Apr 12, 2016 | By Alec

Remember Nintendo’s Virtual Boy? Even if you love retro gaming, you might have missed this one entirely. A complete commercial failure, it was a 1995 attempt at 3D gaming with a headset that was discontinued within a year. While you will be hard-pressed to find one, a new low cost VR solution lets you play those old school 3D games through a 3D printed headset. Called the Pockulus and developed by Next Thing, it is an extremely cheap VR headset at just $49 and doesn’t drain your smartphone battery, as the Google Cardboard does.

While the gaming feature is fun, of course, the real innovation here is that Next Thing has managed to keep the costs down without forcing users to rely on their smartphone. That’s all possible because Next Thing is actually an Oakland-based hardware collective who have had significant success in the making world with their tiny CHIP computer. That CHIP is available for just $9 as a stand-alone and hacker-friendly circuit board, but has now also been repurposed for this quite impressive VR controller.

What’s more, it was actually conceived as nothing more than an April Fools’ joke. “It’s kind of classic for companies in the Bay Area to do something for April Fools’ Day,” Dave Rauchwerk, one of the CHIP’s creators, told Wired. “And we thought, is there some way we can make light of how funny it is that people strap these things onto their face? Everyone is trying to make this kind of standalone VR style headset. What if we made one with CHIP?”

The result is one of the cheapest standalone VR headsets available, though there is one little problem: you need to assemble it with a custom-fitting 3D printed headset. Basically just a bunch of electronics and in a box, this will doubtlessly scare off some VR fans without making experience. But for the 3D printing community, this should be a breeze. The 4.3-inch screen needs to be held by a 3D printed facemask, and is attached to a button-style QWERTY keypad. It also runs Linux, and comes with Wi-Fi, storage, and a battery. Through the Linux OS web browser, word processor, and other programs, a lot is possible.

But Next Thing is obviously run by dedicated gamer geeks, as they have already turned it into a vessel for playing Virtual Boy games, such as the iconic Water World. Other Nintendo classics, such as Super Mario can also be made suitable for VR use, creating a fantastic virtual reality gaming vessel. But with an excellent vessel as the CHIP, anything is possible. “CHIP is completely open source and supports the latest version of Linux,” said Rauchwerk. “And that opens up a whole universe of possibilities for the makers and hackers who want to do crazy stuff with it.” What will you use it for? If you’re interested, you can order the Pockulus here. For 3D printing the headset, you can design your own or start with their pre-made model available on GitHub here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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