Challenge Modular: Constructing an open modular controller for SteamVR

Right this moment’s article is likely one of the most lovely printed on this weblog in 2022. And in reality, it has not been written by me.

XR ergonomics skilled Rob Cole printed final 12 months on this platform an article detailing Challenge Caliper, that’s his experiments in constructing absolutely configurable controllers for SteamVR. The article quickly will get viral, and many individuals would have cherished to see these controllers go into manufacturing.

This 12 months, as a Christmas present for you all, he’s publishing the outcomes of the year-long evolution of Challenge Caliper that result in the creation of Challenge Modular. Challenge Modular is the design of XR controllers which can be absolutely modular, extendable, open, and configurable. They’re the dream of each XR tech fanatic. On this publish, you’ll discover all the small print about them, together with the story of the lengthy journey of the various experiments made by Rob, supplied by a protracted descriptive textual content, and lots of fascinating photos.

Rob’s work is wonderful and I sincerely suppose deserves higher recognition than simply being on this web site. It deserves to turn into actuality. I invite you all to attempt to push his work by both giving it visibility, or alternatives to make it come to life. I’m all in supporting him, and I’m certain you can be too after having examine his work and his imaginative and prescient. Completely happy studying.


Challenge Modular

by Rob Cole for Skarredghost

project modular
(Picture by Rob Cole)

Introduction

This time final 12 months, Tony a.ok.a. Skarredghost, was type sufficient to publish my long-read article detailing months of intensive work on a modular movement controller centered on enter choices, ergonomic adjustment, and ease of restore.

The article shortly went viral, and quite a few conferences had been held with completely different firms all for my controller design. They provided a number of small quantities of money, some doubtful cryptocurrency, and parcels of digital land in two completely different metaverses, however nothing that might fund the pre-production work and manufacturing tooling / meeting setup.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

A prolonged Zoom assembly passed off late one night in January, with a bunch of legendary {hardware} builders from a extremely secretive outfit. Out of respect for his or her privateness, my recollection of that assembly stays obscure, although I did ask what everybody desires to know.

I purchased one other Index the very subsequent morning, so there’s the reply to that over-asked query.

About two months after the article first dropped, an invite was acquired to my ultimate Zoom assembly, this time with a company consultant. Excited a couple of potential provide, I agreed to attend, however sadly, I discovered myself going through an aggressive authorized problem over a facet of the design. 

After signing no matter they wished, to keep away from being sued into oblivion, the undertaking was canceled and I used to be requested to not discuss concerning the design anymore, in order that’s all I can say about that.  

Each cloud does have a silver lining although, and I out of the blue discovered spare time to play VR video games, with my new VR system and a ridiculous “Corridor of Fame” 3080Ti graphics card I’d one way or the other acquired at a really affordable value.

Having the ability to flip up body charges while sustaining super-resolution was completely superb, and it was nice utilizing lighthouse monitoring once more. Lastly, I bought to complete Arizona Sunshine, and performed numerous different video games that had been sitting unplayed in my Steam library, rattling these tempting gross sales…

Reboot>

Regardless of totally having fun with my newfound lifetime of leisure (exterior of my actual job), an concept that had been gestating in my mind for months led to that all-familiar {hardware} itch needing to be scratched.

It was time to get busy in non-public, working up an thought for an unconventional method of constructing a movement controller. Preserving issues underneath wraps would hopefully stop additional authorized shenanigans, while eliminating the time burn that’s selling one thing by social media which throughout the earlier undertaking meant answering emails, tweets, and whatnot.

So what was this new thought then?

Typical designs just like the Oculus Contact, Valve Index, and HTC controllers are manufactured utilizing comparatively thin-walled, injection-molded plastic casings, normally break up into two halves. It’s been stated quite a few instances that as soon as the injection mould tooling and meeting setup is paid for, the plastic is so cheap, it’s primarily free.

The remaining inside quantity (empty area contained in the casing) can be utilized to accommodate quite a few parts similar to electronics (monitoring, compute, and GPIO), an influence supply (battery), rumble motor (haptics), enter mechanisms (switches, joystick), flexes and cabling to attach the parts, and so forth.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

This permits sensible designers to make cost-effective merchandise utilizing mass manufacturing processes: injection molding offering plastic casings, automated meeting becoming out layers of parts, secured with machine fixings, adhesive tapes, scorching glue, and many others.

Injection mould instruments are complicated and costly to chop however can be utilized to create many helpful inside particulars similar to reinforcements, mountings, bosses, struts, webs, and spigots to help the parts contained in the controller.

It’s a really neat answer designed particularly for mass manufacturing, however as a result of excessive entry price and want for factories to function at capability, under no circumstances viable for smaller runs. On the flip facet, 3D printing is just too gradual to help mass manufacturing, at the least utilizing present printing know-how.

Injection molded casing controllers have one large flaw; as a result of skinny casing, complicated meeting, and fixing adhesives they weren’t designed to be repairable. It’s not straightforward to switch a broken joystick,  battery, or set off meeting: you’ll typically discover a small becoming screw is obscured by meeting adhesive, substitute of the joystick means shedding capacitive sensing, or damaged triggers are repaired utilizing superglue as entry is tight and spares are scarce.

As a result of it’s not straightforward, it’s not very cost-effective to restore. By the point the product is shipped to a restore middle, a technician is paid an hourly fee to repair it, components are used and the product is shipped again, it’s sadly typically cheaper to provide a brand new controller and simply recycle the broken one.

(Picture by Rob Cole, from Valve web site)

Take into account {that a} single Index controller solely prices £139 model new with free delivery, making repairing it a debatable exercise for any industrial entity. Examine this to a $150 display for a $1000 smartphone, and you may see why a plethora of “Smash” smartphone restore facilities have sprung up in lots of excessive streets and malls.

Nonetheless, the creation of technical guides and substitute components from the current partnership between Valve and I-Fixit is a good step ahead, because it’s “cost-effective” to self-repair when you have the talent, and instruments and may supply licensed substitute components. In the event you can solder competently and aren’t fearful of opening your controller casing, it’s definitely doable to make repairs, with some customers reporting success with becoming another joystick, or a brand new battery.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

From my expertise as an Index launch day proprietor with a number of controllers RMA’s throughout two years of EU guarantee protection, it was usually a single level of failure every time. I’d return a controller with a drifting joystick, a sticking set off, a cracked grip plate, and so forth, however not with a number of failures on the identical controller.

I at all times acquired model new controllers (very easy to identify) as replacements offering a superb buyer expertise. Later now throughout the Index lifecycle, there are customers now mentioning receiving reconditioned controllers which is an enormous enchancment when it comes to E-Waste. My private E-Waste allowance (if there was such a factor) was utterly blown throughout these two years, making me really feel dangerous about all of the delivery and replacements from China through the Netherlands to the UK. 

All of this quickly led me to consider that a design that provided a simple substitute of components which can be susceptible to failure or unintended harm can be effectively value investigating. If the components might be simply changed by the consumer, or by somebody providing such a service within the nation, it might drastically minimize down the variety of defective controllers being shipped lengthy distances to restore facilities (in my case, from the UK to the Netherlands) or simply scrapped if out of guarantee.

