Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rift: Day two

Yesterday I got UDK up and running and took Epic Citadel for a spin. Enabling the Rift was as easy as running the level from the editor, open the console (by pressing "~") and typing the following "stereo on" and "hmdwarp on".

Console in the UDK
Tracking, it seems, was enabled out of the box so nothing else was needed.

The verdict? It kicks ass! The graphics, even though they are made for phones, are very impressive on the Rift. My motion sickness took longer to set in as well. I don't know if it is because I'm starting to get used to the experience, but what helps, for me at least, is to close my eyes when I move around with the mouse - since that is what confuses the senses. Moving back and forth along the direction I look in is not a big issue.

Having two monitors when working with the Rift isn't necessarily the optimal solution since there are issues with vsync apparently. What happens is that you'll get tearing on one of the displays - and that might as well be the headset. Which is something you would like to avoid.

Since I have an iMac on my desk already I figured I'd just install a VNC server on the Windows machine and only have the Rift attached to the graphics card. That way I can control the menus/desktop with a VNC client and then close the connection before I put the headset on. Works like a charm! :)

VNC to the rescue.
I don't think the flavor of VNC server matters much, but I opted for RealVNC myself.

Largest print yet

I finished a 15-hour print yesterday. As it didn't finish Sunday, we had cinema tickets and I really don't want the printer to be running when I'm not in the room, I had to pause it and continue yesterday.

Designed in Autodesk Inventor
Pausing the print didn't pose a problem, except for the operator error. I wanted to increase the distance between the print head and the part, while the head cooled down, and indadvertedly pressed move z 10 mm in the wrong direction... The print head buried itself well and good into the model, but when I reversed the direction the damage wasn't too bad. After a bit of cleanup the next day I could continue the print. Kinda lucky there.

The print came out pretty good, except for two layers around the point where I paused and that's totally my fault. By being more careful I'm sure pausing a print will cause no artifacts in the future.

This print took quite a while and I'm pretty sure I can increase the print speed since it clocks in at about 14 mm/sec at the moment. If only there was an option in Slic3r where it would speed up on longer stretches and then slow down around bends or where it goes back and forth rapidly. One for the wish list.

Oh, and what is it you might ask? Its a new stepper motor holder for the y-axis on my Sumpod.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oculus Rift: First Impressions

This Monday UPS delivered my Oculus Rift - which were a pleasant surprise since it's still, as of today, which is Sunday, listed as "Processing for delivery" on my account page on the Oculus web site.

Shipping box.
Nice and sturdy packaging.
High product value going on here. Even if it's "just" a developers kit. Me like :)
As I'll probably will be bringing the Rift with me the case will be handy to have.
As the OS X devkit weren't available when I got the kit didn't have anything to test it on as I'm mostly on Mac and Linux these days. Still - the new PC arrived after a couple of days so no big deal. Had to fiddle a bit around to get it up and running though; It's been quite a while since I put together a "gaming rig" and a dated BIOS prevented me from booting with the Nvidia card.

Getting the system up and running with Windows 7 and the rest of the software needed took most of yesterday so it weren't until today I could hook up the Rift and do a test run. Very excited!

Current setup with a small 1280x720 display to extend/mirror the Rift. Oh, and a big iMac 27" in the background. Kind of the reason I don't want any more big displays at the moment ;)
My first impression, when I put on the goggles, were: "Wow! Those pixels are big!". Which is nothing new, and something I were prepared to experience, but still. On the other hand I did fire up the goggles while still on the desktop and a pure, blue, background doesn't give you much to look at. Having since learned that you can start the Unity Tuscany demo on your other display and switch it over to the Rift using the F9 key makes things a bit easier. As others have noted; you can't navigate your desktop with the Rift!

It's a must to have a second monitor to navigate the desktop and in-game menus.
I know there's work being done in this area, but I haven't had time to test it out myself yet. There's an active thread on the MTBS3D forum about this.

That said; the Tuscany demo is very nice and you kind of forget those pixels when you move around - which is the best part. The Rift tracks your head movement very precisely and you really get the feeling you're "there". Until, after a couple of minutes, you get pretty nauseous. At least I did...

As I'm prone to motion sickness this didn't surprise me at all, but I think the main reason in this case were from moving around using the keyboard and mouse. As long as I'm in one place, just looking around I didn't feel a thing. My hope is that having positional tracking as well will alleviate this since the cues picked up by the middle ear will correlate to what the eyes see. I might try to implement some means to test this later on. Later when I tried out some other demos the effect weren't nearly as strong so I hope it will pass entirely in the future.

Firing up Hawken were a nice surprise. As it's not released with Rift support yet, at first I didn't understand why my POW was looking straight down, until I saw the headset laying on the desk next to me with the front down. Seems like the tracking works as expected, but the camera-rendering isn't enabled yet. There might be a way of enabling this in an ini file, but I haven't gotten that far yet. The same goes for the Citadel demo in the Unreal Developers Kit. Works fine with the head tracking, but I need to tweak the same (?) ini file to turn on the 3D view. Something to try out tomorrow.

The Rift being a developers kit I didn't expect too much, but so far I'm very happy with it. If the guys at Oculus VR manage to implement positional tracking as well as a more pixel-dense display I think the consumer version will be great product. And I hope this time around VR won't flop like it did back in the 90s.