which are curved into a semi sphere. They’re light, cheap and very strong. This design allows the user to decide their range of pitch and roll, since you decide the amount of panels. 360° yaw is also built in and as John Carmack said recently “Swivel chair VR is going to be kind of a big deal”. If you want to go all out, make a fully enclosed sphere to roll and loop all day. The platform can even turned into a snowboard or hang glider simulator, and if you’re not a hardcore gamer you can just fill it with cushions and chill while you gently sway to the latest demo.

A motion simulator disguised as a chic sofa? Your wife will love it!

An electronic gyroscope on the platform works out where you are 1,000 times a second and the Oculus Rift camera is mounted to the platform. The base powers the sphere with revolutionary ‘omnichains’, which allow 3 degrees of rotation simultaneously and an optional heave module allows low power vertical movement with counter weights. The whole kit is tiny when unassembled and since it’s modular you can buy the basic platform and build your unique design .

And the price? Slightly more than a decent gaming PC.

A cool, safe, affordable motion simulator for the masses. It’s time.

You feelin’ it?

Open sourced, gloveless, 6DOF hand/arm/finger tracking + gun for Virtual Reality for less than $50…

Leap motion had the right idea when they recently released a mount for the Oculus Rift. The idea was that you can see your hands from the front of your face and give you a cool way to put your hands inside VR. It was a good idea but due to the limited range of the device fundamentally flawed. Tracking beyond 30cm is just too far away for the LM to handle reliably. Still, it’s a step in the right direction. Where else can you find a solution to track fingers and hands with excellent accuracy for less than $25 (second hand)?

Hand tracking really is key to a more immersive VR experience, a problem that the people at Perception neuron used to garner a sweet $570k on kickstarter recently. But gloves? In 2014? It’s a cool set of kit, but so many parts to break, wires to cut, parts to snag and you look somewhat foolish wearing the full setup. And $200 minimum investment? Ouch!

So what do we really need, at a bare minimum? Being able to see our dominant hand (preferably both) in VR space reliably, if we can track our lower arm accurately we can pretty much track the rest of the arm too. Your elbow is a pretty simple joint, approximating the upper arm isn’t hard if you know where your wrist is and where it’s pointing. The VR guns that are appearing more and more don’t give us that information, but guns are easy, fingers are where it’s hard. Showing your hand and fingers, which 99% of the world automatically look for when they first don a Rift, is really what we’re always going to wanting to do.

The main issue is cost, it’s mostly a solved problem if you have the money, but unless you can do it cheaply no one will adopt it and you’ll end up with early adopter blues. Nintendo powerglove anyone?

So, who wouldn’t want to be able to see their hand and fingers move accurately in front of their face while in the Oculus Rift. Everyone right? Now who wants that for less than $50?

It’s easy if you know what to hack together 🙂

Once again, it’s a PROTOTYPE! It’s not perfect, nothing ever is, but show me how to track your hand in VR, move around and shoot for less than $50 and I (and everyone else) will be very happy! I threw this together in a couple of days, if you like it, tell me! If you don’t like it… well, go make your own bloody controller!! :p

And if Oculus is watching, please give us access to the ‘skeleton’ of the camera in the SDK. We know you’re working on your own controller, but you never know, someone else might come up with a better solution and it will die on the vine because it’s impossible to support easily.

Here is a quick video, some pics, a break down of the hardware and how you can hack the software together to make it work.

IMG_2939

 

IMG_2941

Note: The MPU isn’t attached, and the nunchuck isn’t plugged in.

Hardware

The hand tracker is actually quite simple. I’m going to break down each part, what they do and why they’re needed.

Cuff

wrist

This is the base of the prototype, everything hangs on the wrist cuff. In its current incarnation it’s a little rough and could be more comfortable. A later version will have foam padding for comfort and a quick release buckle, or velcro, for a snug fit. It will also need a box for the arduino and gyro. Ideally it would also contain a small USB3 hub so the leap motion and the arduino can communicate to the the PC over only one lead. This raises the price a little for convenience. We also have the option of adding a few more buttons to the cuff which can be activated by the off hand.