The Core Idea

As an alternative choice to injection molded casing controllers, my thought revolved round a “core” containing a Tundra SteamVR HDK ({hardware} growth equipment) and a slim lithium-ion battery pack

I deliberate to seek out out whether or not it was doable to “package deal” this stuff inside a hand-held core which might kind the mounting construction for hand grips, a monitoring body (to mount sensors at applicable positions), and enter parts. Was it doable to have these parts “dangle off” the core, if the core was used as a structural entity?

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I shortly found it was doable to mount the HDK and a Li-ion battery inside a construction that might be compact sufficient to suit inside a small measurement, closed hand. After some assessments with heat-molded plastics and threaded metallic inserts (to permit attachments), one thing extra inflexible, stronger, and decrease profile was required so I switched my pondering, taking a look at army assault rifles for inspiration.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I considered an thought I had used on a earlier undertaking of a “plastic grip” that bolts onto a “rail” aping the notorious ‘Picatinny’ rail used for setting optics and different attachments onto an assault rifle, as seen within the picture above. The Picatinny rail commonplace permits suitable parts to mount in seconds and has created a wealthy ecosystem of suitable components from a number of producers. 

Constructing aluminum alloy rails and plastic bolt-on grips appeared to work, with the Tundra HDK and Li-ion battery snugly accommodated contained in the hand grips. The issue now was understanding methods to connect the remainder of the controller to the hand grip!

Engaged on this downside quickly revealed the answer of lengthening the “rails” to supply attachment factors at every finish for mounting all the opposite components onto, together with the monitoring system.

I then constructed an aluminum mule with plastic grips to get an thought of the scale and form of a monitoring ring that would match across the hand while having clearance, and the way enter parts like a joystick and set off might match into the design.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Grips would encapsulate the Tundra HDK and its a number of flexes, so I attempted becoming it to the Mule to test for clearance, tight however would work, as proven under with the Higher Grip fitted and flexes coming again in the direction of the monitoring ring facet.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Having just lately examined Pimax’s new Sword controllers while making my assessment for Skarredghost, I developed a brand new appreciation for touchpads so determined to construct a placeholder round that type of enter, to maintain it easy while the remainder of it bought labored by.

An unlucky (model new, boxed) Steam controller was sacrificed to the {hardware} gods, and stripped for components together with trackpads, buttons, and triggers.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I used to be again within the controller sport with a brand new thought, and moved shortly, engaged on what would turn into the first-generation Modular controller.

Swapping the Touchpad enter module out for a joystick module ought to be doable, at the least on the {hardware} facet. Was it doable to additionally regulate the gap between the grips and enter module to accommodate completely different fingers?

Remodeling the Rail system made me suppose extra about methods to clarify what it was, developing with this description: “Modula Rail Body”.

“Modular Rail Body”

It appears to make sense: this might be known as a “Modular Rail Body” controller, compared to modern “Injection Moulded Casing” controllers we presently use in VR, just like the Oculus Contact and Valve Index (for many who like abbreviations, MFR controller and IMC controller respectively). 

A necessary operate of the Modular Rail Body design is to present the pliability of a modular system that may accommodate many various choices. Totally different measurement and form hand grips bolt on in seconds. An extended strap might be fitted. Totally different enter choices ought to be accessible to swimsuit the choice of various customers… for teleport folks an honest full measurement touchpad is way superior. And when you like combating video games, what a couple of D-Pad? If you wish to have a contact (drive) sensor in your decrease grip, it may be executed; however when you desire a traditional grip button, that might be executed too. Simply bolt it in, and join that cable!

To make this alteration on an IMC controller shouldn’t be cheap because it requires the injection mould tooling to be considerably reworked, a brand new device minimize, or modifications made to the meeting line.

With the MRF design, new modular components might be shortly printed or manufactured at a a lot smaller scale with a shorter lead time for purchasers. New video games might be launched with particularly made MRF parts to work together with sport code, extra on that later 😉 

Something that will get damaged on an MRF controller might be eliminated and changed with out requiring complicated disassembly; loosen some bolts and unplug a connector, then put it again collectively. Software program instruments would allow adjustment to render fashions of the controller to swimsuit enter choices selection, colour, mods, and many others.

Rebuilding ought to be a much less horrifying proposition than taking aside an IMC controller which may contain warmth weapons, plastic picks, and tiny Torx drivers and require regular fingers and powerful nerves, particularly throughout your first restore “journey”.

Now that I used to be onto one thing tangible with my radical thought of MRF controllers, a number of months of intensive work went into determining how this might be put collectively, and most significantly pondering if it might really be manufactured at any scale.

Utilizing the MRF design idea eradicated an enormous preliminary setup price for manufacturing which was a set of complicated injection molding instruments to make the controller casing. Was it doable to make this factor utilizing aluminum rails with some nuts, bolts, spacers, and maybe some 3D-printed plastic components? If it was doable to hand-build a working prototype in my workshop, it is likely to be doable to construct some extra, at the least on a restricted scale. It was time to seek out out!

Improvement

This time round, it turned a lot simpler to know methods to construct stuff shortly and customarily get it proper the primary or second time. A few of this got here from expertise working with sure supplies and instruments, while additionally having the boldness to get round issues after having punched by many related issues final 12 months.

Time was at all times a problem, there simply wasn’t sufficient spare time as my actual job was at all times busy. Fortunately I managed to work some shorter weeks in the direction of the top of the 12 months, having accrued some trip time, which noticed an enormous acceleration in what I used to be capable of accomplish.

One thing else I managed was getting higher at doing extra in much less time, typically having the ability to break duties down into small chunks, or figuring in time for adhesives or paint to dry while engaged on different duties.

Since an image is reportedly value 1000 phrases, listed here are some photos from Challenge Modular growth throughout 2022.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Lastly, by the top of this Summer season, I had one thing prepared for prototype meeting. The plan was to suit the Tundra Steam VR HDK, write “the JSON” and get the monitoring system operating; then begin including inputs by the GPIO system, and see what occurs!

The primary prototype was designed particularly round Tundra’s HDK, a slim lithium-ion battery, and commercially accessible enter parts that I had scavenged from quite a few gamepad controllers.  I’ve at all times been eager to make use of COTS (industrial off-the-shelf) components because the components exist already, lowering setup prices and threat, and because the saying goes: why reinvent the wheel?

Particularly when there’s somebody making else “nice components”, handily they have already got a manufacturing unit and so they’ve ironed out the manufacturing issues of creating their element lengthy earlier than you come together with an order. Until one thing is proprietary, most factories are blissful to take cash from new clients or can present an analogous product with some small modifications, for the fitting value.

Speaking of parts, the concern concerning the provide of Tundra’s HDK was at all times at the back of my thoughts, because it had been out of manufacturing for a while, and it was unsure whether or not it was going to be accessible once more. Tundra had been very busy with their well-received Steam VR tracker, exhibiting that regardless of the element scarcity that began throughout the Covid pandemic and since worsened, it was doable to get one thing constructed if maybe the order numbers had been enough to make it worthwhile.

