Tag Archive: Helmet

Low Cost VR For The Virtual Hacker

From 1993: “Now you can go to Radio Shack, buy what you need, and build it yourself.” Robert Suding and the Virtual Reality Special Report provide specific instructions for building a stereoscopic HMD for $435. Interestingly the optics and prisms are quite similar to the V-Rtifacts “Leep On The Cheap” design.

Read the plans in full…

Back In The Day – Japan 1990

Based on a mix of US and Japanese technology, this brief news segment shows a vibrant VR c0mmunity in 1990 Japan. There’s gloves and HMDs from VPL, although the LCD displays inside the helmet are from Sony Japan. There’s also a nice augmented reality helmet (built on an actual construction helmet), and a force/tactile feedback system to boot. More than 20 years ago, all the pieces of the VR puzzle were all in place.

Night vision goggles of Red Army!

Suddenly, I found the information that USSR army, just before World War 2 developed electronic head-mounted infra-red night-vision goggles for tank crew! It is not exactly a virtual reality subject, but nevertheless it’s early days of electronic HMD’s in Soviet Union.

In 1993-1940 years infra-red goggles “Ship” and “Dudka” were tested by crews of BT-7 light tanks. “Ship” was developed by national optics institute and Moscow institute of glass. Device included: infra-red periscope goggles, and additional accessories for driving machinery during night.


Ship - Infra Red Night Vision Goggles

Upgraded version “Dudka” had field tests during June 1940, and after in January – February 1941. Device included: infra-red periscope goggles for tank driver, and crew commander, two infra-red beamers (by 1 Kilowatt each, 140 millimeters diameter each), control unit, separate IR signal beamer, cables and accessories for goggles.


Dudka - Another Infra Red Night Vision System From Pre-War USSR

BT-7, light tank

BT-7, light tank

Goggles weight (without helmet-mounting) 750 gram, FOV – 24 degree, seeing distance at night – 50 meters. These devices approved all specifications of Red Army, but because of bulky construction design, usability issues, especially during winter-time, goggle construction needed additional development, which wasn’t made because of World War 2.

Tank Driver Wearing Dudka

Tank Driver Wearing Dudka

Research and development continued after WWII.


Upgraded, early after-war version of IR goggles (IKN-8) for T-34 tank crew

Read the whole story in English or the original Russian.


A Day In The Life

Scenes from a typical day in the virtual world of tomorrow:

You wake up and attend to your daily bathroom rituals, which unfortunately will never be replaced by any virtual reality process… Thus, after your real world morning ceremonies are completed, it’s time to get immersed in your virtual world…. By the time you put on all your gear and make all the proper calibrations, nearly an hour has passed and you’re still not even logged in… It’s like getting ready for a joust, only you don’t have servants and footmen to help you get dressed.

Harvey Newquist in the Premier Issue of the Virtual Reality Special Report, 1994

With apologies to Matt at PaleoFuture (’cause I spotted this article first, but it’s really apropo of his blog), Newquist takes a hard poke at the realities of (im)practical Virtual Realities. In addition to the clumsiness factor, he somehow drags in Hillary Clinton and the Center for Disease Control:

Getting dressed up, sharing greasy headsets – it all sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? … As everyone from Hillary Clinton to the Center for Disease Control begins to worry about what kind of communicable diseases you can get… people are going to get a little bit more finicky about what they strap onto their bodies…

Newquist concludes:

We want VR to grow up to be warm and friendly like Ward Cleaver. What we might get if we don’t give more thought to the VR interface is Ted Bundy.

And all this time I’ve been striving for Al Bundy!

Read the whole article: A Day In The Life for yourself!



Why Big Helmets Still Rule

Size matters! If you ask the manufacturers of Head Mounted Displays over the past 15 years, they would echo that mantra, but it’s SMALL size that they’re boasting. Indeed, those tiny little eye glasses size VR displays look cool (from the outside), but from the inside you’re looking through a distant window. It’s hardly immersive. Read on for an explanation why bigger is better when it comes to immersion.

This illustration demonstrates why you need large lenses and therefore large displays in order to achieve very wide field of view. You’re looking at a top view cross-section of the eyeball, lens, and display. The blue lines show the extreme periphery of an unmoving eyeball’s horizontal field of view. The dim red lines demonstrate what happens when the eyeball turns to the left.

Lens and Eyeball

So… getting back to the unmoving eyeball. The lens (or multi-lens optics) is fairly close to the front of the eye, certainly as close as your sunglasses would be. The lens needs to have a diameter that is large enough to intersect the blue lines in order to allow us to see the display at that field of view. You must look through the lens for all possible angles, not around it!

Human anatomy permits extremely wide field of view because the eyeball can rotate around its center. The dim red lines show the maximum field of view with the eyeball turned to the left. Another problem is encountered: the lens must be bigger because the eye rotates around it’s center, not around its own biological lens.

Perhaps the lens could be made smaller and moved closer to the eye? More problems occur. The turning eye issue becomes magnified. Also, the lens must be aligned much more precisely with the eyeball.

We could potentially solve the turning eye problem by fabricating the lens as a contact lens, but this would require a very high diopter lens to work properly with a small display; unfortunately beyond what is possible with current contact lens technology. Furthermore, since the display is not physically coupled to the contact lens nor the eyeball rotation, the display must still be large enough to encompass all the possible rotations of the eyeball. Finally, the contact lens approach makes it difficult to transition between the virtual world and the real world, as the contact lenses must be removed and applied each time.

Now here’s the gotcha. For a display panel of any given resolution, when it is displayed at a wider field of view, it will look grainier than if displayed with a narrow field of view. You can test this one in the comfort of your own living room. Watch your beautiful 50 inch 1080p TV set from 10 feet away. Looks pretty good, huh? OK, the picture doesn’t exactly fill your visual world, in fact, most of your vision encompasses those left over pizza boxes and the other trash that you forgot to clean up last night.

Now park your nose about one foot away from the same TV set. Wow! That’s immersive! You’re getting something like 110 deg. FOV. Uh oh! What are all those dots on the screen? Sure looks fuzzy. Same 1080p resolution that looked great a moment ago at 10 feet now looks low res and grainy.

Why do you think Head Mounted Display manufacturers love narrow field of view?

Mnemonic’s MRG2.2 Upgrade – Augmented Reality + Kinect

Several months ago I shipped off an MRG2.2 to Mnemonic in the Ukraine. He said he wanted to do a few mods and some experimenting. Little did I know that he would put together a totally sweet augmented reality system, where the view inside the VR helmet combined the real world outside the helmet with computer generated interactive 3D objects. Interaction comes through a gyroscopic head tracker AND a Microsoft Kinect. I’ll let the video and the photos explain further:

and here’s what the modified MRG2.2 looks like from the inside and outside:

The Kinect is enabled through FAAST software from the University of Southern California MxR.


And I’m Never Going Back To My Old School

Two snippets from the old, old school of VR, circa 1991, pitching a reputable UK firm – Division (acquired by PTC in 1999.) Featured are a couple of helmets from VPL Research using LEEP optics and cloth/velcro enclosures. One HMD appears to have been modeled after a gask mask from the trenches of the Great War. Also featured is the VPL CyberGlove.

The killer app? Kitchen lighting! Benefits: prevent the dropping of crockery in the home. Kewl!

A tip of the hat to Mnemonic for tracking down these gems!