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2Nov/110

Touch Table Demo

Posted by Dennis

Using my frickin' laser touch table with Maptools for a L4D kind of zombie apocalypse thingie - Zoe, Francis and Bill are about to get chomped.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2FElhcqVQM

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31Oct/110

My Touch/Gaming Table

Posted by Dennis

Just a short video of my table in action.  I got the lasers calibrated this weekend.  Still needs some carpentry work to lock down the U channel that keeps any stray laser light from leaking off the edge of the table.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTe15HvXOw0

It's based on Laser Light Plane technology or LLP and I'm using 4 x 850nm IR lasers, one in each corner that use a beam spreader to convert the laser dot into a 120 arc of IR light.   This is project just above the surface which is two sheets of polycarbanite and a sheet of vellum sandwiched between them as a projection surface.  I've tried other surfaces and broke ass cheap vellum is by far the best on the 'reasonable' side of things.   Sure you could go with the $40 a foot projection film/acrylics and get superiour results but on a cost effective basis I'll take my $2 sheet of vellum any day.

When objects intersect the laser field, they're first cut in half like in Resident Evil no wait, that would be cool but they're not.  What really happens is the laser light hits the object and then reflects off it.  That reflected light shoots off the object and a good chunk of it goes down into the interior of the table where it's picked up by a PS3 EyeToy camera with a custom lens and that has had the IR filter removed and a visible light filter added that filters out everything but the laser light.

This creates bright blobs in the camera view and a couple of pieces of software turn those blobs of light into something that act like mouse cursors.

The image is just Microsoft's Surface Globe app that comes with their Surface SDK kit.

The primary use of the table should be pretty obvious.

11Oct/110

Gaming Table Update

Posted by Dennis

I've decided to switch to using IR Lasers to make a LLP or Laser Light Plane style table.  I'm just unable to get IR LED's to work the way I want them to due to the size of the table.

The LLP method should work and is cheap enough to experiment with to see if it does and if the experiment works then I can pick up a couple more frickin' lasers to make it a fully functional massively multi-touch.

I've got a couple of 10mw IR lasers in the mail somewhere on their way to me that are in the 850nm range.  I could have gone with the cheaper 780nm lasers but I already have a camera that filters for 850 and 850 works better with ambient light and allows for lower wattage lasers.

I'm doodling with how to set them up so that they can be adjusted for pitch/roll/yaw and remain 'locked' in after finding the right setting.

If these work then I can also pick up a sheet of tempered glass to put on top of the table surface to use as the touch surface.  Glass is easier to clean and way less scratchable than arcylic is.

21May/110

Multitouch Driver Windows 7

Posted by Dennis

I was looking for a multi-touch driver to use in Windows and it took some looking obviously enough to get one that worked the way it should be.   One that emulated the touch ability of a typical Windows 7 tablet.

This is for my Multi-Touch Gaming Table experiment.  Speaking of which I do have an update, Deal Extreme takes forever to ship.  It was over a month from the time I placed my order before I received the 48 IR LED security lights.  Both of which worked by the way, I cut the existing plug off and used an old PC power supply (i have a lot of them) to power them.  Just wire the red wire from the lights to a yellow wire from the power supplies main lead (the big mass of wires) or the supplemental power lead (small square plug).  Then wire the black wires to any black wire for a ground.   To get the power supply to turn on short circuit the green wire in the main plug with any back wire. I just clipped and soldered them together.   Unfortunately the lights help but not enough.

I'm thinking I may have to just bite the bullet and get a piece of Endlighten and some strip lighting and deal with the loss of Fiducials.

Anyway, after putting the table on hold for a month waiting for the IR lights I went back to getting it working again using some IR pens I made.  It's not great but it's better than nothing right?

So I found this - http://multitouchvista.codeplex.com/ The instructions on the site are for getting it working with multiple mice.  I offer the following instructions instead since they're not obvious nor posted anywhere.

Install the driver as posted on the site.   Then run the two console files, the MultietouchDriver.console and the Multitouch.Service.Console.  I DON'T recommend the open Pen and Touch and then checking the show mouse box that is listed on the site, that puts a virtual mouse on the screen.  Not really what we're looking for here.

