Our goal for this year's hackathon was to take something rather pricey (virtual reality) and make it more easily doable on a budget. Our inspiration for the project came from the Oculus Rift and the omnidirectional treadmill. The release of the wonderfully cheap Google Cardboard ushered in romantic dreams of cheap VR, so we wanted to see what we could do by adding more peripherals to this new VR experience. It may seem like it would be an easy hack that requires minimal overhead, but things aren't always what they appear to be.

We first ran into some issues with the PS2 DDR pad we used in place of the omnidirectional treadmill. The drivers for the pad didn't work, so we had to write our own in Java (haha). We then also had to make the buttons on the DDR pad map to different directions as the user rotated on it. We did this by tracking the direction the user is facing with a background service for the phone in the Cardboard using its magnetometer. It was a pain, but definitely worth it.

We were originally going to track arm movement using accelerometer data of an Android device held in the hand, but we soon decided that it would be neater (and lighter) using a Pebble instead. We tracked the user's gestures with the Pebble's accelerometer and sent this data over to a UDP server we set up over LAN on a router we brought. We then made a neat prop (the pickaxe) to greatly heighten the immersion experience. The initial scope of the project was to integrate these peripherals into the game Minecraft, but with some of our additional time at the end, we were able to extend our VR method to other first-person games such as Slenderman.

In the end, nothing felt better than seeing all these different platforms mesh with the code we hacked together. It's an unreal experience that anyone and everyone can enjoy. We invite you to come try it out!

Share this project: