I'm sure most of us have heard of the Oculus Rift by now, the virtual reality headset that could be turning the gaming world on its head. But, it also has a lot of cinematic potential as well, and not just as a headset through which an audience can your film, but as a head-mounted display/motion-tracking system for aerial filmmakers. A team from Norway has taken version one of the Oculus Rift development kit and a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter and created a system that allows users to see and control what the copter-mounted camera sees. Continue on to find out how they did it.
The team is made up of Erik Hals, Jacob Prescott, Mats Krüger Svensson, and Mads Falmår Wilthil of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The project looks as though it was done as a research project for the university, providing literature detailing their approach to the build. They explain their project in their abstract:
The completed product made it is possible to control the flight of a drone through its remote controller, while the operator at the same time is being shown the flight through an immersive video medium. The operator also has the choice to look around due to the camera platform being synchronized with the head tracking sensors in the HMD.
Check out the team's footage of their Oculus Rift/DJI Phantom 2 system below:
As they explain in the abstract, there were 3 important components to the system: the platform attached to the drone, servo synchronization, and video stream conversion. The plywood platform housed 2 cameras (CMOS Camera Modules), servo motors, and a micro-controller. The servo synchronization allows the wearer of the Oculus Rift to control the pan and tilt of the cameras attached to the Phantom. The team explains how they did this:
The direction coordinates produced in the Oculus Rift are converted into a range which will be used to steer the servos. The coordinates are modified to be contained within a specific range, which is dictated by the rotational reach of the servos. The modified coordinates are then sent by serial wireless transmission, by employing a USB to serial breakout board connected to the operator’s computer in one end and a serial transmitter in the other end. A receiver on the drone platform conveys the signal to the micro-controller, which employs pulse width modulation (PWM) in order to use the signal to update the servo positions.
Finally, the video stream conversion:
The cameras mounted on the drone will transmit video to a receiver connected to the operator’s computer. This receiver deliver composite video, which must be converted to digital format in order to be able to process the video stream. This conversion is done by an external composite to USB device. The video stream is then subjected to real-time manipulation, which serves the purpose of distorting the images into a format which can be viewed in the head mounted display.
Be sure to check out the team's project website to learn more about their test, which includes a product list, as well as a PDF of their abstract.
What do you think of this Oculus Rift/DJI Phantom system? Do you think that this is a good solution to aerial camera control and monitoring? Let us know in the comments below.
Link: Oculus FPV -- GitHub