Projecting Virtual Reality with a Microvision SHOWWX

It’s bit of a stretch to call this Virtual Reality, in capitals no less, but I can’t think of another noun that fits it better.  This is the idea I have been hinting about, sprouted into a proof of concept.  By combining the stable positioning of the SpacePoint Fusion with the always in focus Microvision SHOWWX picoprojector, one can create a pretty convincing glasses-free virtual reality setup in any smallish dark room, like the bedroom in my Bay Area apartment.

Projecting Virtual Reality

This setup uses the SpacePoint to control the yaw, pitch, and roll of the camera, letting you look and aim around the virtual environment that is projected around you.  A Wii Remote and Nunchuk provide a joystick for movement and buttons for firing, jumping, and switching weapons.  All of the items are mounted to a Wii Zapper.  For now, it is annoyingly all wired to a laptop I carried around in a backpack.  Eventually, I’m planning on using a BeagleBoard and making the whole projector/computer/controller/gun setup self-contained.

The software is a hacked version of Cube, a lightweight open source first person shooter.  It’s no Crysis 2, but it runs well on Mesa on integrated graphics, and it’s a lot easier to modify for this purpose than Quake 3.  Input is via libhid for the SpacePoint and CWiid for the Wiimote.  All in all, it actually works pretty well.  The narrow field of view and immersiveness (a word, despite what my dictionary claims) makes playing an FPS quite a bit scarier for those who are easily spooked, like yours truly.  There is some serious potential in the horror/zombie/velociraptor genres for a device like this, if anyone is interested in designing a game.

This is just the start, of course.  I know I say that a lot, and there are about a dozen projects on this blog I’ve abandoned, but I think this one will hold my attention for a while.  I hate showing off anything without source code, so even though it will likely not be useful to anyone, I’ve attached the patch against the final release of Cube.


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28 Replies to “Projecting Virtual Reality with a Microvision SHOWWX”

  1. Why don’t you strap the projector onto a baseball cap so you can turn your head around and look at things rather than turn your whole body to see around.

    1. That’s on the to do list. I’ll repost a comment I made on YouTube:

      I’m considering helmet mounting it.  The issue is decoupling the viewing from the aiming of the gun, so you don’t have to move your head to shoot an enemy.

      That’s something I can’t do without a serious overhaul of Cube, the first person shooter I hacked for this. It will take some time, but I may just write my own sandbox to play around with this stuff in, using a library like Panda3d or Ogre3d.

      1. Protip: duck hunt / nintendo light gun.

        You have a laser projector. It scans the image in lines. You can extrapolate where exactly the gun is pointed by mounting a light sensor behind a lens with a narrow field of view. When the software senses a trigger press, it flashes the screen white for one frame, and a timer counts how long it takes for the gun to see it.

  2. Wow if you could ever technically figure out a way to synchronize the game with a surround sound system this would be the ultimate virtual reality experience.

  3. You know that you could literally create a 3D overlay of your house, modify it and then when you start your ‘game’ up you could move the gun around and it would project an ‘alternate side’ of your house with the projector.

    So you would have a 3D house overlapping your house, wherever you go in your house, it would match up.

    Now THAT would be awesome. Would also be cool to set up something like that for something like a laser skirmish where you could use the projector gun to search for clues on walls and that sort of thing, activating invisible levers or buttons on the projected side of things which would activate actual events in real time to make the laser skirmish much more realistic and sci-fi’ish

      1. NRP….are there any updates on this project. I’d love to see it in person. I live nearby. Why use a Beagleboard? Have you considered this board…>>> It’s a slightly larger board that includes more RAM, built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, a USB host, and an Ethernet jack


  4. Great projects Nirav! Have you considered using a head-mounted display (eg VR glasses)? Not sure on FOV of HMD vs. Showwx, but It might make it more of an immersive experience. Also, in your opinion, is the best point of input for a FPS the head or the gun? It’d be kind of weird aiming with your face, but you’d get a much more realistic mapping of turning your head to the movement on screen. I don’t think there are games (yet) where the gun is detached, although that’d be an even higher level of awesomeness.

    P.S. CMU Plug: We recently started a program called Build 18 that’s basically a week long sponsored (~$250 budget) hack-a-thon. You have some great project ideas here 🙂

    1. Yes. I thought about getting a Vuzix, but the FOV is really constricting. The FOV of the SHOWWX is marginally better, but still not great. At some point, I’m going to build my own HMD, but thats pretty low on the to do list.

      In my opinion, using your head for looking and a detached gun for pointing is by far the most immersive solution. I may revisit this project to add that. I believe it is often done for HMD based virtual reality.

      I’m glad Build 18 is still going strong. I took part in the first one at the end of the spring 09 semester. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a parts budget then, so we cobbled together an XBee/Arduino based wireless multimeter out of borrowed parts.

      1. Hmm…you might be able to get away with displaying a “farther out” view in front of you and just have turns not be as much angle-wise. Yes, separate would be ideal though.

        Awesome! Yes, having a cultivated budget from industry contacts is really nice and helps further “out there” ideas much faster.

        Not sure what I will do yet for spring’s Build 18, but I have a few ideas.

  5. Hi!

    I’ve just released a game (or proof of concept) on the Android Market where you use the sensors of the phone and a projector plugged into it to achieve the same results as without additional hardware. Quite simple at this stage but it’s cool!
    You can see a (crappy) video of the game at my site, or go download ‘Trapped!’ in the Android Market (I’d like to see it on a better projector, as mine is not very bright and led based, so post your videos if you get the chance!).


  6. Sounds like an innovative way to experience virtual reality! Can’t wait to explore the possibilities of using the Microvision SHOWWX for immersive VR experiences. Ready to dive into a whole new world of interactive entertainment!

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