Jun 10, 2008

Procrastination at its most fun...


Okay, so usually when I get a horrid case of Writer's Block and just can't seem to push through a project, I just walk away for a while and pick something that satisfies any or all of 3 conditions:

(1) It has to be completely non-productive from a business angle.
(2) It should involve some sort of purchase that I might regret later.
(3) It should take away 2 to 3 hours that I won't get back.

I'm happy to announce that my latest NXT project has satisfied all 3 conditions, making it a worthy blog news item - it's a non-autonomous tri-wheeled rover with virtual exploration capabilities.

Okay, it's a remote controlled tribot with a wireless camera that feeds into some virtual goggles I bought and allows me to drive my tribot while I'm not in the room.

Here's how it breaks down:

1. Tribot
2. 2nd NXT Remote Control
3. Wireless Camera (with microphone!)
4. Wireless Camera Receiver
5. Video Eyewear (goggles)

The latest issue of MAKE magazine spurred me to do it - the cover has a remote control car that sends a wireless video signal to its owner's goggles. You've probably seen similar toys that allow you to view the action from the vehicle's point of view. Well, it works... and then some.

1. You can get dizzy if it gets moving too fast.
2. Turning left and right will actually cause you to either turn your head or lean in your chair.
3. It's addictive.
4. It makes your spouse shake her head and walk away mumbling something...
5. It's like having a 50" widescreen TV about 8 feet in front of you.
6. Yes, those goggles have ear pieces for sound (woo hoo - patrol your house for hostiles)
7. Did I mention you can get REAL dizzy doing it?
8. Yes, the goggles look a little goofy, but did I mention how fun it is to see things from your tribot's perspective?
9. I've got ALL KINDS of new robot ideas to try with this thing.

I wish I could post a video of what the experience is like - I'll do some digging and maybe I can find a way to split the signal and send it to my laptop so you can see what I see...

And... magically... my Writer's Block feels over. Back to work.

18 comments:

Kirk Backstrom said...

Jim,

Where did you source the video goggles?

Kirk

Jim Kelly said...

I got them off Craigslist for $65. They're normally $132 from Zetronix, but I just checked and it appears they've raised their price.

Matthias Paul Scholz said...

Jim,

I'm looking forward to your video...

Brian Davis said...

How did you power the goggles and video receiver (is that covered in the MAKE article)? When I did this with the cheaper (and it kind of shows) Spygear goggles, getting a portable powersource was one of the big issues:

http://thenxtstep.blogspot.com/2008/01/
head-mounted-displays-for-lego-vehicles.html

I also moved up to a 2.4 GHz spycam... and ironicly can't use it, as it turns out it messes up my local wireless network (Airport). I'll be playing with my spycam-equipped robot and my wife will suddenly lean down, staring into the tiny spycam (much bigger than life on the headphones), and inform me she is not amused... :)

--
Brian "great, now I've got a *further* project to work on" Davis

Jim Kelly said...

The goggles have a built-in rechargeable battery (good for 5 hours the box says, so I'm guessing 2 hours is more realistic).

They connect using standard RCA cables to the wireless receiver (but the goggles come with a variety of cable connectors). The wireless receiver is the only thing that really anchors you - finding a way to power it would be nice but, then again, do you really want to be walking around with goggles on that obstruct your view. The goggles come with a soft rubber "shroud" that you can put inside the frame that totally block out any outside light.

It's fun... I'm tinkering with a new project that uses the goggles and will post something hopefully in the next few weeks.

Tonight I'm attaching the camera to my hi-speed RC Car and see if I can handle the visuals.

Parax said...

have you thought about a crazy head mounted control? a gyro for turning and an accelerometer for forward (down) & back (up)
If you get it right it could eliminate the dizzieness!

Jim Kelly said...

I have some NXT-G code from HiTechnic that would allow me to use the Acceleration Sensor to give directional control - tip my head forward, move forward... to the left, turn left... that kind of thing.

I don't get motion sick or seasick, but the visuals provided by these goggles makes me think that moving my head around while watching the screen might be a bit too much. I also think it would get confusing... as I tip my head forward for the robot to move forward, I'm still looking at a "straight ahead" view from the camera... so my inner ear is sending mixed signals that my eyes aren't going to agree with.

Scribe said...

Hey, do you know of any cheaper headsets that would work with that kind of setup? It looks like WildPlanet stopped making the spares for the car, and that doesn't support audio.

Thanks,
Christopher/Scribe/cjb204

Jim Kelly said...

Christopher,

Sorry, I don't. I did just a little digging on the Internet and found a pair that support VGA. The video output isn't Hi-Def quality, but it's good enough to have fun and get the sensation of speeding along the floor at 1/10 size.

Parax said...

Actually Jim you could get the motions correct another way.
Forward acceleration is tilt head back, then constant velocity is level head and deceleration is tilt head forward. your inner ear would interpret the angular change of gravity as a change of accleration in the same way a simulator works. but you would have to tune the rate!

Personally I would go with a gyro for turning though, but I guess tilting your head sidways would be like riding a motor bike...

Parax said...

Going one stage further.. if you had an accelerometer on the tribot and one on the headset you could program the tribot to accelerate at the same rate as the headset tilt accelerometer reported. would probably need some pretty fast PID code to rate match though..

but the dizzieness is only caused by the mixed eyes and balance signals, so there is only one way to eliminate it and that is to match a movement of balance to a movement of sight.

Christopher R. Smith (Littlehorn) said...

The Wild Planet R/C Spy Car (SpyGear) is available for under $60.00 USD (I found it on Amazon for $44). This is for the whole setup.

Chris

Jim Kelly said...

I remember when that came out - my only question is how the video looks. My goggles are fairly decent resolution and it really does give you a good view of the surroundings in full-color.

Christopher R. Smith (Littlehorn) said...

Brian D. could provide an opinion on the Spy Car's video quality. The Head Mounted Display video IS black & white and only on one eye.

Jim, if your googles have 2 screens and color..? Very cool for your price!

Chris

Jim Kelly said...

Yes, they're full-color, not B&W. The color isn't what I would call extremely vivid, but enough to make out differences and details.

I attached it last night to an RC car (the green one, MDPers) and the acceleration was fun - startles you a bit when it takes off because the video is real-time and extremely bright.

NXTMonger said...

It messes up the AirPort? Darn. I have an AirPort Extreme.

Brian Davis said...

I can't speak too much on the quality - it's not great, but then again it cost me only $25, so I'm not complaining... but I am coveting dual-eye color screens. The other problem with the WildPlanet solution is that they are PAL-native (although with a soldering iron you can hack them to NTSC, I've not been so brave), so there's a little distortion in mine... but still fine for most driving. Yes, it's made me want to get an "imporved" setup, and yours might be the hot ticket. Rats, something *else* facinating to do... :)

As to Airport interferance, yeah, it does seem to be an issue... so you play with them outside. Not too bad a problem, and one of the reasons my setup is battery-powered completely mobile.

--
Brian Davis

Scribe said...

so is airport the same as wifi?

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