With out additional delay, let’s introduce the consequence, beginning with an unboxing of what’s presupposed to be the primary working prototype of Challenge Modular.

Challenge Modular V.1 unboxing

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Coming in a 100% recycled cardboard field, Challenge Modular V.1 controller arrives unassembled with every element in a separate, labelled bag to maintain it secure throughout transit. As soon as the controller is assembled, the baggage might be saved away and the field used to maintain the controller itself secure.

Taking the eight completely different baggage out of the field, we now have:

  • Monitoring Ring
  • Monitoring Head
  • Enter Pod
  • Haptic Hand strap
  • Body
  • HDK on higher rail
  • Higher grip
  • Decrease grip

Taking this stuff out of the baggage reveals extra element, as to precisely what’s what.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The picture above exhibits every merchandise in additional element, however let’s undergo every merchandise in flip, because it helps to elucidate how this strange-looking movement controller matches collectively. 

You’ll want a few hey keys for meeting, on this case, 2mm and 3mm. If becoming out the prototype with a Tundra SteamVR HDK the principle distinction is the cautious routing of the sensor flexes by the cable routing system, while doing the meeting. Right here we are going to present it with out the HDK, because it makes it simpler to know.

Rails

On the coronary heart of the controller, these aluminum alloy Rails have completely different holes for mounting attachments – we now have a “Higher Rail” and a “Decrease Rail”, with a ahead orientation indicated by etchings on the floor.

The magnified picture under exhibits the Tundra HDK fitted into an early incarnation of the Rails, the place the retaining nuts for the entrance and rear axle bolts might be clearly seen. The threaded holes additional inboard of every axle is used to mount the plastic grips. Over time, I had points with these threads changing into worn by continuously rebuilding the event controllers and later switched to metal inserts for long-term sturdiness, with solely a small weight penalty.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The picture under exhibits the Tundra HDK mounted onto the primary model of the highest rail, utilizing VRB tape, which makes for a semi-permanent becoming. 

On the prime and backside ends of the rails are the Axle mounting holes – the axles (lengthy threaded bolts) present a vertical mounting floor for attaching completely different enter / output parts. Preserving it easy, we now have some black aluminum spacers, and never proven within the picture, some spacing washers and retaining nuts which might be nyloc or plain.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Decrease rail shouldn’t be proven right here, it’s a part of the decrease grip within the v.1 design, and has a grip sensor bolted straight onto the metallic rail (extra on this later).

Body

Tying collectively the Rails is the Body, offering a structural brace in addition to a mounting aircraft for the monitoring system’s optical sensors. The Body is manufactured utilizing a recycled aluminum alloy (7000 collection) materials which is fashioned right into a skeletal construction, with mounting factors for attaching the Body to the Rails, and to the Monitoring Head.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As might be seen within the picture above, the aluminum Body is then co-molded utilizing particular heat-molded engineering plastic which is 100% recyclable and non-toxic. This plastic offers a easy floor across the consumer’s hand, and provides a noticeable diploma of power and stiffness in comparison with the aluminum skeleton by itself. 

I arrived at this particular form by many iterations because it additionally homes flex cabling for the optical sensors of the monitoring system, and couldn’t intervene with the consumer’s fingers across the enter space, while permitting a variety of ergonomic changes for the enter controls.

Grips

Bolted onto the rails utilizing 4 countersunk bolts are the Grips. The Grips are the human-hand interplay floor, permitting the consumer to comfortably discover, maintain and grip the controllers; and apply finger actions and grip drive by the completely different controller inputs. The Grips additionally present a safe casing for the controller internals, cabling and optical sensor flexes.

The Higher Grip is a straightforward heat-molded plastic piece, with two countersunk bolts. The entrance bolt is longer because it additionally acts as a mounting level for the entrance of the hand strap. The rear bolt is barely shorter, offering an adjustment mechanism for the rear of the hand strap (extra on this later).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Decrease Grip within the v.1 design has a pressure-sensitive grip sensor bolted on from the within face, with a cable operating into the controller inside the place it may well interface with the GPIO system.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Utilizing the identical type and measurement of bolts because the Higher Grip, the Decrease Grip makes use of shorter size bolts in order to not penetrate the inside of the rail beneath the place the battery is situated. The Grip Sensor is bolted in place utilizing two small countersunk bolts and might be eliminated for substitute or restore, though this requires opening the Rail Body on the V.1 design.

Haptic hand strap

Nonetheless speaking about Grips, these play an important second position which is retaining the Haptic Hand Strap to the controller physique, while offering angle and size changes for the Hand Strap to swimsuit the consumer.

The Hand Strap is firmly elasticated, permitting the consumer to function the controller with out continuously gripping the physique, both for consolation throughout longer periods or throughout “experiences” requiring no enter, or throughout operational actions similar to throwing an in-game object.

The Hand Strap is a straightforward woven elastic cloth piece, one finish warmth thickened and punched by with a small gap for the Higher Grip entrance axle, the axle appearing an anchor level and pivot to set Strap angle.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The entrance of the Hand strap is angle adjustable, by merely loosening the Higher Grip bolt a few turns, rotating the strap to regulate the exit angle, after which re-tightening the bolt which compresses it towards the Higher Rail.

The rear of the Hand strap is secured by compression between the rear of the Higher Grip and the Higher Rail, making size adjustment as straightforward as loosening or tightening the corresponding bolt utilizing a hey key. Pull it to size, tighten the bolt, and it received’t transfer once more. 

This makes for a brilliant easy strap, that’s straightforward to regulate or substitute if worn, but in addition a mounting level for a small Haptic Module that slides onto the strap, and wires into the controller inside utilizing a snap in connector (not proven right here). Boasting a really small however punchy ERM haptic motor (max 3nm), mounted onto a molded plastic physique, with a carbon fiber security protect on prime, and a agency rubber pores and skin contact base.

Found throughout final 12 months’s growth work, once I constructed a haptic check mule known as “squirrel”, I seen that firing even low-power haptics straight into the hand’s metacarpals offers a really highly effective “in hand” stimulation, however solely required a low-power funds (in comparison with utilizing a number of bigger, in-body motors). That is very fascinating to forestall fast discharge of the battery throughout haptic-rich functions.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

One other very fascinating discovering was that de-coupling the haptics from the monitoring system improves stability, as some Index controller homeowners have reported issues with monitoring when the haptics fireplace. As just lately seen on the Index Reddit:

“I purchased Full equipment in November. Received it round 14th. Left controller was spasing out and stored shedding monitoring throughout robust vibrations (proper was completely tremendous). Precisely the identical downside that was taking place for left controllers for the reason that machine has been launched. I needed to undergo backwards and forwards for over 2 weeks to even get provided a substitute. I solely bought that substitute final Wednesday. Immediately I’ve seen the controller was jittering barely throughout vibrations however at the least it wasn’t shedding monitoring utterly nor was it arduous sufficient to utterly displace it by 10-15 cm so it was bearable.”

