Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Review of the Oculus Rift

After some minor setbacks I finally got the Oculus Rift up and running and I have tried quite a number of different programs and tools. One of my favourites has to be the RiftCoaster demo. This is basically a demonstration of a roller coaster. I recommend standing up for this one. It's a rush that will quickly get you hooked in the world of the Oculus Rift. I've had numerous friends try the RiftCoaster and I've seen very different reactions from some people. Most people rock a bit back and forth as it causes some mild balance issues. The most extreme I've seen is where one friend clung to the wall for dear life, whilst another friend completely collapsed on the ground (if you're reading this, you know who are).

After spending a week trying to get my PC back up on it's feet. I had some horrible issues with an old hard drive, which meant I had to completely re-install Windows 7. On the plus side, now I've a nice unburdened clean system ready for some Oculus Rift action.

So far I've tried the following programs with the Oculus Rift with various experiences

Despicable Me 2 using VRPlayer
1) Tuscany Demo (this is the first thing everyone tries)
3) VRPlayer (print screen on right)
4) TriDef 3D
5) Perception 3D
6) Half Life 2: Episode 1
7) Dreadhalls
8) Eve-VR (video linked below)
9) Portal 2 using TriDef 3D

The Eve-VR youtube video is pretty impressive. Although it's best to select highest quality video, enlarge to full screen and keep your head still. For obvious reasons, you won't be able to look around like it's a proper world. It's just a video.

Now for Oculus Rift's largest problem: Motion Sickness. Full description from the Oculus Rift website in the link. It is an effect of tricking the mind that you are seeing a 3 dimensional object when in fact you are not. I have had varying degrees of motion sickness myself. I have found there are a number of tricks that you can do to reduce the effect. Using the OculusConfigUtil, which can be obtained from the Oculus Rift Developer site mentioned above, will help you configure the IPD settings. This is basically changing the distance between the two images, thus making life easier for your eyes and your brain. This has increased my game time from 5-10 minutes to greater than 30 minutes.

Other odd effects I've noticed have been a very dry mouth (probably because I gape at the beauty of it all, like some sort of ape catching flies) and a sensitivity to light (maybe turn down the brightness). With regards playing some of the games using the Oculus Rift, as my eyes are covered with the device, it's often difficult to find the keyboard and mouse as well as the right keys. I'm glad I have a wireless keyboard and mouse, but I've heard an Xbox gamepad solves this problem.

The future of the Oculus Rift is amazing, used in conjuction with other devices like the Razer Hydra (previously known as the Sixense TrueMotion) will allow you to play completely immersive games like Teddy's HydraDeck Demo as seen in the youtube video on the left.

The Razer Hydra can be purchased bundled with Portal 2, which it fully supports for a truly magnificent gaming experience. Although I'll have to save up a bit more for this to try it out.

Ender's Game Battle Sequence
As a final note, I saw Ender's Game there at the weekend and all I could think about was how the scene on the right would look incredible as a game for the Oculus Rift. I've always thought a game based on Ender's Game would be incredible and the Oculus Rift is the perfect platform for such a game.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Oculus Rift

I just recently went halves on the Oculus Rift Development Kit. So far I've only had a go at the Tuscany demo, where you get to walk around a southern Italian house. It's pretty cool so far. Being short sighted I was surprised to find three varying lenses in the kit to adjust the focal length in order to see properly. I really liked this as I was not looking forward to wearing my glasses inside the headset.

Some night this week, I'm hoping to get Half Life 2 up and working with the Oculus Rift. This is my main goal for it for the moment. I'll see what happens from there.

I hope to have another post up by end of week with more updates.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Baking IC's

Last year I spent a month in San Francisco's sunny Silicon Valley on a business trip. I was in charge of bringing up a number of boards straight off the manufacturing line. Unfortunately there were a few problems with the boards, which left us baffled for a few days until bubbling was mentioned. This is when I found out all about MSL (moisture sensitivity level). 

On specific ICs, mostly CPLD's, FPGA's and other specialised semiconductors, the parts need to be baked at 125°C for a minimum number of hours based on the reflow temperature specific to the PCB. Now I don't know much about the whole process, but from this trip, I've learnt a little bit more. If these parts aren't baked for the specific time, bubbling, cracking, blistering, internal shorts and other related errors can occur due to the expansion of the moisture during reflow, which is called de-lamination. Most of the time, these problems may not even be visible and could take weeks of testing to find the part doesn't behave as it should. In the extreme cases, the bubbling, cracking and blistering mentioned above occur, which is commonly known as the "popcorn" effect.

There are a number of moisture sensitivity levels described on Wikipedia's page. The sensitivity level determines the time allowed for a device to remain out of its packaging before it needs to be baked again to remove moisture. Resistors and capacitors usually have a moisture sensitivity level of 1, which is infinite, where as most FPGAs or CPLDs have a level of 6, which means a mandatory bake before reflow. The one thing to note here when receiving parts from a distributor is that the parts should arrive in a vacuum sealed anti-static bag with dessicant and a moisture indicator card. These parts tend to be more expensive than the usual parts.

Trying to debug issues caused by delamination is near impossible and often it is just best practice to replace all questionable parts.

This one shortcut compromised the whole batch of boards and cost thousand's of dollars and weeks for our customer, but replacing each and every one of them would be even more costly and timely. From what I've seen, this is the quickest way to lose a manufacturing contract and another example of trust the manufacturer, but verify!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Interesting Tutorial on how your 4.7uF Capacitor can become a 0.33uF Capacitor

I just read an incredible article by Mark Fortunato of Maxim Integrated.

For any of you hardware engineers or applications engineers out there, this is a very useful and interesting read about how your 4.7uF capacitor can behave like a 0.33uF capacitor at +85C, which of course is exactly what you don't want to do.