Aug 03

Current project: Trinus Gyre, transforming your Android into an Oculus Rift

I’ve recently been working in a project that got me quite excited, and I think it is time to share a bit 🙂
I’ve been fooling around with the idea for quite a long time now, and on and off was trying to find the right mixture of software and hardware from different sources.
The idea, yes, well, basically: I wanted a setup for playing VR games, something like Oculus Rift or the likes but on the cheap/DIY.
The thing is, it is not hard to realize that most of the hardware for such a head mounted display is already available on a modern smartphone. The main issue is putting the software together to get it working. A bit more than a year ago I got an OpenDive, a headset carcass for your phone. I played a bit with it, tried different tech demos for it, combined with video streaming apps like Kainy but that’s about it… I didn’t get anything really worth using so I dropped the project.
Until recently. After I heard about the Google Cardboard project I thought a bit more about it, searched again for cool options but couldn’t find a proper solution, that is, a mixture that would let me play PC games immersing through a head tracking, 3D display headset. Again, nothing properly working… you would thing somebody would have made something about it (maybe they have and I didn’t google hard enough). Point in case, I decided to go ahead and build the software to be able to use my phone as a 3D display and head tracking device that I could mount on the OpenDive.
And I have something quite promising at this point, I mean the game choices are a bit limited (some have head tracking support, some have 3D view support, and a few have both), and there is room for improvement to make it more compatible and reliable, but here you can see what I have managed so far:

If you would be interested in trying yourself, head to this page for instructions and download links, hopefully you can bring me some feedback and maybe find other games that can work with it.
Here’s the list of requirements to get up and running:
– My video server and Android app
– Opentrack (it might work with FacetrackNoIR too, but I stopped using it because of the mapping limitations for the yaw/pitch/roll angles)
– Some 3D game with Freetrack support (FlightGear and Simconnect should do too). Arma 2, Condor gliding simulator and Rise of Flight worked for me. Also used Grid and Dear Esther for testing (no head tracking support though)
– Of course, you will need a headset holder for your phone. You can make your own, buy a Google Cardboard (plenty of places online) or a Durovis Dive
– Optionally, you can use TriDef (doesn’t work very well atm, because of the fullscreen requirement) or Vireio perception (I liked that one, it is a work in progress but it is free) for stereoscopic view

On the hardware side, you need a PC, an Android device and a network connecting them both.

Mar 24

Going full retro (the event)

It feels like it was just about 20 years ago, that I was a kid enjoying videogames… but it was actually just this past weekend when I was playing some good old classics from Atari, Sega and Nintendo… like such a kid, but having to pay bills.

I have been accumulating a modest collection of video consoles in recent times… I guess it is the equivalent of getting a chopper at your 40s, just that I am still ‘only’ 35 (I have to start thinking on choosing a bike though, that’s going to be hard, since I do not really like them). Not that I get a lot of time to play, but I do enjoy the research, the memories and the ‘quick’ game now and then.

I cannot really pinpoint what it is exactly about going back to those pixellated days… I know I am not the only one, but why do we do that? is it just because it reminds us of better (or plain easy) days? because it makes us feel younger, doing the same interactions with some character on the screen as we would decades ago? is it the new perspective it brings, as an adult, into the video gaming industry and history, now that it has become a mainstream form of media instead of something for nerdy kids? maybe it’s just a desire for collection?

possibly a bit of all of the above… but this post is not to discuss reasons, this post is not a cure or a path to epiphany… this post is just to announce another dose, for those in need: as part of the Telegraph Hill Festival, I am organizing a retro gaming event for people that want to revive the good old days, when music wasn’t so loud and things were made to last. Starting at noon this 5th of April, at the Telegraph At the Earl of Derby (that’s a pub, here) we will have a blast from the past playing old school games, competing with each other and arguing why Nintendo was better than Sega (or viceversa). Modern day kids welcome!

Jan 20

Speccy in a frame

Skip the reading and go here (or there) if you just want to get your hands on a framed Speccy as soon as possible! 🙂

Some time ago I bought a ZX Spectrum as part of a garage sale lot (from ebay, actually). It wasn’t working so I decided to disassemble and re-arrange its parts, frame it and hang it on a wall. It looked so good that I thought it would be nice to share it with others… at a price because, of course, the raw materials are not cheap, especially the computer itself. Even faulty units are costly.

Before dissecting them, I make sure they don’t work (no functional Spectrum was harmed in the production of the frames). If they only have some minor issue I try and fix them. Either way, it makes me happy to give this beloved piece of history a second life, a place to shine.

This is a way for the grown up kids to remember it, and for the next generations of kids to learn about its existence (even if they are like “duh, that’s just old crap” – well excuse me smartass, but if it wasn’t for this now you wouldn’t have… er… iPants, GameStations or whatever is cool these days!).

In any case, I do hope these framed piece of history inspires nice discussions about the good old days, when things were made to last and music wasn’t so loud.

At some point I decided to expand and try framing oldschool gamepads, to see if they looked good. They do!


If you would like one, please visit my shop at Etsy and Folksy. Or, you know, contact me… I’m right here 🙂