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Project VR

Virtual Reality - HMD, Head Mounted Display, Head Tracking, 3DOF Tracker, 6DOF Tracker, Data Glove, VR Gun
The Ascension spacepad shown in action. My VR system will make this primitive in comparison. is going to be used to document and share the development of a complete Virtual Reality system designed primarily for entertainment. Virtual Reality has been around for many years, and while the development of VR hardware and software has gone in leaps and bounds within the military, medical and scientific research fields, it has stalled when it comes to entertainment based VR systems. Most existing entertainment based Virtual Reality systems are using both hardware and software that was developed back in the last century and these systems are few and far between. Within the scientific and reasearch industries the developers that are working on VR systems are continually raising the bar of what they want to achieve. Their expectations and the purpose of their VR systems is often changing to encompass new areas of technology and new demands from the companies willing to invest in the research. So along the way the people at home, like myself, that were expecting to see VR systems become part of the home gaming industry, have missed out. What we need is a gaming company willing to invest in VR, but even that would be difficult as most people do not realise how great a VR gaming system could be. I am sure one day home entertainment and gaming systems will start moving into directions that even I could not imagine, and will become even better than what I imagine a VR gaming system can be. But until then I have decided to work on my own home built Virtual Reality system designed purely for fun.

This project is a huge task for me, especially as I have very little formal training in computers, but I don't think it is beyond me. Hopefully I will find other people with a similar passion along the way which can help speed it up. Please note that most of what I am documenting is pretty basic stuff so please excuse my excitement if I achieve something that should be simple. I am learning most of it as I go and am writing it down with the hope that it may help someone else with their project.
Note:- To see any of the images or videos on this site in their full size, just click on the smaller thumbnail image.

If someone has any suggestions or requests, please don't hesitate to contact me through the Contact page.

This project will be split into two main areas each requiring many stages. The two main sections of the project are hardware and software. The details of each of these sections will have their own pages but first I will give a general outline of what lies ahead.

  • One of the main reasons existing VR entertainment systems have not taken off is the lack of intuitive and realistic controls. You usually have to tilt a joystick to move, and the headtracking is the sole form of directional control, usually emulating a mouse. With this VR

    VR, Virtual Reality, Home Brew VR, Home made VR, Home brew virtual reality, home made virtual reality, VR links, VR information
    A VR system, photo courtesy of Nasa
    system the idea is to make the experience more intuitive and realistic especially with regard to directional control. As an example, most VR games are first person shooter type games. As they involve a character being played in the first person they are ideal for VR. These games however usually only have one type of tracking, usually head tracking or tracking in a glove or gun. So the only way to aim the weapon is with the same tracking that is used to change your view and to change the direction you move. While this works and getting used to it doesn't take a lot of time, it is not very realistic. It would be so much better to have completely independent directional control, view control and weapons aiming. Imagine if you moved the way your body was facing, while being able to look around in any direction, and at the same time aiming a weapon in a totally different direction just by pointing your hand. You could be running along, looking left and right for enemies, and when you spot one you point your weapon at it by pointing your hand. This type of VR system will make the experience so much more realistic and fun than any system that I have seen to date. To begin with the movement controls will probably still have to involve some buttons or tilting of the hand, but eventually an omni directional treadmill will be introduced to allow the user to actually walk on the spot to get where they are going. No more sitting down to play your computer games, it'll end up being hard exercise.

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    Omni Directional Treadmill

    The hardware requirements for this VR system will include a Head Mounted Display, 2 Data gloves, 3 x trackers for head and hands and eventually some type of omni directional treadmill. The Head Mounted Display is not something that can be easily made as a DIY project so I will be using a commercially available one for the project. For the data gloves, to begin with I will be building 2 simple data gloves with 5 bend sensors on each. This should not be too difficult. With regards to the trackers, there are many commercially available trackers, but they are ususally very expensive. The components are not that expensive these days and the plan is to build my own 3DOF trackers using accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. Once I have achieved that the plan is to move on to develop 6DOF magnetic trackers.

    Code that I think may be useful to other people will be posted on the site, keep your eye out for the

    + Code Snippet

  • The software will be the key to this projects success. To begin with I am going to start with a simple FPS game, just so I can have a bit of fun as I go, but eventually I want to be able to enter a virtual world and be amazed by the surroundings. To do this I need to learn to build 3D worlds and use textures and effects that create a very high end visual experience. The starting worlds

    3D World screnshot
    3D World modelling.
    will be modelled on realistic landscapes. Once I have built some realistic worlds I can work on some fictional world themes. To make the 3D worlds a lot more entertaining I will add portals that will allow the user to move from one world to another. I will also add objects that the user can interact with using the data gloves. Finally I will intensify the whole experience by adding the danger factor. The user will have the ability to activate a range of threats inside the 3D world, from dangerous environments such as deep water, fast flowing rivers, wild storms, lightning and even hot lava flows to dangerous characters such as wild animals or enemies with weapons. The wild animals or enemy characters will have advanced AI so the user will confront a different experience every time they enter the VR world. Then to make the whole experience even more enjoyable I will add multiplayer support so more than one VR user can enter the world together as either collaborative friends or deadly enemies.

    Further extensions on this software will allow the user to browse the internet as though it is made up of 3D objects where moving from one website to another will require movement through the 3D world. Something similar to browsing the internet as seen in Johnny Mnemonic. And a further extension will incorporate the ability to do just about any normal PC function from within the virtual environment. Quite a big task but I thought we would already be doing this sort of thing by now and I can't wait any longer. I'll just have to develop my own.

  • Please browse the Hardware and Software pages to see the progress of each stage of the project.

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