Then open the MultiTouch-Configuration.WFP app and click TUIO and then the obvious option.  At that point the WFP file crashed on me but it did flip it from MultiMice to TUIO input.

Now close the driver and service consoles and fire up CCV.   Calibrate it as normal and minimize it or whatever.

Now re-run the two console apps above.   The reason you don't want them running when you calibrate CCV is it turns the long press of the calibrate procedures into right mouse clicks and if there happens to be anything on the deskop, a window, icon, whatever it jacks around with you by right mouse clicking it.

With those simple but not obvious steps you should now be able to use touch on your table and control windows.  A double touch is a left mouse click, a long touch is a right mouse click.

I'm having issues with calibration at the moment.  I get steady seeming blobs with the pens, the ID doesn't change but it can take an ass load of attempts to get the calibration to work as each point requires a bunch of attempts to try and get the blue sweep to go all the way around.   Annoying as hell.

22Apr/110

Digital Gaming Table 4/22/2011

Posted by Dennis

Received my PS3 camera with m12 2.5mm lens and 850 nm IR filter as well as a 25 LED module string of IR lights and a roll of Vellum from Dick Blick Arts.   The vellum provides a pretty nice projection surface although of course it's going to be prone to picking up finger oils and dirt but it's certainly cheap enough to replace as you need to.

Unfortunately I didn't get the touch working.  I tried putting the string of IR lights about 12" down from the top aimed out and that didn't work, I angled them up and that worked better but the slightest bend in the acrylic from pressure causes the lights to show up as blobs.   I then as a quick experiment tried using regular paper as diffusers over placed above the LED's which did help to eliminate the pressure blobs but regular blobs didn't work that well.  Stability was a major issue with the blobs flickering like mad and getting it down to just finger tips was very difficult.

So I pulled the LED's off the wall and trailed them on the floor of the box aimed up and was back to the least pressure caused the LED's to pop up as blobs as the angle of the acrylic changed minutely.

At that point I called it a night and played some Portal 2.   I'll go back to it tonight.  My current thought is to put the LED's higher up, next to the acrylic aimed across and put diffusers below them to block them from directly shining into the camera.  I'm also going to try moving the camera higher up so it's not reading the sides of the box so much.

17Apr/110

Digital Gaming Table 4/17/2011

Posted by Dennis

More work on the making of the multi-touch functionality to get it working.  Running some issues that I think are attributable to my tablet pc which has multi-touch on it already.   Currently in the process of building a working system from spare parts I have laying around.  Will be far from awesome, a dual core AMD and an old radeon 4550 or something in that neighborhood.  I don't really let good parts sit around, I put them to use for myself or others.   It's been awhile since I did a hardware refresh on my primary box so maybe I should do that and move the current one over into the table.  That would give me a reasonable i5 OC'd by about 20% with SLI 8800 GT's and 8gb of ram.  That should be able to run most things at the 1280x800 resolution the projector puts out.

I ordered a PS3 Eyetoy camera and some right angle connectors for the projector to let it drop down a bit to widen the image.  You might think that the 1" gained wouldn't be all that much but with a super short throw projector 1" will equal a couple of inches in display size which is about what I'm short overall.

Sadly my vacation is over tonight and I have to go back to work so work on the table will probably slow down but I should be able to get back to the RPG system I've been working on using off time at work so there's a little tit for tat.

15Apr/110

Digital Gaming Table 4/14/2011

Posted by Dennis

Technically this is from yesterday but what the hell...

I cracked the case on my logitech 9000 pro and was able to easily remove the IR Filter in spite of various postings on the web that it was impossible to do without destroying the camera.  Not difficult although you need a soldering iron and very thin pointy object.  Simply remove the screws holding the case together, then open the camera casing.  I removed the microphone lead and the 'button' lead.  Remove all the screws you can see to get to the back side of the circuit board then the two screws holding the camera lens on the pcb.   Heat up your soldering iron and briefly touch the two leads for the autofocus and this should let you pop off the lens assembly.   Now use your thin pointy tool to pry at the edge of the IR filter, the red coated lens on the bottom of the lens assembly.  Be very careful here but you should be able to pop it out with just a little encouragement.  NOTE: it'll probably break the IR filter, it is very thin glass after all.

