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Android Phone Turned Into Virtual Reality Goggles 103

Posted by timothy
from the everything-has-a-secret-purpose dept.
andylim writes "After years of hype surrounding virtual reality, including the classic '90s movie The Lawnmower Man, few of us can claim to have experienced virtual reality at home. But what if you could build your own virtual reality goggles without having to spend a fortune? Using an HTC Magic and Google Street View, Recombu.com made a simple pair of virtual reality goggles that let you immerse yourself in distant locations. As the article points out, you can also use these goggles with augmented reality apps — although you probably don't want to walk around with them all day long."
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Android Phone Turned Into Virtual Reality Goggles

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  • aka an iphone strapped to a cardboard box.

    • by MrMarket (983874)
      comes with a free camera phone [hbo.com].
    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Monday October 26, 2009 @11:21PM (#29880731)

      Exactly. The google maps app that comes installed on the system already has that feature where you can hold up the phone and turn around to investigate the scene. The accelerometer/compass stuff is built in! All this guy did was tape his phone to a cardboard box.

      • by cailith1970 (1325195) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @01:32AM (#29881189)
        But it's such a cool cardboard box! He wrote "Virtual Reality" on the side with a black pen! :)
        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Did I go to the right site? The only text is "Using an HTC Magic and Google Street View we've made a simple pair of virtual reality goggles that let you immerse yourself in distant locations. You can also use these goggles with augmented reality apps -- although you probably don't want to walk around with them all day long.". No pictures, but there is a big blank place where it looks like there should be a picture.

          I guess I'll have to check it out when I get home for lunch, maybe it's the browser here? Why

        • by sootman (158191)

          I think it's pretty sweet! Imagine... in just a few short years, a VR headset might be this small! [vpimg.net]

          (Aerosmith, Amazing, 1993)

      • You lose the immersion effect with the iPhone version of Google Maps (even on 3GS) since you have to use your finger to move the screen when in street view. (You have to drop a pin and select the outlined white figure to enable street view if it is available).
  • Brilliant idea (Score:4, Informative)

    by TD-Linux (1295697) on Monday October 26, 2009 @10:02PM (#29880373)
    A cardboard box with a phone taped on one end, "Virtual Reality Goggles" written with marker on the side, and an elastic cord to hold it to your head. Man, I totally want one of these. Where do I buy them?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Haha. This reminds me of an old image describing an early hands-free cellphone system:

      http://spiro10.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/hands-free-cell-phone.jpg [wordpress.com]

      • by sabre307 (451605)

        That wasn't the one I was thinking of. I can't find it now, but I actually saw a pic one time that was a guy in a business suit, carrying a briefcase with one of those Zach Morris 80's era brick phones duct taped to his head. Now THAT was freakin hilarious!

    • by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @12:13AM (#29880949) Homepage

      You should see my time machine. And my hovercraft. And my spaceship.

      I got my degree from the University of Calvin and Hobbes.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I got my degree from the University of Calvin and Hobbes.

        Ah, and I was wondering where I can get a degree to be a futurist.

      • Let me guess, you majored in Social Psych. Required reading including titles such as: Psychology On The Fly -- How to Have Profound Conversations Whilst Traveling at High Speed on a Sled and Bringing Stuffed Toys To Life -- A Comprehensive Guide to a Fervent Imagination.
      • by PitaBred (632671)
        Is your doctoral thesis going to be a trasmogrifier?
    • In all fairness, if this had been an iPhone experiment we'd be hearing nothing but how great of an idea it was.
      • In all fairness, yes we would hear on how great idea this was. And we would hear about how this is yet again another plot where Apple brings nothing of value, but considers it magic. And to be fair at least that discussion would 1,000,000 comments long, instead of this 50 comment, "Man do they look like wiennies!" posting. You see this time around even a geek will say, "dude get a life!"

    • Since most of these phones wouldn't last all day on a charge, how about adding
      some solar cells on the top of the cardboard box?

      • by KillerBob (217953)

        Since most of these phones wouldn't last all day on a charge, how about adding
        some solar cells on the top of the cardboard box?

