Home » Undertaking Modular: Constructing an open modular controller for SteamVR

Undertaking Modular: Constructing an open modular controller for SteamVR

by Icecream
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At present’s article is among the most stunning printed on this weblog in 2022. And in reality, it has not been written by me.

XR ergonomics professional Rob Cole printed final 12 months on this platform an article detailing Undertaking Caliper, that’s his experiments in constructing absolutely configurable controllers for SteamVR. The article quickly will get viral, and many individuals would have cherished to see these controllers go into manufacturing.

This 12 months, as a Christmas reward for you all, he’s publishing the outcomes of the year-long evolution of Undertaking Caliper that result in the creation of Undertaking Modular. Undertaking Modular is the design of XR controllers which might be absolutely modular, extendable, open, and configurable. They’re the dream of each XR tech fanatic. On this submit, you can find all the main points about them, together with the story of the lengthy journey of the various experiments made by Rob, offered by way of an extended descriptive textual content, and lots of attention-grabbing photos.

Rob’s work is wonderful and I sincerely assume deserves higher recognition than simply being on this web site. It deserves to turn out to be actuality. I invite you all to attempt to push his work by both giving it visibility, or alternatives to make it come to life. I’m all in supporting him, and I’m certain you’ll be too after having examine his work and his imaginative and prescient. Comfortable studying.

Undertaking Modular

by Rob Cole for Skarredghost

project modular
(Picture by Rob Cole)


This time final 12 months, Tony a.ok.a. Skarredghost, was form sufficient to publish my long-read article detailing months of intensive work on a modular movement controller targeted on enter choices, ergonomic adjustment, and ease of restore.

The article rapidly went viral, and quite a few conferences have been held with totally different firms interested by my controller design. They supplied a number of small quantities of money, some doubtful cryptocurrency, and parcels of digital land in two totally different metaverses, however nothing that might fund the pre-production work and manufacturing tooling / meeting setup.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

A prolonged Zoom assembly happened late one night in January, with a gaggle of legendary {hardware} builders from a extremely secretive outfit. Out of respect for his or her privateness, my recollection of that assembly stays obscure, although I did ask what everybody desires to know.

I purchased one other Index the very subsequent morning, so there’s the reply to that over-asked query.

About two months after the article first dropped, an invite was obtained to my remaining Zoom assembly, this time with a company consultant. Excited a couple of potential provide, I agreed to attend, however sadly, I discovered myself going through an aggressive authorized problem over a facet of the design. 

After signing no matter they needed, to keep away from being sued into oblivion, the undertaking was canceled and I used to be requested to not discuss in regards to the design anymore, in order that’s all I can say about that.  

Each cloud does have a silver lining although, and I abruptly discovered spare time to play VR video games, with my new VR system and a ridiculous “Corridor of Fame” 3080Ti graphics card I’d one way or the other acquired at a really cheap worth.

Having the ability to flip up body charges while sustaining super-resolution was completely wonderful, and it was nice utilizing lighthouse monitoring once more. Lastly, I obtained to complete Arizona Sunshine, and performed numerous different video games that had been sitting unplayed in my Steam library, rattling these tempting gross sales…


Regardless of completely having fun with my newfound lifetime of leisure (exterior of my actual job), an concept that had been gestating in my mind for months led to that all-familiar {hardware} itch needing to be scratched.

It was time to get busy in non-public, working up an thought for an unconventional means of constructing a movement controller. Preserving issues beneath wraps would hopefully forestall additional authorized shenanigans, while eliminating the time burn that’s selling one thing by way of social media which in the course of the earlier undertaking meant answering emails, tweets, and whatnot.

So what was this new thought then?

Standard designs just like the Oculus Contact, Valve Index, and HTC controllers are manufactured utilizing comparatively thin-walled, injection-molded plastic casings, often cut up into two halves. It’s been mentioned quite a few occasions that as soon as the injection mould tooling and meeting setup is paid for, the plastic is so cheap, it’s basically free.

The remaining inner quantity (empty house contained in the casing) can be utilized to accommodate quite a few elements similar to electronics (monitoring, compute, and GPIO), an influence supply (battery), rumble motor (haptics), enter mechanisms (switches, joystick), flexes and cabling to attach the elements, and so forth.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

This enables good designers to make cost-effective merchandise utilizing mass manufacturing processes: injection molding offering plastic casings, automated meeting becoming out layers of elements, secured with machine fixings, adhesive tapes, sizzling glue, and so on.

Injection mould instruments are complicated and costly to chop however can be utilized to create many helpful inner particulars similar to reinforcements, mountings, bosses, struts, webs, and spigots to help the elements contained in the controller.

