The hot open-sourcing trend has finally made it to the virtual reality realm. The University of Southern California recently unveiled a website that will serve as a database for open-source, DIY virtual reality projects.
The site will focus on providing schematics and instructions for building head-mounted displays while avoiding excessively priced ready-made VR headsets. It is backed by USC's MxR Lab, which primarily develops technologies for creating advanced human-computer interfaces.
Mark Bolas and David Nelson of USC's MxR Lab are overseeing the open-source initiative. Bolas, the lab's director, works on the development of hardware and software for immersive virtual reality systems. He helped build the Wide5 head-mounted display for Fakespace Labs and was involved in the Oculus Rift project. He discussed the new site with Road to VR:
We went open, because it was the only way to truly disrupt the HMD marketplace. We believe it has just gotten started and can not wait for people to take all these designs we have on our site to see what they will do with them.
A modification to the Oculus Rift upgrades the headset with stereo cameras from an Xbox Kinect device . (Source: imgur.com)
One of the first headset projects up on the MXR DIY website is the VR2GO mobile viewer, which utilizes a 3D-printed case coupled with an iPhone or iPod camera and motion sensors. Another is the Socket HMD, which provides a 90-degree field of vision and 1,280-by-800 resolution virtual display. Modifications to previous designs are also available on the site, including one that will soup up the Oculus Rift with an Xbox Kinect to provide optical tracking and spatial mapping.
The initiative's goal is to expand the nascent virtual reality field rapidly by getting the hardware and software out there and in the hands of interested developers. Soon virtual reality headsets may be commonplace in our quickly advancing technological world filled with open-source, 3D printable developments.
I'm with you, JimT. And I think there is a generational aspect to this. Heck, young people believe all recorded music is open source. My daughter for years paid for every song. But after years of watching her friends download absolutely everything, she began to feel like a sap.
I think you're right, Rob--VR does seem like a no-brainer application for the type of free-handed, individualized experimentation and exploration that open source development encourages. It's interesting that both you and AnandY said essentially the same thing about not being employees of a large company: that may be relevant not only for access to technology but especially for creative freedom or the lack thereof.
Jim, I agree with your observation. Moving forward, corporate marketing needs to rethink the impact of open source technology and how their financial models and business decisions can be adjusted to take advantage of this new paradigm.
This technology will provide the young generation with an opportunity for simulating software using their resources. The need to be employees of large firms is therefore greatly reduced. It is also an efficient mechanism for reducing the costs associated with experimental hardware and software.
Open source is great at reducing the costs of experimental hardware and software. Looks like that trend is making inroads into VR as well as robotics and other areas. I'd be surprised if it hasn't hit games yet.
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