        I have an HTC Dream, and it lasts all day... I turn GPS off, and don't spend all my time playing video games or browsing the mobile web, but I do have it checking/syncing my e-mail every 5 minutes to both my gmail, and my work's exchange. A full charge on the battery lasts long enough for me to ride the bus to work, put in my 8 hours, and ride home, with what I'd consider "normal" e

        • by bobstreo (1320787)

          Yeah, I have a G1. The charge will last a couple days without wifi, bluetooth and GPS on. Unfortunately to run Layers or any other VR software you need GPS and maybe 3G/Wifi.

          It's not that horrible really, but if you go to all that trouble with cardboard and all, at least toss in a solar charger. I've been tempted a few times to grab a solar charger online just because...

    • I'm waiting for someone to tape a 22" LCD to his car's windshield.

  • Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday October 26, 2009 @10:03PM (#29880379) Homepage Journal

    I think all of us could claim to have experienced virtual reality at home. Just not with clunky glasses from the 80s, but congratulations in making an expensive new phone into your very own pair of 80s fail.

    I personally own a pair of these: http://www.vuzix.com/iwear/products_vr920.html [vuzix.com] they're exactly what they claim to be, and work just as well. Shame that the technology hasn't made the concept much better over the years. The problem is simply that trying to trick the human vision system is really hard. Doing it in an affordable way is even harder.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TD-Linux (1295697)
      What would actually involve a bit of innovation is if someone hooked up those glasses to, say, a pocket beagleboard or similar device capable of video output, and ported/hacked Google Street View to output stereo information (or fake it with a sphere and/or luminosity info). In fact, said mini ARM computer could even run Android!
      • by Namarrgon (105036)

        Unfortunately, since the StreetView camera only records a single image, you can't get the parallax needed for stereo.

        Well, you can, sorta, if you take two adjacent streetview scenes, for the left and right eyes, and look perpendicularly away from the direction of travel. You can even take a sequence of these and play them as an animation, with the "trailing" eye being delayed by a frame. But with an eye separation in the order of metres, it really only works with very long views, and makes everything seem k

    • by KillerBob (217953)

      I wouldn't buy a pair of those even if you paid me. 1024x768 maximum effective resolution, with the native resolution on the screens being 640x480. It's cool and all, but that's nowhere near enough pixels for me to actually get some work done. My laptop's got a 1680x1050 LCD and I complain that *that's* not enough pixels for me to effectively multitask. Not to mention the harm you're doing to your eye by trying to focus on something that's an inch away from your face.

      They're a cool toy, and might be fun for

      • Then you want these:
        http://www.i-glassesstore.com/i-glasses-i3pc.html [i-glassesstore.com]
        800x600!

        Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that in 1992 (yes, that's 17 years ago) you could buy the Virtual-IO I-Glasses for $900, and they were 320x240 (claimed 640x480 with scan line interpolation).

        Apparently, 17 years is exactly enough time to increase the resolution from 320x240 to 800x600. Hm.

        Some articles (from 1998) would claim that defect density is the main problem in high resolution LARGE displays:

        from: http://www.ausairpower. [ausairpower.net]

        • by KillerBob (217953)

          So... would the logic then extend to smaller LCD panels being EASIER to make in higher resolutions? It seems reasonable. However, if that's the case, why isn't the market full of high resolution small LCD panels that can be used to make these $900 into $100 units that everyone could be using instead of massive LCD monitors?

          There's a practical limit to useful pixel density for most computer uses. Some, the higher your resolution the better... things like photo editing and medical imaging, for example. For so

      • by EvilMal (562717)
        Not to mention the harm you're doing to your eye by trying to focus on something that's an inch away from your face.

        Actually, the focus is fixed to about 10 feet with those.
        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by KillerBob (217953)

          Actually, the focus is fixed to about 10 feet with those.

          The image may appear as though it's a big screen 10 feet away, but the physical display device is an inch away from your eyes, not to mention the frame itself. Your eyes are focusing at a fixed focal length an inch away from the eye for prolonged periods of time. That causes eye strain at best, and permanent damage to your eyesight at worst.