Because the haptic motor is now not mounted inside a plastic controller physique (inflicting vibration all through the construction) however floating on the Hand strap, potential enhancements to monitoring in all circumstances, mixed with decrease energy funds make it an fascinating new growth 😉

Enter pod

To supply a helpful vary of inputs in a compact, adjustable package deal there’s a self-contained Enter Pod, this model boasting a excessive precision analog mini-stick, which might be shortly changed after unscrewing 5 small bolts from the underside of the Enter Pod casing.

Proven right here under because the design was being labored on (with a placeholder cable) the mini-stick additionally options a detachable rubber joystick cowl in concave (seen right here) and convex variations to swimsuit consumer choice and permit for put on and tear substitute. 

With a glide-ring, metallic building and excessive specification pots (not Alps) you get a brilliant responsive and exact enter feeling, with elevated return-to-center precision. It’s rated for two million activations so takes a while to wear down, and it’s replaceable for round $20… not dangerous. 

Most significantly, when testing this joystick in VR video games like Aircar and Challenge Automobiles 2, the largest distinction was seen in “stick really feel” in comparison with present movement controllers, offering a way more correct, direct, and fewer obscure stick motion expertise. 

4 high-quality enter buttons are additionally featured within the casing, with industry-standard “A, B, System” in addition to a further user-definable enter button right here simply known as “X”. This offers the controller a further enter channel, just like the motion of urgent the touchpad on Index controllers, which is utilized in various video games.

With SteamVR boasting a extremely configurable controller enter system, it ought to be straightforward to remap controls as you require and discover the very best use for the X button.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Enter buttons on glide rings compress high-quality microswitches mounted on a inflexible aluminum alloy baseplate that bolts into the underside of the molded plastic Enter Pod physique.

For particular tactile suggestions, the usage of high-quality microswitches offers a delightful however not overly loud “click on” when pressed. To the left of the Enter Pod within the picture above, is the Set off and Enter Pod’s Mounting Bracket.

The Set off itself is a mechanical machine with no electrical connection, that includes a sturdy pivot and journey adjustment screw which is adjusted utilizing a 2mm hey key. This explicit Set off began out as a part of a Steam controller and has been “tailored” to swimsuit this utility.

The journey adjustment screw within the base of the Set off aligns with a microswitch mounted beneath the Enter Pod casing. Because the Set off is labored by the consumer, the screw makes contact with the microswitch, offering an enter motion. By adjusting the screw peak (with hex hey), the Set off makes contact ultimately with the microswitch, relying in your choice.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

This permits the Set off to be simply changed or eliminated, with none weak cable linking the Enter Pod to the Set off, or the necessity for any switching gear contained in the Set off.

And to fulfill my demand for ergonomic fine-tuning, the Enter Pod and Set off slide again and forwards 15mm on the metal bracket utilizing single bolt adjustment with a Hex key, permitting customers to fine-tune distance between controls and Grips to swimsuit their fingers or private choice.

15mm of adjustment distance appeared helpful, although it might be doable to extend this distance by transforming the entrance of the controller to extend the gap between the Entrance Axle and Monitoring Head at the price of barely growing controller size and weight.

By barely loosening the Entrance Axle bolt, you possibly can rotate the Mounting Bracket across the Entrance Axle, letting you set rotation of controls relative to grips (earlier than tightening the bolt to lock it in place), which seems like a extremely helpful adjustment to have. This may translate to having the ability to set the Joystick angle good in your thumb.

The one restrict of rotation is the clearance between the perimeters of the Enter Pod and the neck of the controller / facet of the Monitoring Head. The present design presents a superb vary of rotation adjustment, as additional angle adjustment could also be exterior of a usable vary for a lot of fingers.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Mounting Bracket is a thick piece of robust Chromoly metal plate and might be fastidiously bent to your choice utilizing a bench-mounted vice and grips, to permit customers additional customization. Alongside utilizing longer or shorter Axle bolts, completely different spacers, and completely different Grips, it’s your decision or want a slight tweak of the bracket to place your Controls in simply the fitting place.

Nonetheless, it won’t bend in regular use, although might act as a “bending fuse” if one way or the other the consumer subjected the Enter Pod to an irregular impression load. (after which get replaced at a value of $2)

Monitoring ring

This molded plastic piece acts as a protecting shroud that accommodates all of the optical sensor flexes as they’re routed from the HDK by the physique of the controller and to their particular person mounting places as described by three-dimensional mannequin Factors.

Sensors are protected against environmental impression by strong surrounding edges and ridges molded round every Sensor location, designed to give the Sensor its full area of view while stopping direct impacts from inflicting any sensor harm or undesirable motion which may throw off calibration and subsequently trigger monitoring instability.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As seen within the picture above, the Monitoring Ring bolts onto the Body utilizing 4 small bolts (solely three proven right here) that are fitted by hand utilizing a Hex key. As soon as secured with these bolts, the Monitoring Ring sits flush towards the Body, offering a neat answer for mounting sensors and retaining flexes away from the skin world, while presenting a hand-friendly inside floor and being strong in case of impacts.  

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Optical Sensors are secured utilizing VRB tape or adhesive after threading the sensors by small “portholes” strategically moulded throughout the Monitoring Ring floor. As seen within the picture above, I’ve positioned a indifferent (unintentionally broken) sensor the place it might be situated, the flex then runs again down by the closest porthole and contained in the Monitoring Ring, again all the way down to the Modular Rail space.

For manufacturing, it might use optical home windows constituted of particular plastic, and maybe finally a “bolt-in Monitoring Ring module” with a single connector, to make meeting and restore tremendous easy.

Monitoring head

Just like the Monitoring Ring, the Monitoring Head is a straightforward molded plastic piece that offers a bodily construction for the array of optical sensors serving the entrance of the controller. 

Utilizing a separate head permits the Enter Pod to stay adjustable, because the design offers frontal area for the Enter Pod to maneuver backwards and forwards on its sliding mount with as much as 15mm of adjustment for hand-fit fine-tuning.

It’s doable to extend the adjustment vary (for instance 20-25mm) by transforming the entrance of the controller with an extended attain for the Monitoring Head, on the expense of barely growing controller measurement; 15mm was felt to be a helpful adjustment vary together with completely different measurement Grips.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As seen within the picture above, the Monitoring Head is connected utilizing two medium-sized bolts which merely go by holes within the entrance of the Head, after which screw into heavy-duty, threaded metal inserts that are bonded to the skeleton, after which co-molded contained in the Body construction.

The v.1 controller has the addition of an impression bumper, constituted of a thick piece of light-weight aluminum alloy. This reduces frontal impression harm to the controller in addition to protects optical sensors from particular person harm. It’s minimize in a form to swimsuit the optical sensors, therefore the odd form.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The molded ribs on the Monitoring Head proceed this theme of defending optical sensors from user-caused impacts with play area partitions or furnishings. For manufacturing, just like the Monitoring Ring, it might be re-designed with optical window plastics, or the most suitable choice of a bolt-in “Monitoring Head module” with a single connector for easy meeting and restore. 