Then put it all back together, put on a visible light filter, I used a couple of layers of exposed negative and you'll have yourself an IR camera.   NOTE: Most lights give off IR light so don't be surprised if you can still see with it.  Try turning off all the lights at night and then you can use your tv remote as a flashlight.

Now FPS in the multi-touch software isn't great, 16fps but I'm not sure where the limitation lies.

13Apr/110

Digital Gaming Table 4/13/2011

Posted by Dennis

More progress was made.  You can see pictures of the stages on the DGT page but to sum up, sanded, routed, puttied, sanded, stained, acrylic cut, access hole cut, ventilation holes cut.

I'm going to be using magnets, rare earth magnets to be exact and steel bolts to keep the access door closed rather than hinges and a latch of some kind.  It seems a little niftier.

Right now I'm going to have two inflow fans near the bottom of one side and an outflow fan right above the projector so as the heat rises from it's exhaust it'll hopefully get sucked directly out and the two inflow's should create a positive air pressure in the box, slight though it might be and help create a cool to hot heat loop so that the heat escapes.   If necessary I'll cut a series of 1" holes near the top of the box which should provide enough ventilation to keep things cool.

I still need to cut some access holes for wires in the bottom corners and near the top where it sits above the shelf.

Oh due to the ugliness of the staining I went with a faux finish.  Now I hate faux finishes but I find it less ugly than the splotchy stain soaking.  If you squint hard enough it looks like burled walnut.  But you have to squint.  And use your imagination.

I was thinking for the Mark 2 that I might go with a steam punk look.  Not sure if it's worth it, the 'omfg awesome' factor would get old quickly I think and then you have all these bits and pieces sticking off it that become annoying or get in the way.

I do think for the Mark 2 it'll be a complete design job rather than re-using the existing table which can go back to being a dedicated poker and board gaming table.

12Apr/110

Digital Gaming Table 4/12/2011

Posted by Dennis

Got some more work done, added the fourth wall missing from yesterday, added trim work to the base, created the capper, sanded everything with some rough grit to get it semi-smooth.   You'd think I'd of gotten more done today oddly enough after thinking about it.

There are a couple of new images on the dedicated page for the gaming table now.

11Apr/110

Digital Gaming Table 4/11/2010(b)

Posted by Dennis

Good news, I was able to make a visible light filter out of a piece of old negative, screenshot attached.  I know it's not the 'best' filter for this but it's the best free filter and free goes a long way with me.

Those two 'eyes' are the IR LED's in the cable remote I'm using and as you can see nothing else is visible in the pretty well lit room I'm currently in.

Bad news, with that I was able to measure out the FOV on the logitech 9000 Pro.  At the roughly 33" height from floor to surface the 9000 can only see roughly 20" to the side on the long axis giving me a FOV of about 40" wide.  What that means is my maximum possible image can only be 40" x 25".   It's a minor setback from the image size I was shooting for, 46x29 usable with a max of 48" by 30".

As part of that bad news, using the extreme edges of any camera is apparently iffy in terms of reliability (about like the edges of my Nook come to think of it).   So if this works and works well enough that I keep it, I might end up having to spring for a PS3 camera or a pair of them and stitch the image together.

On the up side is, using a digital mapping took and virtual tokens, you're not limited to the 1" = 1 Square typical of any gaming system.   So while 40" x 25" would be roughly 200' by 125' at normal scale, you could simply zoom out in the app and easily add 30%-50% to that size and be able to display 300' by 190'(ish).   And when was the last time you were able to use a map 300' long? (Don't bother me details about how often you NEED a map that big.)

11Apr/110

Gaming Table Update 4/11/2011

Posted by Dennis

I've picked up the lumber to make the box for the upgrade to the gaming table.  I just saw a new video about DSI style multi-touch tables like the old video that uses the FDI or shadow method rather than DI or FTIR reflected IR light.  Since it only requires some software (freely available), a webcam (already have) and some time (on vacation) I think I'm going to try to go that route instead of the wiimote.   The wiimote would require me to build at least one IR pen, not hard or even costly, but if I can avoid any cost, the better.  And if I can get it to work then I get multi-touch without pens which is a big bonus.