  • Do not want. (Score:2, Insightful)

    We already have enough problems with people running into walls, other people, walking into intersections and getting run over by buses -- and that's with just iPods and bluetooth ear leeches. People go driving off bridges, across corn fields, etc., with navsat equipment... And before we solve the human interface problems here, we're talking about immersing people further?

    At the rate things are going, we'll all be walking into each other and talking to walls, and occasionally driving off cliffs... And this'l

    • by ndik (1186119)
      That's why contingencies such as an on-screen radar with human sensoring will be implemented. Though that's just one idea...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Macgrrl (762836)

      You might not be taking it far enough [imdb.com]!

    • Re:Do not want. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by causality (777677) on Monday October 26, 2009 @10:33PM (#29880537)

      We already have enough problems with people running into walls, other people, walking into intersections and getting run over by buses -- and that's with just iPods and bluetooth ear leeches. People go driving off bridges, across corn fields, etc., with navsat equipment... And before we solve the human interface problems here, we're talking about immersing people further?

      We've already addressed this problem. It's called the Darwin Award! [darwinawards.com]

      They have Honorable Mentions, too.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Odd how the "Darwin Awards" site doesn't understand evolution!

        Double Dipping (darwin award)
        North Carolina | Greensboro was innundated with four inches of rain in two hours but Rosanne, 50, was not deterred.

        She's fifty, she's probably a grandmother. If so, she wins the evolution game, if you are childless you lose.

        Trifecta Electra! (darwin award)
        Florida | The Slush Pile mods say age fifteen is too young to win

        Much older than that is to OLD to lose the evolution game. As soon as you procreate, you win.

        These p

        • Maybe the childless lose the evolutionary game... but we each have our own idea of what the game of life is, and as far as I'm concerned, being childless means I totally win. :D
          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            we each have our own idea of what the game of life is

            Well, the game of LIFE yes; the yuppies say "whoever dies with the most toys wins" while my idea is, since you can't take it with you, whoever dies with the most toys LOSES.

            But in the game of evolution (not life), dying childless loses -- that's the end of the game for you.

            Of course, having kids doesn't mean you win; neither of my kids has kids, so I haven't won the evolution game. Yet.

    • Ooh, it's like real-life Lemmings! [wikipedia.org]
  • Not stereoscopic (Score:4, Informative)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Monday October 26, 2009 @10:10PM (#29880433)

    This rig isn't stereoscopic and therefore isn't a pair of "virtual reality goggles" in the classic sense.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by FinalMidnight (652617)
      Which suits me, as I'm monocular! I don't even have to take off my dashing eye patch!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034)

      This rig isn't stereoscopic and therefore isn't a pair of "virtual reality goggles" in the classic sense.

      In outdoor scenes, you can't tell anyway. Stereoscopy only matters for objects out to a meter or so. The change in relative position of near and distant objects is a more powerful cue than stereoscopy. (You don't have enough information from Google StreetView images to do that anyway,)

      When Jaron Lanier demoed his original virtual reality system to me in the 1980s, he mentioned that once one of the

      • by mcrbids (148650)

        Goggles are too intrusive. However, the 'beam images into your retina' article earlier today is about the right shade for me. Lightweight, fit like normal glasses that I wear anyway. Inobtrusive 10 cm 'display 3 feet 'away'.

        I'd kill to have something like that for pilots to provide terrain awareness in Instrument Meterological Conditions! Just being able to 'see' terrain in a small box, where red is above you, yellow is less than 1k feet below, and green more than 1k feet below, fading to show distance woul

      • by 91degrees (207121)
        There's still the problem of the image being too close. You can tell that the image is less than a foot from your face. You could actually fix this with optics, of course.

        As far as fixing lag goes, you can predict reasonably accurately where the head is going to be, but yes, fast accurate measuring is better.
    • Yeah I was also disappointed that they didn't divide the screen and turn it into a video stereo-opticon. These google goggles are greatly gimpy.

