Virtual and augmented reality may feel like the domain of big companies and gaming giants, but it should come as no surprise that they are also playgrounds for all sorts of DIY endeavors. Whatever kind of reality you like, here are some interesting projects to play around with.
GETTING NOWHERE FAST
Remember when virtual reality involved some sort of weird structure that confined a player inside a little frame on a moving platform? Well, that’s still a thing — and you can build that omnidirectional “treadmill” yourself, to make gaming super-immersive. It’s definitely a big build, but easier than a lot of other VR DIY. Basically, it’s a concave octagon clad with carpet, a support frame that can include bungee cords crisscrossed to keep you centered, and shoes with furniture carpet sliders to let you glide-run in place in your little bowl while you chase bad guys or gold coins or whatever it is you’re after. Plus some kind of sensor to keep track of where you’re going. Just imagine the feeling of running around in your own living room! Details:
But what about other immersive experiences? Sword fighting in VR may look real, but unless you take things into your own hands, so to speak, your Vive controller will break you out of even the most realistic epic battle.
For that, FredMF designed an ingenious 3D printed sword prop controller — it even has threaded rod inside to give the right heft.
One of the harder parts of VR marksmanship games is keeping your hands steady while aiming.
This adorable build from Gemsense combines an off-the-shelf laser pistol with a Blue Amber Gem Board for the space pistol of your dreams on Google Cardboard.
Similarly, the right prop can really make a game of VR golf. Dwooder’s Vive golf club mount build makes clever use of an old club handle, so you can keep your swing in line while you work the back nine.
Learning by doing is usually a good thing, but sometimes you don’t want to learn by messing up your new shower or drilling into important pipes and cords. An obvious solution is to turn to a virtual room where you can practice without real consequences, which is what Lowe’s new Holoroom How To offers. In-store boxes let you strap on a headset and grab a controller with some smart haptic feedback that will almost have you believing that virtual paint brush is doing actual damage — that is to say, painting. Or drilling, or performing the perfect tile job. Most people will learn better by getting to try something out than just reading instructions.
It may not be as cool as Matrix-style martial arts training, but it will likely be a lot more useful in the long run. Depending on your lifestyle.
HOLO, IT’S ME
Microsoft’s HoloLens is basically augmented reality but with fancy mirrors to make the images float in front of your eyes rather than on a screen. And those fancy mirrors basically scream a challenge to make your own, right?
You can find different setups online to turn your phone into a personal hologram projector, “help me Obi Wan Kenobi”-style, without the multi-thousand-dollar price tag of the HoloLens. Take some inspiration from Google’s Cardboard VR — make your own from scratch using craft knives and electrical tape or buy a simple HoloKit for $35 — and some, like the Polylens, are even sleeker and more sci-fi. It does take a bit of experimentation and finagling, and most likely some programming, either way, but it’s exponentially cheaper and probably a lot more fun.
VIVE LA MANO!
HTC Vive controllers will set you back about a hundred dollars a pop, and are still just basically a stick you hold in your hand. (A cool stick, and with a doodad on the end, but a stick.) Why not take it up a notch and build a small controller that actually straps on to your hand and does all the same stuff without making you hold it?
This build uses FreePIE software to merge the position and rotation sensor data, simulating an Arduino joystick in place of the Vive controller. A tiny control stick sits next to the thumb, and buttons and triggers can be placed for access by relevant fingers in a similar fashion — or however you prefer and have the patience to program. And you can still type, check your Instagram, or do whatever else you want to do, without putting down your controller.