Throughout hand testing and motion, it was shortly seen that this new design of controller with a separate monitoring head additionally protects the consumer from any play area impacts, having bloodied my fingers various instances through the years that is most welcome. I had no points, or concern for the power of the controller, however be careful for furnishings or laptop screens as it’s going to put a gap straight by no matter it hits!

Cable routing

Lastly, we now have a bag with some cable routing components to maintain cables tidy throughout the controller and stop undesirable interactions with consumer’s fingers. The blue and yellow cables proven listed here are placeholders to assist work out the cable path and what was wanted to retain them within the appropriate orientation.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

V.1 Meeting time?

Initially, I deliberate to point out the meeting of the v.1 controller with the Tundra SteamVR HDK, till a horrible realization was made throughout a apply meeting run. I had made a small calculation error when initially understanding how a lot ahead area was wanted to connect the USB-C cable 🙁

This calculation work was executed months earlier than, and I’d even had a sneaky feeling at the back of my thoughts that there is likely to be clearance points, however had did not double-check till my error turned apparent late within the day.  Plugging a USB cable into the Tundra HDK was very completely different from plugging one right into a manufacturing controller, which has its USB port situated on the skin of the casing, normally on the backside of the physique grip

Tundra’s HDK that includes the USB-C port on its forward-facing edge (when constructing a left controller) and with the HDK mounted contained in the controller meant the port was arduous to entry with an exterior cable.

Brief by simply 1.5mm (shut, however no cigar), this clearance subject prevented a USB cable from being connected to the HDK for SteamVR integration and calibration. I couldn’t transfer the HDK additional again as it might have squashed the GPIO flex towards the rear rail and prevented any GPIO connections from being made.  

I considered doing it with out the controller partially assembled (no entrance axle, to create space for the USB cable), however was instantly involved as this might throw out calibration. The opposite choice was shaving down the USB cable head, mounting the HDK at a slight angle after which leaving the USB cable hanging out of the controller, which wasn’t in any respect fascinating for a wi-fi machine.

So right here we’re, some photos exhibiting the Modular v.1 controller, so far as I might get earlier than banging head-first into this show-stopping downside. A heavy lesson was realized on this occasion, ouch!

(Picture by Rob Cole)

At this level I felt like giving up, because it meant beginning the whole construct from scratch with dimensions to swimsuit the USB cable entry downside; however being a solo developer, there is no such thing as a one to listen to you cry into your third cup of espresso earlier than breakfast 🙁

Following my horrible discovery, I shortly righted myself, as with each roadblock there was now a possibility to make enhancements going ahead, if I put within the effort and time. 

A number of months of arduous work later, involving method too many early mornings, many extra cups of espresso, and lengthy hours on prime of working a really busy full-time actual job, the v.2 controller prototype was created, and prepared for unboxing.

Challenge Modular v.2 unboxing

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Opening the 100% recycled field, we discover various parts inside completely different baggage. I’ve put these out on the workbench for straightforward identification. In the event you had been to purchase this as a “equipment” that is how it might come, nevertheless it might be doable to supply pre-built variations through the use of an meeting and restore service for every continent.

The second controller shares the identical MRF idea as the primary, however with additional refinement, enhancements for cable routing, higher adjustment, and ease of producing.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Through the technique of constructing the second controller, I began pondering quite a bit about how this might be manufactured, and if it was doable to open this concept as much as everybody. The result might be a possible new open commonplace, for manufacturing this type of MRF controller…

Probably the most rapid change is to the Rails that are longer, barely narrower and now have threaded metal inserts bonded into the aluminum, with a serrated nylon spacer above every insert, which offers a stable interface for every Grip. The threaded inserts stop harm from repeated tightening and loosening of the Grip bolts, even when the consumer is a bit clumsy.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Higher Rail has an aluminum alloy mounting plate for the Tundra HDK, which merely sticks onto the plate utilizing high-strength 3M model VRB adhesive tape. This permits some adjustment following preliminary contact, earlier than shortly hardening to create a near-permanent bond (it may be eliminated very fastidiously utilizing a scalpel).

The mounting plate for the HDK is fitted utilizing 2 small countersunk bolts in order that the plate might be eliminated with the HDK nonetheless in place if required for upkeep or substitute.

The Decrease Rail as seen within the picture above has a small Contact sensor, with a ribbon cable for connection to GPIO. The Contact sensor protrudes by an open slot within the Decrease Grip, permitting the consumer to simply work the enter, while being unbiased of the Grip itself.

The contact sensor itself might be eliminated in seconds by loosening two small mounting bolts and unclipping its sensor cable from a GPIO module, permitting straightforward substitute if broken. This explicit unit is a placeholder* with an approximation of quantity for presently accessible parts, and a ribbon cable to permit it to be “plugged” into the GPIO module to test match and clearance.

*Using “placeholders” (inert approximation) for various modular parts permits the development of various parts at completely different instances as components turn into accessible and experience gained, while permitting the general undertaking to proceed transferring ahead. As I’m not a mechanical engineer nor an electronics skilled there are parts of the Modular V2 controller that might be additional constructed out or modified throughout the pre-production course of.

Lastly, the Decrease Rail acts as a holder for the Li-ion battery, which is solely mounted on skinny VRB tape and firmly secured with a number of slender wraps {of electrical} tape across the battery and rail (this doesn’t trigger bodily interference with something not like zip ties or clips).

Constructing the RAILS

Beginning with the Rails, we discover all of the components laid out on the field, as within the picture under:

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Beginning with the Rail Axle bolts, the longer bolt is pushed by the corresponding gap on the exterior going through the entrance finish of the Higher Rail, with a skinny washer underneath its head to guard the aluminum floor. On the within face of the Rail, a spring washer and flat washer will maintain issues tight as soon as absolutely assembled, and accommodate slight manufacturing misalignment.

The entrance “arduous mounting” of the Body is obtainable up, the bolt passes by the Body’s eyelet and we add aluminum spacers, the Enter Pod mounting bracket, some extra spacers, after which the Decrease Rail, with a flat washer and retaining nut. It may be tightened with only a Hex key, nevertheless it’s really helpful to carry the retaining nut with a small spanner and provides it a delicate cosy tight (3nm if utilizing a torque wrench).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Plenty of aluminum spacers and metal washers are used right here to supply a easy however efficient spacing technique for the entrance enter pod metal mounting bracket, permitting peak adjustment of the Enter Pod and Set off relative to the Grips simply by swapping spacers above or under the metal bracket… tremendous easy!

Including or subtracting spacers between the Rails will improve or lower the peak of the MRF controller, which is a brilliant helpful technique to accommodate outlier XS or XL fingers. Utilizing shorter or longer axle bolts in that occasion maintains clearance for the Grips and different components.