It’s a really neat answer designed particularly for mass manufacturing, however as a result of excessive entry value and wish for factories to function at capability, by no means viable for smaller runs. On the flip aspect, 3D printing is just too sluggish to help mass manufacturing, at the very least utilizing present printing expertise.

Injection molded casing controllers have one massive flaw; as a result of skinny casing, complicated meeting, and fixing adhesives they weren’t designed to be repairable. It’s not straightforward to switch a broken joystick,  battery, or set off meeting: you’ll typically discover a small becoming screw is obscured by meeting adhesive, substitute of the joystick means dropping capacitive sensing, or damaged triggers are repaired utilizing superglue as entry is tight and spares are scarce.

As a result of it’s not straightforward, it’s not very cost-effective to restore. By the point the product is shipped to a restore middle, a technician is paid an hourly charge to repair it, components are used and the product is shipped again, it’s sadly typically cheaper to provide a brand new controller and simply recycle the broken one.

(Picture by Rob Cole, from Valve web site)

Think about {that a} single Index controller solely prices £139 model new with free delivery, making repairing it a debatable exercise for any business entity. Examine this to a $150 display screen for a $1000 smartphone, and you may see why a plethora of “Smash” smartphone restore facilities have sprung up in lots of excessive streets and malls.

Nevertheless, the creation of technical guides and substitute components from the current partnership between Valve and I-Fixit is a superb step ahead, because it’s “cost-effective” to self-repair if in case you have the ability, and instruments and might supply licensed substitute components. Should you can solder competently and aren’t petrified of opening your controller casing, it’s actually attainable to make repairs, with some customers reporting success with becoming another joystick, or a brand new battery.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

From my expertise as an Index launch day proprietor with a number of controllers RMA’s throughout two years of EU guarantee protection, it was sometimes a single level of failure every time. I’d return a controller with a drifting joystick, a sticking set off, a cracked grip plate, and so forth, however not with a number of failures on the identical controller.

I at all times obtained model new controllers (very easy to identify) as replacements offering a superb buyer expertise. Later now in the course of the Index lifecycle, there are customers now mentioning receiving reconditioned controllers which is an enormous enchancment when it comes to E-Waste. My private E-Waste allowance (if there was such a factor) was fully blown throughout these two years, making me really feel unhealthy about all of the delivery and replacements from China by way of the Netherlands to the UK. 

All of this quickly led me to imagine that a design that supplied a straightforward substitute of components which might be susceptible to failure or unintentional injury could be nicely price investigating. If the components might be simply changed by the person, or by somebody providing such a service within the nation, it could drastically minimize down the variety of defective controllers being shipped lengthy distances to restore facilities (in my case, from the UK to the Netherlands) or simply scrapped if out of guarantee.

The Core Idea

As an alternative choice to injection molded casing controllers, my thought revolved round a “core” containing a Tundra SteamVR HDK ({hardware} improvement package) and a slim lithium-ion battery pack

I deliberate to search out out whether or not it was attainable to “bundle” these things inside a hand-held core which might kind the mounting construction for hand grips, a monitoring body (to mount sensors at applicable positions), and enter elements. Was it attainable to have these elements “hold off” the core, if the core was used as a structural entity?

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I rapidly found it was attainable to mount the HDK and a Li-ion battery inside a construction that might be compact sufficient to suit inside a small dimension, closed hand. After some exams with heat-molded plastics and threaded steel inserts (to permit attachments), one thing extra inflexible, stronger, and decrease profile was required so I switched my considering, taking a look at army assault rifles for inspiration.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I thought of an thought I had used on a earlier undertaking of a “plastic grip” that bolts onto a “rail” aping the notorious ‘Picatinny’ rail used for setting optics and different attachments onto an assault rifle, as seen within the picture above. The Picatinny rail normal permits appropriate elements to mount in seconds and has created a wealthy ecosystem of appropriate components from a number of producers. 

Constructing aluminum alloy rails and plastic bolt-on grips appeared to work, with the Tundra HDK and Li-ion battery snugly accommodated contained in the hand grips. The issue now was figuring out find out how to connect the remainder of the controller to the hand grip!

Engaged on this drawback quickly revealed the answer of lengthening the “rails” to supply attachment factors at every finish for mounting all the opposite components onto, together with the monitoring system.

