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 PR1, a DIY 720p HMD (MRG 2.2 upgrade) 
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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This is a progression of a project I had wanted to do for a long time, an upgrade to the well known MRG 2.2, a helmet with outstanding FOV, but extremely low resolution. In theory, it should be a piece of cake to swap in a new, higher resolution panel. In practice, it is a little harder, but still very possible!

I decided to use the Hydis 5.6" panel from Vitrolight, with a VGA controller. The panel is 1280x800, and excellent quality. I had to mess with the optics a lot to get it working without cutting off the edge of the image, and in the end, I had to use different optics, a 2.5x magnifier (The MRG 2.2 uses a 3x).

As you may know, the stock MRG 2.2 has a giant brick of lead on the back that weighs about 2 pounds, to act as a counterweight. Because my helmet was might lighter, I was able to use a lighter counterweight. But I did not want to use just a chunk of lead! So I used a bass shaker element from the Aura Interactor (Google it!). It has two settings, music and game. In game mode, you use the sensitivity dial to set it to only activate on loud sounds, like using your gun, or a punch. In music mode, it essentially acts as a tactile subwoofer, reproducing all low frequency sounds. This was likely my favorite part of the helmet! At full blast, it can literally shake your head so hard that you get dizzy. :P Because of how tightly the MRG contacts the back of the neck, it sends the bass down your entire spine very effectively.

The sound was the stock Sony MDR-6000 headset that comes with the MRG. I would have changed it, but this was a commission job, and my customer wanted it that way.

I would go on and on and on about all the revisions I went through in the build process, but I do not want to bore you. :lol:

This HMD is very immersive, especially with the Interactor module. It is fairly well balanced, too. Oh! And it has no control box! It is all self contained, a lot easier to wrangle. Here are the main problems:

1. Clamps on your head too tightly, mask is uncomfortable. This is a problem with MRG shell and mask, which is essentially just a set of welding goggles. This can be fixed with much better masks, mounts, and padding.

2. Heavy. This is not avoidable, when you take a large fiberglass shell, cables, counterweight, and heavy optics... it is going to end up large. Could you make it smaller? Yes, MUCH smaller. The shell and the counterweight make up about 80% of the weight of this HMD, it could be slimmed enormously.

3. Optics. The optics are cheap acrylic. Wide FOV, but in exchange for not cutting off the edges of the image, the focus is set at about 2 feet. I am near sighted, so not a problem for me or the guy who commissioned me, but Cyberreality tried out the unit, and it was focused too close for him. The solution is simple: Better optics, more fitting for the application. I have a lot of them sitting right here, just not built anything with them yet.


I know there are things I am forgetting, but I am just going to finish off the post with some pics for now. :P

Early WIP pic:
Image


Planning where to mount Interactor module:
Image

Initial foam placement, has a screen protector on the optics:
Image

Crysis:
Image

All laid out (I later put zip ties ever 6" on the cable bundle)
Image

Front end. I made room for owners to sign their names. A lot of the HMDs I have acquired, I wonder about their path through the years.
Image

Interactor module mounted:

Image

Final foam arrangement:
Image

Image

Image

Thoughts/comments? I know the pics are bad, they were just rough pics to show progress to the guy who I was making it for. He was going to take pics and post a review. He vanished. :(


Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:22 pm
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3D Angel Eyes (Moderator)
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Well based on the numbers you gave that would work out to around 95 degrees FOV. I tried the headset out and that may be accurate. It was certainly in that range. Overall I thought it was really immersive, just in terms of the FOV and screen size. The resolution was also pretty nice compared to the sub-VGA headsets I am used to. However the unit was very uncomfortable. Mainly it was too tight for my face (and its not like I'm a big guy or anything). The weight was also a little heavy for my taste. It was also hard to focus (with or without my glasses) and felt straining on my eyes. To make matters worse, the VGA cord was extremely short. Even when I pulled my computer out and turned it around (so that the back was right under me) it still wasn't enough space to play a game comfortably. So this unit was not really practical in any sense of the word. I am sure a lot of hard work and sweat and blood went into it, and it was cool to try out. I mean, the FOV was huge! But I don't think I could last more than like 10 minutes at a time with it without getting a headache. But it did have a lot of potential, and it would be cool to see if other DIY projects could fix those shortcomings.