    • But the stereoscopic googles are out there. http://www.i-glassesstore.com/ig-hrvpro.html [i-glassesstore.com] This would be cool with a couple of small cameras outside the goggles, so you can overlay your view with data. I could see a whole new kind of video game, where you play out in the real world with things nobody else can see (except fellow players) of course you'd look schizophrenic, buy hey, that'd be half the fun.

  • Why stop there? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MosesJones (55544) on Monday October 26, 2009 @10:11PM (#29880449) Homepage

    Using just a laptop with a built in motion detector and a series of steel poles to rig it to your body you can do exactly the same thing but in higher resolution. From a simple netbook to a 21" monster its all possible and creates a higher resolution virtual reality experience. Going higher resolution why not drive it from a 30" cinema display, sure dragging the cables around is a bore but its virtual reality with exercise built in.

    Oh hang on you wanted actual tactile touch, object interaction and other genuine immersive elements that signify the difference from a pair of goggles and a true virtual reality experience.

    Nope we don't do that.

    This is the virtual reality equivalent of carving little pictures into asprin and claiming they are Ectasy tablets.

  • by balbord (447248)

    They do close to nothing.

    I...I am so... sorry. I'll leave now.

  • Virtual reality? More like real dorkness. ^^
    - This is neither 3D or stereo,
    - nor has it an acceptable viewing area or
    - resolution. Also it has
    - no fitting 3D sound,
    - does not allow any movement outside the street view paths, and very importantly,
    - has no time dimension (nothing moves, or happens, in that frozen world).

    Sorry, but gluing a phone to your face does not make it VR goggles,
    just like building a spaceship bodywork around your mountain bike will not get you into orbit. ^^

    • by CrazyJim1 (809850) *
      The goggles, they do nothing.
    • by Samah (729132)

      ...just like building a spaceship bodywork around your mountain bike will not get you into orbit. ^^

      No, but to think it would work you'd have to be high. ;)

  • Is this some use of "classic" of which I have been heretofore ignorant?

    • Haha, I thought the same. Since when The Lawnmower Man is a classic movie? It's been panned by the critics of the time and rates poorly at 5.0 with 11.000 votes on Imdb. Still, it made money [boxofficemojo.com] back in 1992; I guess for some people that all it takes to make a classic!
  • by Korbeau (913903) on Monday October 26, 2009 @11:32PM (#29880771)

    synopsis: when the phone battery wears off, Neo realizes that he no longer is saving the human race from enslavement in a VR world constructed by Aliens, but really was wearing a cereal box duck-tapped to his head all along.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday October 26, 2009 @11:33PM (#29880777) Journal

    1. Go to Babes(or Dudes)OnCam.
    2. Open a webcam window
    3. Open a second instance of the same webcam
    4. Size the the same and place them side by side.
    5. Look at them cross eyed until you get a far more interesting pseudo-3D VR than some street view of someplace, without goggles, Googles, immersion, or Androids.
    6. Or go blind.
    7. Just kidding, that can't happen.
    8. No, they won't get stuck either.
    9. Mine? They've always been like this.
    10. They have so. Really.
    11. Wait, androids? That would be SOOOOO.....
    12. What? oh. those. Nevermind.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      5. Look at them cross eyed until you get a far more interesting pseudo-3D VR than some street view of someplace, without goggles, Googles, immersion, or Androids.
      6. Or go blind.
      7. Just kidding, that can't happen.

      I can move either eye independantly in a horizontal plane. I can also control my eyes' focusing muscles, even though that's supposed to be an autonomous function. Maybe that's why my outcome with the CrystaLens was so much better than normal, I don't know.

      But at any rate you're right, your eyes won'

  • by Stupendoussteve (891822) on Monday October 26, 2009 @11:51PM (#29880869)

    Obviously this isn't really "virtual reality", still it's a neat concept.

    I think it could be quite a bit more useful for augmented reality, though a custom made device would be better (especially if it provided peripheral vision). I wouldn't mind a nice Terminator HUD, though maybe a bit less red.