I just tested my camera, a Logitech 9000 Pro, and it's definitely IR receptive.  It's also high res but I'm not sure about FOV based on the size of the opening, I'll need to do some testing there.  In the picture at the left I'm pointing a standard remote at the camera and pressing a button and the two blue lights are what the camera sees which means it's seeing IR light.

Now I need to find some pieces of exposed negative to block the visible spectrum and allow the IR spectrum.  It's not the best visible filter but hey it's free assuming I can find some old negatives.

I'm still debating the final size of the display and the height, I think I'm going with a 28" x 44" visible viewport which leaves me room to overlap the acrylic for support purposes and leaves a smidgen of room around the long edges of the table perimeter for papers and stuff. I've got some ideas there for lighting as well.

9Apr/110

Gaming Table Going Digital

Posted by Dennis

My gaming table is going to get a digital option.  If you've been a regular visitor over the yeass you've watched it go through a few upgrades, the original, the new table top and then the double decker topper.

Now I've decided to move to the digital age.  I'm going to remove the double decker topper and then the padded poker table insert, even four years ago I was thinking ahead as it's completely removable.  Then I'm going to cut a hole through the underlayment such that I can have a usable digital surface 23x36 or  30" by 48".  For obvious reasons I'll probably go with the bigger one.

I'm getting a very short throw projector, it only needs 1'-11" to do the 30" by 48", add in the 9" of depth and the projector surface only needs to be 33" (+1" for cables etc) from the floor.  I'll need to do some actual measurements as the calculator at ProjectorCentral may or may not be accurate plus there's usability checks.

I've only been thinking about this for roughly 4 years now so it's not a rash decision or one I've taken lightly obviously.  It's a luxury for sure and the ROI is unlikely to ever pay out but I'm in a position where I can do it without sacrificing so it seemed like a good time to go forward with it.

One thing I've seen with ultra short throw's using the various tools is that it's difficult to impossible to add a mirror.  But with a 33" high table I don't know that that's an issue.

My playable surface is around 30", it used to be 33" but I removed 3" of foot to allow the double decker topper to be more usable.   Easy to take it away, hard to add it back.

So what I'll end up with is a box that comes up through the center of the hole and extends above the surface.   I'm going to be making the box out of MDF since I don't really envision this as being a final table.  I'd like to go back to the drawing board on the entire table at which point I'd make it out of wood but for my needs here MDF should suffice.

The geek in me expects to make the table interactive although in all honestly I don't forsee it being used much except as a geekgasm issue.   Rather than going full multi-touch with a DI (preferred by me) IR setup I'll just use a Wiimote and an IR pen that will function as a mouse on the table's surface.  So in theory you could use the pen to actually draw maps on the table.  That should help a lot with forgetting to wipe up the old marker between sessions.

Right now I expect I'll be using MapTools to display maps and for tokens although there are several options these days although a lot of options have gone by the wayside.  But for what I'd need MapTools should work.  The biggest reason to use it is it's free.  And I'm not happy with other options like Fantasy Grounds II (no link, I don't like it that much) which I find the UI to be horrible, I want functional user interfaces not fanciful.  And frankly it's too gd expensive to get a fully engaged group.   D20Pro seems too focused on Dungeons and Dragons and doesn't have full 4E support and you have to have licenses for everyone and I won't be going back to older editions so that leaves that one out.  And others are a worse option in terms of features or costs.

I'll most likely either run two instances of Maptools on my tablet (HP TouchSmart TM2), one GM and one Player, gm on standard monitor and player output to projector.  I could just set up another machine,Laura has an identical tablet and there's enough parts laying around here to build one or two desktops, to drive the projector but I worry about crowding at the table.

I'll be documenting the steps of the conversion from analog here like I do with most of my gaming paraphernalia and if you're interested check back.  I'm adding in a new category, Digital Gaming Table, that'll make it easier to follow as well.

I was just able to successfully pair one of my Wiimotes to my tablet over bluetooth using the native bluetooth driver using Smoothboard and WiimoteConnect.   With Smoothboard I was able to use a cable remote as an IR source (just hold down a button) and get it to move the cursor around, albeit erratically.

If you have any tips, ideas, comments or questions please feel free to let me know.  Especially tips or software advice. 🙂