Oculus Rift and Touch

I’m super excited for the imminent onslaught of consumer grade VR equipment and game support. I think it will change how games are played from now on. Not all games, mind you, it takes a certain level of involvement to strap on a head-mounted display and get into the experience. The military already uses similar technology extensively for training. It’s just a matter of months before equipment hits shelves.

That said, there’s a serious problem with it already. When you strap on a VR headset, your mouse and keyboard disappear. They seem antiquated as you tilt and peak below the headset to find the right keys. HIDs are going to need a total revamp to work well with head mounted VR.

Enter the Oculus Touch. Basically two Wii motion controllers. It makes sense. I can’t say it’s the best solution, because no one really knows what is (well, aside from 100% perfect hand and finger motion tracking without any device attached). It’s a great start, and I can see it working well.

via Engadget

For example, one thing I’m really excited for is VR support in my favorite flight combat sim, Eagle Dynamic’s DCS. I’ve seen some footage of the Oculus in use with it, and I’ve used the Oculus DK2 for development and with other games. But DCS has some serious keyboard use involved when playing. Even if you have a nice HOTAS, you can’t map all functions down to the toggle switches and buttons. And even then, you have to know it by feel. What DCS does offer (somewhat uniquely, if I’m not mistaken), is the ability to use in cockpit (on-screen) controls–currently with the mouse.

The new Oculus Touch should be able to handle that. Reach out and you see a hand reach out on screen. Move your hand over to the landing gear switch and press a button. How’s that for integration? This isn’t anything new, the technology’s been around for years now but no one’s made a solid controller for the PC, nor has any game I’m aware of supported it.

I was already excited for Oculus (and other VR HMDs). First-person shooters are also about to see a big change. The current heavy reliance on mouse input for looking and keyboard input for moving makes a lot of FPSs all about mouse/keyboard coordination. HMDs will allow a more realistic experience–if that’s what’s desired. For me, I’m more about the simulation than kill counts (or “360 no scopes”) so I can’t wait.

Action Camera Review: Garmin Virb Elite

After seeing a fellow MSNE autocrosser post a video with nice data overlays, I asked what datalogger and software he used. It turns out it wasn’t just a data logger, it was a camera that gathered his speed, acceleration, and so on for him. It was the Garmin Virb Elite. The ‘Elite’ part signifying the difference between the non-sensor, data-less variant.

I’d never heard of it, and I thought I kept at least a cursory eye on the action camera market. I was familiar but not impressed with GoPro’s Hero line (and always confused about which version had what features). The Hero prices always seemed steep for what they were. I’d talked with other autocrosser’s about their cameras. I’d looked at the Sonys, the knock-offs, and the half-way knock-offs. But then again, I’d never actually bought a real action camera, and am definitely not a professional video producer. I am decently savvy enough with technology though.

So, I immediately looked it up. $260 on Amazon at the time (more on that later). Good reviews. I read review sites. A couple days of contemplation later, and I decided, “Hell, it’s a good starter camera at worst.”, and bought one. Another couple of days later and I’m happy to say I am thoroughly impressed.

So, let me quickly point out some pros and cons that mattered or were interesting to me:

Pros:

  • Records 720p60, 1080p30 and lower. That’s about as far as my video cares go.
  • Wireless control via phone app (iOS & Android)
  • Easy record/off slider (glove-friendly), with LED feedback
  • Onboard LCD viewfinder (unbacklit)
  • Wireless viewfinder
  • GoPro mount adapter (to use GoPro accessories)
  • Long battery life
  • GPS, Accelerometer datalogging to GPX (XML) format (non-proprietary)
  • Decent video editing software at no extra cost
  • Can do dash-cam duty (overwrite oldest recordings)
  • Can invert video by 180° via setting

Cons:

  • No suction cup mount
  • No tripod mount (1/4″-20 threaded hole)

For another $5 or so, you can purchase a tripod mount on Amazon, so it’s no big deal. It still would have been nice to have one in the box anyway.

What sealed the deal for me was the sensor data, and the GPX output format. It just so happens the post-production video software I use, RaceRender, handles GPX. This is in addition to the MSL (MegaSquirt log file) format. So, I can get RPM, boost level, and throttle position from MSL, and combine it with speed, and G-force from the camera. Cool! That’s a lot of data, more than I can display in the video frame at one time.

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