  • by Snowtred (1334453) on Monday October 26, 2009 @11:55PM (#29880885)

    To everyone dogging on this article, consider a few things.

    The whole setup (cardphone, goggles, phone) looks cheap, true, but it IS cheap. It'd be magnitudes cheaper if you made a similar device without the phone, just able to load locations. Spend the savings on a much more comfortable headset and attachment. Hundred bucks, maybe $200, and you know who would love this? Kids. Maybe 2nd to 6th grade. Young enough NOT to complain about the look as I'm seeing here.

    I know my elementary school history education consisted of reading about a culture, and then looking at pictures in a book, usually drawings, sometimes photos. Replace those pictures with these things, and kids would be 10x more interested. And you could definitely put learning into there. Have a scene of a Native American village, a Roman forum, a Civil War battle, or real modern scenes, all in 360 degrees, controlled by the student. It would be simple to tie this into learning and assignments. Have them list pieces of technology they see in the panorama, and explain their functions or how we have a different tool today, or put in an unnamed scene and have them guess the culture along with their reasoning.

    I think cheap solutions using everyday technology like this has LOADS of practical applications, and should be commended and developed upon.

    • by Macgrrl (762836)

      I bet one of these [fisher-price.com] are cheaper and probaly do a better job for kids. OK, so its static images, but the concept isn't new.

  • When he showed a picture of one of those toy 3d viewfinders, I was hoping that it would have two phones, showing a stereoscopic image of sorts. Maybe move the screens a little closer to your eyes for the full 3D effect. You could probably mod (or compile an existing) version of Doom 2 to support displaying the 3D sprites of enemies inside the levels. I don't know if Android phones are capable of running quake 1 or quake 3 but that would be interesting at the very least. A G1 runs as low as $100 on ebay if y

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You could probably mod (or compile an existing) version of Doom 2 to support displaying the 3D sprites of enemies inside the levels

      Not only could, but someone did not with DOOM 2 but with Quake 2 almost ten years ago. They had stereoscopic screen shots you used the colored 3D glasses to see.

      The problem with using a phone display as VR glasses is you would have to be incredibly nearsighted to see anything, or wear a pair of geezer reading glasses to artificially produce the needed myopia. How closely can you

  • Get outside - there's the part about the sun and no it won't hurt you...not much and not for long anyway.
  • It would give a much more 'realistic' experience if he didn't have the phone blocking the view out the front.
  • I am one of the lucky few that has actually used a true VR rig at Autodesk in the early 90's. And as others have pointed out, the OP is not VR. Much like the flying car, VR simply asks too much of you to gain widespread acceptance.

    But augmented reality is a completely different game and stands a good chance of being the next big thing.

    Since this is /. let's make the effort to get our terminology correct.

    The OP shows us that AR is starting to arrive. If Apple showed up with iAR glasses, what apps would yo

    • by F34nor (321515)

      Take a look at http://cellagames.com/artd.html [cellagames.com] It is by far the most impressive thing I have ever seen a phone do.

      If you have a Nokia e-series Symbian phone with a camera you can fire up an awesome AR game right now. You print out a series of cards that have a block bar code system on them and place them on a flat surface. The camera reads the codes and the game converts them into 3D and projects bad guys, bases, and lasers on the screen. Its not fully mature and your arm gets tired but you can pan around y

  • When he started talking about Viewmaster I thought he was going to build a stereoscopic viewer. That's what made the Viewmaster compelling... not that it was "immersive", but that it was 3d.

    Also, he left out the high-speed-measuring-and-cutting-the-cardboard montage that would make it look like a real wacky science show episode.

    It would have been much cooler if he demoed one of those apps that combines the camera view with geopositioning info to show you the way to the nearest Starbucks.

  • They do nassing!
  • OK, I watched this one and was almost waiting for a punchline at the end. My initial instinct was that it was lame because the guy was using a cardboard box, tape, and safety goggles, and yet the more I watched it, the more it began to seem cool. Strange?!?!

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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