The one limitation for the smallest Rail peak can be the stack peak of the interior electronics and battery. For many hand sizes the usage of completely different Grip sizes will present what’s required.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

We repeat the method with the rear axle bolt and spacers, shortly ending up with this metallic and plastic construction which is the center of the Modular Rail Body controller design.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As you might have seen within the picture above, there’s a little dice hiding on the backside of the controller between the Higher and Decrease Rails. While it’s clearly one other homage to the legendary “Unity Dice” this widget has a really helpful operate. The picture additionally exhibits the Contact Sensor bolted into place on the Decrease Rail, and its ribbon cable linked by a socket to the little dice.

There’s a GPIO CUBE

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As seen within the picture above, a brand new addition to the second model of the controller is the GPIO CUBE, a small widget containing a microcontroller and a number of surface-mounted sockets for ribbon cables and a haptic strap connection. Like all MRF controller components, it may be changed if broken or defective, or if new enter choices turn into accessible throughout the controller’s lifetime.

The Haptic Strap connector faces backward, offering a easy cable route for the ability cable which follows the curve of the monitoring ring. All different connectors face ahead, with a really quick ribbon connecting the GPIO Dice to the Tundra HDK’s GPIO connector on its backside edge.

The present GPIO Dice is one other placeholder, however accommodates the right surface-mounted sockets and a microcontroller is embedded contained in the Dice to supply a real-world approximation of the area required for such an merchandise. The surface-mounted sockets permit the insertion of ribbon cabling in order that the cable routing might be decided with nice accuracy, prepared for a working unit. 

Development of the GPIO Dice would require the help of electronics specialists, it’s method past my talent set. Is it maybe one thing that an skilled firm like Tundra Labs might present together with a Steam VR unit and plug-in monitoring sensors modules?

Becoming the Plastics

Laying out the equipment on a helpful wood desk, as within the picture under, we will see a clearer image of how Modular v.2 matches collectively. The GPIO Dice is already fitted, so not proven as a separate merchandise.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The orientation of the Monitoring Ring relative to the Body is now a lot simpler to know, though there’s a model new molded plastic component known as Neck.

The Neck offers each a shroud to shield optical sensor flexes routing into the entrance for the Monitoring Head, and likewise two further mounting factors for optical sensors with an orientation and place not doable if simply utilizing the Monitoring Ring itself.

However first, we are going to match the Monitoring Ring, because the Neck then locks towards the entrance of that Ring. 

Becoming the Monitoring Ring

The Monitoring Ring is actually easy to suit, simply maintain it towards the Body, line up the center mounting bolt and begin to screw the bolt in utilizing a 2mm Hex Key.

When becoming the Tundra HDK with flexes for sensors, every sensor is handed by portholes throughout the Ring, earlier than the Ring is fastidiously lifted towards the Body to start out the becoming course of.

After the primary bolt is fitted to the center mounting, add the remaining three bolts, lastly tightening every bolt to securely lock the Ring into the Body. Threaded metallic inserts within the Body present the mounting factors for these bolts, offering a dependable mounting answer proof against becoming and refitting harm.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Becoming the Neck

The Neck shortly secures to the Body utilizing two small bolts which thread into threaded metallic inserts situated on the facet and prime of the Body. As with the metallic inserts used for the Monitoring Ring, these are resistant to wreck when becoming and refitting.

When putting in the Tundra HDK, sensor flexes for the Monitoring Head (and the entrance half of the Monitoring Ring / Neck)  go by a deep reduction channel molded contained in the Neck, to maintain the flexes away from the mounting bolts or any restriction. The 2 optical sensors on the Neck are the final to be fitted, every passing by a porthole from the inside, and boasting molded impression safety for the sensor bays just like the sensors bays on the Monitoring Ring and Monitoring Head. 

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The shorter M3 bolt is first used to carry the Neck in place, loosely tightened, then the longer M3 bolt is fitted to the highest mounting; lastly, each are firmly tightened to lock the Neck to the body.

Becoming the Monitoring Head

Becoming the monitoring head is equally easy, this makes use of two bigger M5 titanium bolts and a few washers. The sequence under exhibits the top being fitted with the bolts, then spring washers (and a further spacing washer on the left facet), the top is then positioned on the entrance of the Body, and the bolts tightened till they backside out off arduous stops.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Sensor flexes might be both fitted into the Head earlier than this step is finished (being cautious when lifting into place) or really threaded by the entry ports within the head as soon as it’s fitted, because it’s utterly empty inside with entry on the rear.

Becoming the Enter Module and Set off

The Set off is a brand-new growth with a particular form and a set off finger relaxation / onboarding ramp on the vanguard. This allows you to simply discover and keep a superb place on the set off, or simply relaxation your finger towards the ramp while you play Beat Saber, avoiding any Set off contact or undesirable motion.

Throughout current testing of the Pimax Sword controllers, I used an unorthodox hand grip throughout Beat Saber as holding them within the regular method made the Touchpads continuously click on throughout speedy arm actions. Having someplace safe to firmly maintain a controller when not utilizing enter controls is an efficient benefit.

The brand new Set off unit is absolutely rebuildable, with a metal axle pin that may be pressed out utilizing a small Hex Key. The Set off blade is replaceable too, for harm substitute or customization for various customers. You’ll be able to even simply minimize it to form utilizing a metallic file or some grit paper!

A stiff metal spring offers the return motion, with adjustable spring rigidity utilizing a hey key to swimsuit consumer choice. Identical to Modular V.1, the Set off has a decrease contact bolt that works a microswitch within the base of the Enter Module (photographs taken earlier than set up).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Becoming the Enter Module and the Set off shouldn’t be tough, however might be tough the primary time. Provide up the Enter Module to the metal bracket on the entrance of the controller’s Rail Body. Press it residence onto the slot within the bracket, after which decrease the Set off into place. The Set off is retained with a single bolt and metal spring washer: it’s simpler to pre-fit these into the Set off earlier than meeting.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Utilizing a Hey key, the bolt is gently turned till it finds a threaded metallic insert within the base of the Enter Module. Preserve turning till light resistance is felt, it is a plastic spacer compressing. Now you possibly can regulate the fore / aft place of the Enter Module and Set off relative to the Grips.

As soon as proud of the place, lock the bolt down, it solely must be 2-3 mm. For manufacturing, this attachment mechanism can be re-engineered to make it additional sturdy, however for the prototype, it really works effectively offering a agency platform for the controls to mount on, however one that may be adjusted in seconds.

As soon as that is all fitted, you possibly can push the Enter Pod ribbon cable by a niche between the entrance of the Grips, so it runs inside in the direction of the GPIO dice on the rear.

Becoming the grips and the strap

The Grips and Strap co-exist so are fitted on the identical time. If you’re not utilizing a hand strap in your controller you simply don’t match it and match the Grips straight into their mountings on the Rails.

When utilizing a strap, begin with Higher Grip and its longer bolt, and push it by the Grip so it stands proud inside. Take the entrance of the strap (which has a gap) and push it down over the bolt, so the bolt comes by.

Now carry the Grip onto the Rail, and slowly tighten the entrance bolt, however not securely but. You’ll be able to regulate the exit angle of the strap from the controller by merely rotating the strap, after which tightening the bolt.