(the tubes on the side are for support, printed plastic can be quite weak when printed like this, the tubes allow us to insert a 3mm length of filament for strength)

 

Wii Nunchuck

Why reinvent the wheel? The nunchuck can be found for as little as $3 online, it has a joystick and two trigger buttons as well as a 3 axis accelerometer for simple motion detection. It’s cheap, reliable and easy to replace. It also has a convenient arduino library just waiting to be used.

Ideally we would be able to connect and disconnect two nunchucks, for use in both hands, although using only one is perfectly fine. The cable is long enough to allow use in the ‘off-hand’ so the user could move with one hand and aim/’finger shoot’ with the other. it has a slightly inconvenient proprietary plug but this is easily adapted with a $1 gizmo from ebay. nunchuck

Arduino

A fully formed computer for $3? How can we refuse. This forms the brains of the gyro sensors and interprets the nunchuck signals. Using a pro-micro we can also emulate a joystick with no drivers. Handy!

Gyrometer/accelerometer/magnetometer

This tiny miracle on a chip provides a mass of information a thousand times a second. With this we can accurately measure where your wrist is pointing since it’s attached to the Cuff. They’re also only $8 each.

Female Arm

female

A simple printed arm is attached to the cuff. This provides some simple cable management too. Requires a couple of bolts to attach to the cuff.

Male arm.

male

Another printed part that can be used to adjust the total distance of the arms. A bolt locks it to the female arm and allows adjustment.

The leap holder.

holder

The fourth and final printed part. This hold the leap motion sensor which will be pointing at the hand and providing constant hand and finger tracking. It also has some holes for wires and needs two bolts to attach to the arm.

Leap Motion

 

Another miracle in a small package. You can find them second hand online now for $25. It has fairly mature drivers and a SDK for use with games. By mounting it to the wrist we can over come it’s problems with range and free it from the desk. The leap gives a better experience than putting on sweaty gloves for a fraction of the price. It also has zero moving parts, so there is nothing to break.

Ping Pong Ball

This is attached to the end of the leap holder and has a hole inside it. Illuminated from the inside it gives a cheap way to give us positional information. 25c

LED and wires.

This gives the eleventh and last component something to look at in the darkness. <$1.

PS3 Camera (or equivalent).

The camera tells the PC where your arm is in space, just like the Sony Move works. We can use open source software to track it quite easily and if we use an IR filter and Infrared LED inside the ball we can cut a lot of the tracking processing. Available on ebay for $5.

 

3D Printing Alternatives:

If you don’t have access to a 3D printer you could always make a leap holder from some wood, or even better use friendly plastic. You melt the pellets in boiling water and mould them into shape, this stuff is perfect to make a project like this and it’s very cheap (and reusable).

Bill of Materials

  1. Printed Cuff
  2. Printed female arm
  3. Printed male arm
  4. Printed Leap Holder
  5. Arduino $3 (new)
  6. MPU-9150 $8 (new)
  7. Wii Nunchuck $3 (new)
  8. Leap Motion $25 (second hand)
  9. PS3 Eye camera $5 (second hand)
  10. Ping Pong ball 25c
  11. LED + 40cm wire + 10 oh resistor $1
  12. 5 bolts and washers ~$1
  13. Extra cuff buttons 25c each (optional)
  14. Wii nunchuck adapter $1 (optional)
  15. Cuff Velcro $1 (optional)
  16. Cuff comfort foam $1 (optional)
  17. Short pieces of wire to connect the MPU and arduino
  18. USB lead for arduino (on hand)
  19. 5 meter USB3.0 extender for the Leap Motion $7
  20. 5v motor for cuff vibration $1 (optional)

Total : $46.25

or $58 with optional extras.

notes : The Cuff is ideally printed using Nylon since this is more flexible than ABS or PLA and should last longer. The leap can be position to be facing the palm or the back of the hand, although the latter, while more convenient, might be less accurate. It’s also possible that if an optimal position can be found we can reduce the required printed parts to a complete arm and cuff, removing the need for the bolts, and improving the appearance. A USB 2.0 lead can be used for the Leap Motion but this lowers the data speed and may affect accuracy.

 Software

This is a work in progress… but we can break it down into 4 distinct areas, all of which have open source software available.

Finger Tracking : Sign up with Leap here for their SDK

Position Tracking : Choose from two open computer vision projects, SimpleCV or OpenCV

Rotation Tracking : It’s a work in progress over at Arduino

Nunchuck libraries : Tim Teatros or check the arduino Site