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Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:31 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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I totally agree with your assessment. There was a reason the VGA cord (And audio cables) were so short though. This guy was only going to be using it with his Xbox 360, not a PC, so he did not need a giant mass of cable out the end just to connect to the other giant VGA cable coming out of the 360. If it has been for personal use, I would have used a much longer cable.

I plan on making at least one more revision of this, which I will use to fix the problems.


Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:37 pm
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One Eyed Hopeful
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Great to see this mod in action. Looks like you've made quite a bit of progress.

You could try some reading glasses, perhaps around 2 diopter between your eyes and the lens. That should help the focus issue, especially for the for the pre-geriatric crowd who can no longer do near focus at all!

In the original MRG, the bulky, rear-exiting cable acts as an additional counterweight (plus the lead ballast.)

If the foam helmet liner isn't inserted just right, the helmet may feel overly snug on your head. Sometimes, just shifting the liner around on it's velcro changes the whole fit and feel.

The Aura.... Is that to induce concussion every time the screen turns red as you've lost another life in a POV shooter?

Great work!!

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Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:58 am
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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I actually did try some reading glasses, it helped a little, but was very uncomfortable. You know what would be great? Extremely high diopter contact lenses that would let you focus on a near to eye LCD with no need for any other optics. :lol:

My cables were all rear exit as well, but like you said, not nearly as bulky as the original.

And the Aura can come pretty close to concussion. :D

Like I said, I am going to give this another go. Going to try making a lightweight HMD using the original MRG optics and a 800x480 4.3" LCD.


Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:10 am
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One Eyed Hopeful

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Nice job Palmer!, and thanks for posting this up it certainly helps a little bit with our project.

Do you have anything else in mind (feasible that is) with regards to "Better optics, more fitting for the application"?
I noticed that out of the few projects here using this 5.6" display, 2x or 2.5x or 3x page magnifiers were used, in one instance I think a fresnel lens was used in combination with a page magnifier. I'm asumming that the only difference between using different magnifiers would be the distance away the lcd would need to be mounted. Higher magnification may also increase eye strain?

I got our 5.6" display today with 7-in-1 board and this thing looks pretty awesome!

-Shane


Tue Nov 23, 2010 3:20 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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Fresnel lenses could work, but are not nearly as nice as real lenses.

The BEST lens that I have seen, quality wise, is a no name rectangular magnifying glass that I got at Barnes And Noble. It is made of real glass! It is slightly too small for this screen, though. :(

I know better optics are out there, I am just not sure exactly which of them to use. :lol: I have considered getting two of these glass ones (2.5x), and grinding them down to easily fit one in front of each eye, tilted slightly inwards towards the center of the screen. Higher magnification is not straining if you put it at the right distance from your eyes, but then it tends to cut off the image. What we really need is a large enough 3x magnifier, the largest I have been able to find is a 2.5x 5"x2" (That is what I used, I will find the link tonight on my main rig).

I have two ideas for making a high FOV 3D HMD out of this panel, I will make diagrams in the next day or so. One is a mirror setup, the other is essentially a miniature planar setup.


Tue Nov 23, 2010 3:30 pm
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One Eyed Hopeful

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Hmmm, Yes I've been looking for large magnifiers, but most of the larger ones seem to have that little spot bifocal magnifier which pretty much ruins it for what we're trying to do. Largest 3x without the bifocal I've found is 2x4...

Definitely interested in seeing those diagrams, always looking for new fun ideas to play around and experiment with!


Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:33 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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Here! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0001W ... prod_title

And look at this, too. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000JH ... prod_title


Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:56 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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After this Friday, I am going to have almost nothing to do for two weeks. Expect a review of my HMD, but more importantly, I found a glass lens, 6"x4.5" or so, looks to have 3x or 4x magnification. Y'all gonna laugh when you see what beast it came from. 8-)


Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:38 pm
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Diamond Eyed Freakazoid!

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Can't wait.
Love any and all HMD reviews.
A review of a DIY modded HMD I would love also.

But don't make me choose which review I would love more.
I think you have one of each to review ?
Or are you playing with my head..you know..Headplay


Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:29 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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I currently own:

Vuzix VR920
Phillips Scuba
Virtual Research V8
HeadPlay
i-Glasses SVGA Pro
i-Glasses PC
i-Glasses TV
Liquid Image MRG 2.2
Trimersion
Vortek VR boom mounted display
A few of those shitty toy HMDs with built in games.

I have used, but no longer own:

MyVu Solo
PR1
Sensics X-Sight
Many cobbled together random test HMDs I have made.

Anyways, I will make another thread with reviews of all of them, and hopefully 3D pictures. For now, wait until tonight when I get some pics of this new lens.


Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:51 pm
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Diamond Eyed Freakazoid!

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PalmerTech, that is an impressive collection. Just great.
You make me feel so silly for just reading and reading about HMD's for years but never buying one yet.
My New Year's resolution will be to get my first HMD this year.
I would like to know which is your favorite of all the HMD's you have used.

I Also want to see this chunk of glass you found.
Because my first HMD could be a DIY Mod job like yours . I like the high Rez. of your DIY Mod, the large FOV, and the fact it can run modern games, hooked up to a modern computer.. I think all of those good points could make me not even miss 3D.
I thought I read, that a large FOV is more important than 3D for the feeling of immersion. Do you feel that is true ?


Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:28 pm
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Cross Eyed!
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Hey PalmerTech, any update on this project? I have two MRG2.2 units and I want to do something very similar with them. What did you finally figure out on the lens/magnifier?

Thanks,
Richard

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Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:29 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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Gah, I forgot to take a picture of the massive lens I got! I will do so tomorrow, I promise. I will spill the beans now: I got it from a Vortek VR boom mounted display. :)

Fireslayer, good to know someone wants to do something like this. What display do you plan on using? If I did this again, I would be using different lenses than last time, but those would depend on your LCD.


Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:22 pm
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Cross Eyed!
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I was thinking of using the same Hydis 5.6" display you have with the VGA controller. Do you really like it? As far as the lens, I was going to see what you figured out and how it performed. I also want to mount a head tracker in the helmet. What was the small black button you had on the top front of the MRG in your pics? Also, do you know about how much the unit weighed when you finished it?

Thanks

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:17 am
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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I do like it, but there are a lot of changes I would make in a second revision.

First off, there is now a controller board with HDMI, Component, DVI, and VGA, and I would much rather use that. Problem is, the board for it is pretty large. The solution? I would take the control board, and instead of building it into the HMD, install it into a control box. There is a somewhat proprietary LVDS cable bundle that goes from the controller board to the panel, and while it is normally short (Maybe 12" or so), you could extend it to be several feet long very easily. That would let you use a better controller board, and also reduce weight. As for performance of the panel, it is absolutely amazing.

For the lens, I ended up using something just like this: http://www.all-spec.com/products/a-2024 ... edium=feed

The stock MRG optics have high magnification, but they are very, very low quality, in my opinion. The above is a much better choice, but using a single lens for a screen that size is always going to be a bit of a strain unless you are using multiple lenses, which I have been considering. Most likely, a magnifier like above, but with a good, high quality fresnel somewhere in the path between the LCD and the magnifier.

The small black nub was just part of the LCD mount I made, it stuck out a bit. :lol: I do not know exactly how much it weighed, but it was less than the stock MRG weight, for sure.


Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:13 am
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Cross Eyed!
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Could you possibly provide a link for the controller board and the proprietary cable you are talking about? I am very interested in doing these mods on the MRG. Flight sim and FPS games would look amazing with this FOV and resolution! Not to mention, throw in a head tracker..... It may not be stereoscopic, but it would be about as good as your gonna get, shy of buying a $25,000 professional system!

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:26 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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http://cgi.ebay.com/5-6inch-TFT-LCD-128 ... 3902wt_905

There is a link to the LCD panel and the nice controller board together. See the cable that goes from the controller to the LCD panel? You would need to extend it by cutting and stripping the wires, then splicing in a longer extension cable. The seller might be willing to sell you a premade extended cable, you would have to ask.

Your main problem will be weight, but if you can handle it, it will be pretty nice!


Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:54 pm
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Cross Eyed!
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Got it, thanks. I sent him an email about the cable. I'll post here when I get an answer. My end goal is to create that most immersive gaming experience you can have at home. Once I get the HMD complete, I'm going to look into building a full motion simulator like this one. He is also using the TrackIR5 system for head tracking. Which could easily be used with the MRG. Just stick 3 IR reflective stickers on the front of the helmet and it should be able to track it the same.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONjAwKO-IjA&feature=related[/youtube]

**EDIT** I just found this! Talk about adding another dimension of realism!

http://www.x-simulator.de/forum/viewtop ... lit=#29167

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:12 pm
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fireslayer26 wrote:
I just found this! Talk about adding another dimension of realism!

All you need now is smell-o-vision!

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:02 pm
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Cross Eyed!
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cybereality wrote:
fireslayer26 wrote:
I just found this! Talk about adding another dimension of realism!

All you need now is smell-o-vision!


I know! Just add the smell of burning rubber or afterburner fumes and it would just like being there! :lol:

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:20 pm
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If you want smell-o-vision, just buy a Sensorama, it's in stereo 3D too ! :P

Image


Wed Apr 13, 2011 4:23 am
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Cross Eyed!
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Here is the response I got from vitrolight about the cable....

"Thanks for your inquiry. but I'v tested with the 1meter and 1.5meter cable(but soldered myself instead of one cable), they both did not work for the LCD, this LCD flashs at that length. For your 2meters cable I think manually extend not work for sure.
I can try to make line from factory but the problem is their MOQ will be 100pcs. So I am stuck here."

I really only plan on using this for PC games, so I will to with the VGA board and mount it in the helmet like you did. But there are plenty of adapter cables to convert RCA, HDMI, to VGA.

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Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:21 am
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Diamond Eyed Freakazoid!

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PalmerTech wrote:
For the lens, I ended up using something just like this: http://www.all-spec.com/products/a-2024 ... edium=feed


Hey PalmerTech, that lens is listed at 2inches by 4 inches, is that large enough to cover the whole 5.6 inch vitro lcd panel ?

Did you also try this one (LINK BELOW) and did you like it ?
http://www.amazon.com/Bausch-Lomb-Saver ... 195&sr=8-1


Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:01 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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You do not actually need all that much size to "cover" it, since it is some distance away. And I bought several magnifiers, and I wish I could remember which I used in the end... But some of them, while close to 4"x2", most were actually 5"x2". There is an extra half inch or so on either side of the lens that goes into the frame. :) But like I said, I would not suggest using the same one I did.

Yes, I have one of those. Problem is, the magnification is pretty low! I have been wanting to use that lens, plus another large lens, with an 8" 800x600 LCD that should just barely fit in the MRG. The FOV on my test rig is HUGE, it fills nearly the entire 5"x4" lens surface. :shock:


Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:36 pm
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Sharp Eyed Eagle!

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PalmerTech wrote:
I have used, but no longer own:

Sensics X-Sight

Anyways, I will make another thread with reviews of all of them, and hopefully 3D pictures. For now, wait until tonight when I get some pics of this new lens.


You owned at X-Sight? Why did you sell it? How'd you get it? Or did you just try it? What was it like?


Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:49 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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Aphradonis wrote:
PalmerTech wrote:
I have used, but no longer own:

Sensics X-Sight

Anyways, I will make another thread with reviews of all of them, and hopefully 3D pictures. For now, wait until tonight when I get some pics of this new lens.


You owned at X-Sight? Why did you sell it? How'd you get it? Or did you just try it? What was it like?


I made a thread with reviews of my HMDs, I will be adding two or three more to it tomorrow. If you would like, I can skip ahead and talk about the X-Sight. :) I just got a chance to use one, I never owned one; my wording was a bit off there.


Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:03 pm
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Cross Eyed!
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Hey Palmer, If you had it to do over again. Would you do another upgrade of the MRG helmet? The reason I ask is, I have 2 complete MRG 2.2 VR setups, and I am debating on upgrading one or both or to sell both units.

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Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:55 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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fireslayer26 wrote:
Hey Palmer, If you had it to do over again. Would you do another upgrade of the MRG helmet? The reason I ask is, I have 2 complete MRG 2.2 VR setups, and I am debating on upgrading one or both or to sell both units.


Hmmmmm... That is a tough question.

The thing is, the stock MRG optics are, well, total crap. The shell is nice, but you do not need something that heavy anymore! Display tech has advanced so much that were I to build another one of these, 60% of the weight of the unit would be the shell. That said, if you can deal with the weight and size (In fact, it would be reduced a bit), then upgrading the unit for a few hundred dollars might be worth it to you. I don't know how much you could get for them if you sold them, they do not have much practical use, but they are a fun collectors item! I would keep at least one, if I were you.

I have an MRG shell I have modded with custom foam padding, and it is a lot more comfortable. Now I just need to put something in it! If/when I do, I will let you know if my opinion has changed.


Sun Sep 25, 2011 9:41 pm
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Binocular Vision CONFIRMED!

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Interesting, I am deciding about this myself for a Mono Scopic HMD I am building a friend of mine who is stereo blind, weather or not to get a MRG shell and upgrade that or to build my own shell based on a headband mounting system similar to the Virtual Research V4 and Fakespace Wide5. I know the headband system will be lighter but I do actually like the look of the MRG even as bulky as it is.

@Palmer
In your opinion is the weight of the MRG heavy enough to make the HMD un-usable for long periods of time?

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Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:14 pm
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Golden Eyed Wiseman! (or woman!)

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No, it is still usable, especially if you use softer foam than comes with it. The most critical thing is to make sure that the weight is all balanced on the top of the head, and not on your face.


Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:34 pm
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Cross Eyed!
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Decided to sell my MRG2.2 VR systems. :oops: See here: http://www.mtbs3d.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=13841. I just don't have the time for this project anymore. Own a piece of VR history!

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Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:21 am
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I came across this site today. I was one of the Founders of Liquid Image in Winnipeg. I'm glad people are still finding the MRG2 interesting and novel. Back in 1991 even Jaron Lanier thought we had a good design. I chuckle when I think of the resolution of the LCD display we used but at the time it was a very, very expensive AMLCD and top of the line. Of course, mobile phones didn't exist as mobile devices were just starting to be developed so the need for a very high resolution, small, low power display was just getting started.

The optic was the most practical, best solution we could buy off the shelf without paying to have custom lenses made. We learned much about fresnel lenses but they wouldn't work for our design. We also didn't want to do stereo as the system gets much more complex, you do need double the optics, and then there was the problem of nausea. I still get a little sick after 20 minutes in a VR sim. We didn't see the need for stereo at startup.

We started LIC with a $60,000 friends and family round and within a year were selling over $1 million of HMDs and then game systems. We just didn't have the capital to spend on heavy R&D and customized components. We were in Winnipeg in Canada in 1992 and VCs didn't exist there.

The problems of the HMDs of 1992 are still the same today. Every design is basically a welding google with a display in it. Luckily the displays are getting much lighter so you don't need a counterweight but there still is the problem of face pressure.

Good luck to all.


Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:49 am
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