Lastly, lay the strap out so it follows the curve of the Monitoring Ring, matches the shorter rear bolt however not securely. On this instance, the Haptic Module is fitted so the ability cable follows the identical curve.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Take the free finish of the strap, and slide it by the flat hole behind the bolt, between the rear of the Grip and the Rail, as seen within the picture above. Upon getting determined in your strap size, simply tighten the bolt firmly all the way down to lock it in place. Bigger fingers can use the strap at full size, smaller fingers could desire to trim it down. 

Assembled

After pages of textual content and many photographs, right here’s the partially assembled Modular V2 controller with a few photos that ought to offer you a good suggestion what it now seems to be like. This “tracked object” prototype is simply lacking the Tundra HDK and Li-Ion battery, which might be fitted on the finish of this text.

(Picture by Rob Cole)
(Picture by Rob Cole)

Hand match session

Fast run by of the ergonomics adjustment of the V.2 Modular controller

  • Enter Pod and Set off: 15mm fore / aft, rotation and peak relative to Grips
  • Grips: bolt-on Grips for various hand sizes, completely different textures, and shapes, and many others.
  • Hand Strap: Strap angle (relative to the entrance of Grip) and strap size
  • Rails: Peak regulate with quick / lengthy bolts for outliers (XS and XL fingers)

Taking the Modular V2 controller for a “check drive” or hand match session, as every part is mechanically working – joystick, buttons, set off, strap, all of the changes might be tried.

Becoming a small block of wooden with an analogous weight to the HDK and battery between the Rails ensured it was dealt with in an analogous method. It’s straightforward to get a superb really feel by attempting out numerous completely different hand actions and hand poses that might be made throughout a room scale VR session. 

Can the controls be reached? Is something inflicting obstruction? How is the burden? What about inertia when shortly moved round? Is the Set off in the very best place? Can that additional button be operated with the sting of my thumb? How does it really feel with an Index controller within the different hand?

Opening and shutting feels actually good, my hand naturally finds its method again to the controls. There is no such thing as a obstruction, or any clearance subject between my hand opening and shutting, which may be very welcome. My fingers fall naturally on the Contact Sensor, although the encircling Decrease Grip makes it straightforward to keep away from unintended activation (an adjustable threshold in software program can be included).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Set off works effectively and feels aligned with my index finger, repeated fast pulls are agency however easy. There is no such thing as a side-to-side motion, wobble, or creaking, the Set off blade feels very inflexible.

I attempt adjusting the spring rigidity and it makes the Set off noticeably firmer, which is likely to be good for robust fingers or simply those that just like the elevated activation drive.  Lowering the spring rigidity to a minimal makes for a better pull which might be much less tiring throughout a protracted session.

My thumb feels effectively aligned with the joystick, not like my Index controllers, and naturally, the stick feels actually exact with no float, wobble, or plastic mushiness. I attempt utilizing the Enter Pod and Set off attain and rotation changes and spot the completely different positions my medium-sized hand takes. It’s straightforward to make the controller really feel fairly completely different by the way it’s adjusted.

I ask my spouse to attempt becoming it for her smaller fingers and it simply accommodates her wants, a lot better than the V.1 which she discovered a bit bulkier (she likes Index controllers with out Palm boosters). Considered one of my older work colleagues with massive fingers (son-in-law owns a Quest 2) says he finds the controller a greater match for his lengthy fingers which get cramped utilizing the Contact controllers.   

Later I attempt swapping spacers on the Entrance axle, which modifications the peak of the Enter Pod relative to the Grips. This permits additional tremendous tuning to swimsuit the consumer, particularly the joystick peak.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I do some energetic throwing actions, however the controller stays put, which is stunning contemplating it’s bought a easy elastic hand strap. For manufacturing, the strap might be a customized unit, with maybe a bit extra form or some molded parts across the Haptic Module.

In comparison with the V1 controller (which I did numerous hand match testing with) the V2 feels extra balanced with the burden centrally situated. The V1 felt a bit lopsided when it comes to weight stability as a result of bulkier monitoring ring, which I had slimmed down significantly for the V2, and it’s noticeable.

Total it was a profitable testing session: particular enhancements had been revamped V1.

Subsequent steps – SteamVR Integration

This begins with becoming the Tundra HDK to the Higher Rail utilizing VRB tape, after cleansing contact surfaces with Isopropyl Alcohol, to degrease any contaminants. I additionally degrease my slicing instruments, as I’m utilizing the scalpel to each trim and place the VRB tape with out getting pores and skin oils onto it.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The sensor flexes are fitted out, the monitoring parts lifted into place, and every part bolts down. Subsequent we’d transfer onto SteamVR integration by writing the JSON, and scanning the controller in 3D to permit correct era of a render mannequin with all mannequin Factors and Normals, together with exact measurements of the optical sensor array.

I attempted scanning utilizing smartphone-based functions however the outcomes had been utterly unsatisfactory so I’ve bought an appointment at a facility within the New 12 months (it has been booked up for months) in East London: hopefully, they might help me create a “Digital Twin”.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Conclusions

Properly, that was a brilliant busy 12 months, and regardless of two large setbacks (authorized and miscalculation), one way or the other I managed to supply one thing that’s bought some actual potential.

A lot of this 12 months was spent determining the difficult puzzle of packaging a movement controller across the human hand, in hindsight I’d have executed a headset as you’ve bought an honest quantity of area to work with, and every part tasks outwards from the face gasket. Take into consideration Pimax’s 8K collection as a superb instance of how massive in measurement, however nonetheless practical an HMD might be.  

Making an attempt to get a movement controller to work inside the constraints of the human hand, while being adjustable to suit as many fingers as doable, ending with the beginning of a working prototype, effectively it’s been an fascinating journey! 

It’s additionally been actually robust engaged on the whole design as a self-funded solo developer, while working a full-time common job. Merchandise like movement controllers are usually developed by well-funded, multi-disciplinary groups working in full-time roles.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Even discovering time to turn into competent in a CAD package deal like Fusion360 proved not possible this 12 months, therefore the sneaky transfer of utilizing 3D scanning to generate a digital mannequin for SteamVR integration. My major curiosity and expertise in XR is human components engineering (ergonomics), as I discussed in final 12 months’s article:

“Maybe the design is one thing that might be manufactured in a extra refined model, if funding was really accessible. Personally, I’d desire to work on the ergonomics and changes and depart the mechanical engineering and electronics to individuals who have expertise and extra information.”

The Modular Rail Body bodily kind definitely works effectively when it comes to placing controls in the fitting locations and permitting a variety of ergonomic changes. It’s definitely doable to construct round this platform, and construct at a bigger scale to get it out to extra folks.

The subsequent logical step can be to productize the design, with enter from multi-disciplinary specialists to deal with mechanical engineering, supplies, electronics integration, programming, manufacturing tooling, and many others.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The cash

Relating to pricing? Greater high quality prices more cash, however teams of customers do exist in several tools markets who’re eager to pay increased costs for increased high quality merchandise. The wholesome gross sales of $1000 Index definitely proved that VR fanatics can pay extra for higher.

instance given throughout my industrial design coaching is: many customers are proud of low cost headphones, however a wholesome market exists for high-quality headphones for audiophiles. They respect the distinction, and with many being time-poor, need the very best efficiency throughout their restricted time, and so they need dependable tools.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Maybe it’s not a stretch to suppose that many PCVR homeowners discover themselves within the “time-poor” class: in any case, one thing (good job with lengthy hours ) has to pay for a VR-capable gaming PC and PCVR system. When sending many Index controllers again for RMA, prime marks to Steam Assist for at all times being useful however as a result of haphazard nature of manufacturing, it was generally weeks with out substitute controller(s).

I even purchased a second pair, however these quickly required their very own RMA. This downtime was irritating because it stopped me from utilizing numerous VR titles that required movement controllers (I did take pleasure in some glorious seated and sim video games although!) I‘d definitely be keen to pay Index headset cash ($499) for a pair of Modular controllers that might be rebuilt, tailored, and upgraded over various years. $249 for one Professional degree controller appears honest, however the market could determine in any other case if it ever went to manufacturing.

My closing arguments for the Modular Rail Body design idea

  • Rebuildable = long run possession with minimal downtime
  • Modular enter selections = swimsuit the consumer, not the controller
  • Totally adjustable ergonomics = greatest hand match, no compromises right here!
  • Prime quality enter parts = greatest “really feel”  (tight stick, no wobbling or creaking)
  • Toughened to withstand impacts = carry on enjoying, accidents occur
  • Massive discount in E-Waste and delivery air pollution = much less plastic, much less hurt to the planet
  • Future proof with upgrades = not out of date by subsequent 12 months
  • Totally different monitoring programs = Steam VR, white LED (WMR type), IR LED (Meta type)
  • AR use with go by digicam monitoring of fiducial markers?
  • Customise = do no matter you want or can put collectively, encourages collaboration 🙂
(Picture by Rob Cole)

A closing thought, while working this 12 months on the Modular Challenge, maybe the longer term for MRF controllers is opening the thought as much as everybody, to allow them to go construct and have enjoyable. In the event you can construct the Rails (straightforward) and Body (a bit tricker) it’s a superb beginning platform to construct onto. It wants some skilled help for electronics and software program, however something’s doable if sufficient folks become involved.

Valve have commented on Nintendo up to now, from a extensively reported interview (taken right here from Nintendoeverything.com), Gabe Newell acknowledged:

“We’ve at all times been a bit bit jealous of firms like Nintendo. When Miyamoto is sitting down and serious about the subsequent model of Zelda or Mario, he’s pondering what’s the controller going to appear like, what kind of graphics and different capabilities. He can introduce new capabilities like movement enter as a result of he controls each of these issues. And he could make the {hardware} look nearly as good as doable as a result of he’s designing the software program on the identical time that’s actually going to reap the benefits of it. So that’s one thing we’ve been jealous of, and that’s one thing that you simply’ll see us profiting from subsequently.”

Because the MRF platform permits straightforward customization, how about releasing a sport with an MRF element, for instance, a brand new sensor, enter, or haptic? Identical thought as Guitar Hero, and different video games bundled with peripherals of the previous, however a lot decrease price because it’s solely a element, not a brand new controller.

An open commonplace?

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Bootstrapping a brand new controller commonplace wasn’t my preliminary thought, however with each Meta and Pico reportedly promoting loss-making {hardware} for his or her closed platforms, which has distorted the market, it’s robust for small firms, startups, and solo builders to make something by growing and promoting tracked {hardware}.

I’m utilizing SteamVR as a result of Valve licenses their know-how to builders like me totally free, by the Steamworks program. The one actual price is your time and $200 shopping for a SteamVR HDK.

Documentation is supplied although a bit old-fashioned, the SDK is downloaded free underneath license from Steamworks and accommodates various helpful instruments for prototyping. Due to Valve and Tundra Labs, it encourages experimentation as a result of you possibly can really get in there and open all of it up. You’ll be able to design and promote hand straps for Quest 2, however you aren’t going to be promoting customized controllers utilizing their monitoring {hardware} and code.

I checked out definitions of “open requirements” and “open supply” as methods of placing my work into the general public area for everybody to make use of. It doesn’t appear to be one thing that one particular person can ratify, however an Open Normal known as OpenXRC can be my hope, sparking an ecosystem of MRF-compatible components from completely different producers large, small and unbiased! We will solely dream…

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Because the Challenge involves an in depth, I’ve turn into conscious that Tundra’s HDK is on the finish of the road. I made some enquiries (to get a second unit to construct one other controller) however nothing got here of it. Finally, it wasn’t designed for manufacturing items and wouldn’t have been cost-effective to construct manufacturing controllers with, however its goal was to permit prototyping.

On this respect it did its job fantastically, forcing me to make some inventive design selections with radical pondering to accommodate its bodily restrictions (i.e. the size of flexes and positions of sockets).  The result was that I ended up with one thing very completely different from what I initially meant. It undoubtedly labored out higher, so thanks Luke! [Luke Beno, founder of Tundra Labs]

Whether or not this controller ever turns into a product that individuals should buy relies on many components. There’s nonetheless lots of work to do and it might want an enormous pile of money. There are additionally doubts concerning the long-term way forward for lighthouse monitoring, although the Modular controller design can simply adapt to completely different monitoring programs, possibly even some small on-board cameras like these used on the brand new Quest Professional controllers.

If this text will get {industry} folks and customers pondering, then it’s all been worthwhile. The Nintendo {hardware} and software program integration has some actual worth and might be supported by the modular nature of NRF. Think about the subsequent VR sport stimulating your hand with a gentle electrical tingle by an MRF add-on, everytime you replenish your well being! What about an additional button to make use of a brand new sport mode? Or a unit that gives cold and warm sensations for the fingers?

In some methods, it was by no means about going to manufacturing, however seeing what might be constructed by happening an unconventional route.  Listening to folks speak about wanting “Modular controllers” after final 12 months’s article was printed was a really satisfying feeling.

Thanks!!

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Many due to everybody who has helped, suggested, and inspired me, together with individuals who invited me to completely different conferences initially of the 12 months. Particular due to these legendary {hardware} guys for the Zoom name, I’m nonetheless stoked about that 🙂

Thanks to Tony a.ok.a. Mr. Skarredghost for publishing this, my twelfth article, and placing up with an limitless barrage of excited emails and Steam voice chats throughout the previous 12 months, I promise no extra (for some time…)

Large due to my long-suffering spouse Sara Ramos for her unwitting position as a {hardware} widow, and for taking some nice photographs. 

And naturally, my real due to you, the reader, for getting this far. I hope it was helpful and exhibits what you are able to do with simply an thought. Let’s see what the longer term will deliver…


Disclaimer: this weblog accommodates commercial and affiliate hyperlinks to maintain itself. In the event you click on on an affiliate hyperlink, I will be very blissful as a result of I am going to earn a small fee in your buy. You’ll find my boring full disclosure right here.