Virtual Reality as a Tool

The VR hardware market exploded after Facebook deemed VR investment worthy with its 2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014. A lot of serious players entered the game and Q1/2016 is gonna be the culmination of this. All major players Oculus, HTC/Valve, Sony and Microsoft with their AR headset, announced the public release of their consumer products for the beginning of next year. What still seems the most interesting to see though is what Magic Leap can come up with.

I always thought that the real magic of VR and AR technology doesn’t lie in entertainment but in its great potential as a tool for engineering and creation in general. So far only one company, HTC, lets this idea reflect in its marketing leading up to the big battle of the platforms next year. The following video is an example for this.

Printing Magnet Patterns

Correlated Magnetics developed a printer that is able to “print” magnetic patterns into rare-earth ferrite or flexible magnetic materials. This allows them to code magnets uniquely so that a given combination binds only to its counterpart.

Special patters generate unique functions

Clever Engineering for a Good Cause


Deciwatt” a project that started out as a crowd funding campaign on indiegogo with the purpose to create a sustainable and affordable light source for developing countries, has now produced the first batch of its gravity powered lamp. Some of this first lamps go to the projects indiegogo supporters while the rest is used in a field trail in developing countries.

The lamp, like a grandfather clock, uses a hanging weight as the energy source to drive an electric generator. It needs no battery replacement, no expensive solar cells only 3 seconds of human power to lift the weight that on decent generates 25 minutes of light.

From the project description:

GravityLight only generates a deciwatt or two of power but has a superior light to the majority of kerosene lamps used by those without electricity, as well as being significantly more sustainable, safe and healthy. With no running costs, at $10, a GravityLight would pay for itself within a few months, freeing people from fuel poverty and the increasing costs of kerosene.

As LEDs continue to rapidly increase their lumens per watt and – as Koomey’s Law predicts – the energy efficiency of devices doubles every two years – this has huge implications for low cost, off grid lighting as well as computing and communication equipment. This is the driving force behind Deciwatt’s mission to explore how to do more with less.

A great example of clever engineering for a good cause. And also a good example for the possibility that crowd funding provides to finance and realize such projects.




castAR – AR and VR Glasses Kickstarter

castAR a Kickstarter campaign by technicalillusions that recently reached its 400K funding goals is developing a new pair of AR glasses. Two micro projectors one for each eye mounted onto a glasses frame either project onto a retro reflective surface or on a clip-on in front of the glasses. The projectors are running at 120 Hz. Apart from that a camera that is integrated into the glasses tracks a set of IR LED for position tracking. Overall they are exploring many different approaches to AR and 3D user-input. Have a look at the video for an in detail explanation.

Building a live Google Earth

Two high definition cameras fixed to the International Space Station will soon offer real time pictures from space to everyone.

That promise is made by the Canadian startup UrtheCast . According to the BBC they will launch two high resolution video cameras to the International Space Station ISS on board a Russian Proton supply ship early next year. Cosmonauts are already in training to manoeuvre the bulky equipment from the capsule into the station and for the space walk necessary to install the cameras on the outside structure.

The cameras will offer a resolution of about 1m per pixel. According to UrtheCast you won’t quite see the tiles but all the detail in your garden.

The basic service on offer will be free – with users able to log into the site and see live or archived images and video of anywhere on Earth. With the ISS orbiting the planet around 15 times a day, sooner or later it’ll be above something you want to look at.

UrtheCast plans to give software developers free access to its code, allowing them to develop new applications such as games or utilities.