Author Archives: admin

Can VR keep us healthy?

Exercising isn’t hard. Most people actually really enjoy it when they get around to it. But people need more incentive, and exercising needs to be even easier so that as many people as possible enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

That’s why I see potential in using virtual reality as a means of increasing the incentive of exercise. Playing a game while e.g. running around on an omnidirectional treadmill  might be quite a good  exercise while still being able to have fun and play with friends.
The possibilities aren’t bounded with reality as we know it, so as an example a person could easily fly around a virtual world using a real world exercise bike as the flight machine’s source of combustion.

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Augmented reality can also provide enough incentives to move if people use more gestural or physical ways of interacting with devices. As an example imagine using the Myo as a way for children to interact with apps like Fruit Ninja, with real chops and punches. Somewhat like a “portable kinect” because kids could use it with their tablets on the go.
When we’ve started using mobile devices along with the Myo, we’ve essentially gotten away from the restriction of having to stay around a certain devices. The main computing device (smartphone) stays in the pocket while the armband measures the gestures of the user. This way gaming can extend beyond a single building, by connecting two or more smartphones together creating games that augment real games with scoring, sound, clues, and long distance communication. Imagine for instance the aforementioned kids playing laser tag in the park by just pointing at each other and making gestures. Orienteering might become a part of the game, teaching navigational skills, enhancing the experience and enrich the user with data.

Brain- Computer Interfaces

Computers have become a big part of most people’s lives. They’re evolving more and more in the direction of becoming a part of us, an extension of ourselves.

Wearables provide us information and allow communication with anybody, everywhere we go. Most often they are used to interpret touch, gesture or voice as expressions.

Another option is direct brain control. EEG can be used to translate the electrical activity, resulting from current flow in the brain, into commands for a computer (see “the EPOC“).

To control e.g. mouse cursor, the thought of moving it has to occur consciously. The process is not very fast, but the technology can definitely be valuable for paralyzed people and probably for gamers who want this extra input to enhance their experience.

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Another form of connection between the brain and a device, is the hypothesis that TMS  to the left temporal lobe of the brain can induce savant like skills in people with healthy brains. Professor Allan Snyder, director of the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney, is one of the people who have been researching this topic and demonstrated the results.

These two areas of research hint towards the possibility that “thinking caps” might be common for future wearable technology. Technology can truly enhance what humans are capable of and the opportunities seem endless. Now I’ll stop writing and switch my thinking cap to relax mode.

 

DIY: How to make a wireless keyboard and mouse GLOVE!

This is not intended as an exact step for step guide, but a guide to provide insights into how people can build their own customized glove. Recommended for people with programming- and some electronics experience.

Search Sparkfun for flex sensors, MPU6050, Arduino Pro Mini 5V, FTDI 5V, Bluetooth HID,  9V battery, voltage regulators (3.3 V and 5V).
Other things you’ll need include glove, needle and thread,  breakaway headers and solder.

Start by finding appropriate resistors to use for voltage division for the flex sensor reading. Write a simple Arduino code that reads the range of values for each sensor and select an appropriate threshold value that later decides whether a finger is bent.

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Now check out this open source MPU6050 library written by Jeff Rowberg and use it to detect yaw, pitch and roll from the MPU6050.
The connections from the MPU to the Arduino are as follows:

MPU5060                        Arduino

Vdd———————– 3.3V

Vio ————————3.3V

SDA ———————- A4

SCL ———————–A5

INT ————————D2

GND ———————-GND

Make sure that you don’t connect the MPU to more than 3.3V.

Now, lets try sending something with the HID bluetooth device. Connect it to the Arduino and go into Command Mode using the instructions from sparkfun. (https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/using-the-bluesmirf/example-code-using-command-mode)

To read about the functionality of the Bluetooth device see the Users Manual. But to save you some time I’ll write some useful commands here:
SH,0230  – Combo mode (keyboard, mouse and joystick)

S~,6 – HID register

R,1   – Reboot

SM,6  – Pairing mode

SF,1 – Factory reset

To connect the parts together, make a circuit board with voltage regulators, and connectors to the battery, the flex sensors and the arduino. Make connectors between the arduino and the Bluetooth device, but make sure not to solder them together so that you can upload a new code to the Arduino anytime. Before putting the things together, sew the flex sensors and the MPU to a glove that you want to use for this project.

 

Now that the hardware is ready, you must put the code together. First you need to make a function that writes letters through the Bluetooth device. The letters can be chosen by bending the appropriate bend sensor. For the mouse functionality make a function that changes the pointers funcion, put it in the loop function and let it take as input the rate of change of the yaw and pitch (depending on x or y axis of the display) times a constant, that determines the mouse sensitivity.
To be able to write the whole alphabet with just one hand, you can make a state machine that changes states when e.g. a roll of the hand is performed. If roll, then you can e.g. make special characters  and toggle mouse functionality ON and OFF, by bending appropriate fingers. Also you can make a quick roll, going back to the original hand position, but this time the hand has changed to a state where you can write another set of five characters. I recommend that the first character set is set up to be the five most frequent letters that appear in writing, and so forth. Customize your glove any way you want!

Finally, if you want to be able to use touchscreens with the glove, cut out the fabric on the tip of the fingers and sew some conductive fabric into it instead!

Why is wearable technology important?

So the first thing I can imagine some people think when they see new gadgets like Smartwatches and Google Glass is “Oh my, just another devices that gives me notifications and information overload”. Now for some part that might hold true, but like with most revolutionary technology, if people use it responsibly, they can be of tremendous benefit.

Today’s desktop computers have for years given people problems with their back and neck, although recent studies indicate that the health problems people get from prolonged sitting are much severe than previously thought as seen in this article.

Luckily, the solutions seem to be just around the corner. The wearables are emerging. Soon we’ll see screens that follow us around (Google Glass), conveying necessary information to us, while wearable input devices such as the Myo (from Thalmic Labs) could be used to interact with a mobile device in an unrestrained manner.

I can imagine a future were we can work anywhere, collaborating with people; seeing things from their point of view, read books in a straight up posture (even while walking) and feeling good while doing meaningful work.