I then constructed an aluminum mule with plastic grips to get an thought of the scale and form of a monitoring ring that might match across the hand while having clearance, and the way enter elements like a joystick and set off may match into the design.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Grips would encapsulate the Tundra HDK and its a number of flexes, so I attempted becoming it to the Mule to test for clearance, tight however would work, as proven beneath with the Higher Grip fitted and flexes coming again in the direction of the monitoring ring aspect.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Having just lately examined Pimax’s new Sword controllers while making my evaluate for Skarredghost, I developed a brand new appreciation for touchpads so determined to construct a placeholder round that type of enter, to maintain it easy while the remainder of it obtained labored by way of.

An unlucky (model new, boxed) Steam controller was sacrificed to the {hardware} gods, and stripped for components together with trackpads, buttons, and triggers.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I used to be again within the controller recreation with a brand new thought, and moved rapidly, engaged on what would turn out to be the first-generation Modular controller.

Swapping the Touchpad enter module out for a joystick module ought to be attainable, at the very least on the {hardware} aspect. Was it attainable to additionally regulate the gap between the grips and enter module to accommodate totally different fingers?

Remodeling the Rail system made me assume extra about find out how to clarify what it was, developing with this description: “Modula Rail Body”.

“Modular Rail Body”

It appears to make sense: this might be referred to as a “Modular Rail Body” controller, compared to up to date “Injection Moulded Casing” controllers we presently use in VR, just like the Oculus Contact and Valve Index (for individuals who like abbreviations, MFR controller and IMC controller respectively). 

A necessary operate of the Modular Rail Body design is to present the pliability of a modular system that may accommodate many various choices. Completely different dimension and form hand grips bolt on in seconds. An extended strap might be fitted. Completely different enter choices ought to be accessible to go well with the desire of various customers… for teleport individuals a good full dimension touchpad is far superior. And in the event you like combating video games, what a couple of D-Pad? If you wish to have a contact (pressure) sensor in your decrease grip, it may be performed; however in the event you favor a traditional grip button, that might be performed too. Simply bolt it in, and join that cable!

To make this modification on an IMC controller shouldn’t be cheap because it requires the injection mould tooling to be considerably reworked, a brand new instrument minimize, or adjustments made to the meeting line.

With the MRF design, new modular components might be rapidly printed or manufactured at a a lot smaller scale with a shorter lead time for purchasers. New video games might be launched with particularly made MRF elements to work together with recreation code, extra on that later 😉 

Something that will get damaged on an MRF controller might be eliminated and changed with out requiring complicated disassembly; loosen some bolts and unplug a connector, then put it again collectively. Software program instruments would allow adjustment to render fashions of the controller to go well with enter choices selection, colour, mods, and so on.

Rebuilding ought to be a much less horrifying proposition than taking aside an IMC controller which may contain warmth weapons, plastic picks, and tiny Torx drivers and require regular fingers and robust nerves, particularly throughout your first restore “journey”.

Now that I used to be onto one thing tangible with my radical thought of MRF controllers, a number of months of intensive work went into determining how this might be put collectively, and most significantly considering if it may really be manufactured at any scale.

Utilizing the MRF design idea eradicated an enormous preliminary setup value for manufacturing which was a set of complicated injection molding instruments to make the controller casing. Was it attainable to make this factor utilizing aluminum rails with some nuts, bolts, spacers, and maybe some 3D-printed plastic components? If it was attainable to hand-build a working prototype in my workshop, it could be attainable to construct some extra, at the very least on a restricted scale. It was time to search out out!


This time round, it grew to become a lot simpler to know find out how to construct stuff rapidly and customarily get it proper the primary or second time. A few of this got here from expertise working with sure supplies and instruments, while additionally having the boldness to get round issues after having punched by way of many related issues final 12 months.

Time was at all times a problem, there simply wasn’t sufficient spare time as my actual job was at all times busy. Fortunately I managed to work some shorter weeks in the direction of the top of the 12 months, having accrued some trip time, which noticed an enormous acceleration in what I used to be in a position to accomplish.

One thing else I managed was getting higher at doing extra in much less time, typically with the ability to break duties down into small chunks, or figuring in time for adhesives or paint to dry while engaged on different duties.

Since an image is reportedly price 1000 phrases, listed here are some pictures from Undertaking Modular improvement throughout 2022.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Lastly, by the top of this Summer time, I had one thing prepared for prototype meeting. The plan was to suit the Tundra Steam VR HDK, write “the JSON” and get the monitoring system working; then begin including inputs by way of the GPIO system, and see what occurs!

The primary prototype was designed particularly round Tundra’s HDK, a slim lithium-ion battery, and commercially accessible enter elements that I had scavenged from quite a few gamepad controllers.  I’ve at all times been eager to make use of COTS (business off-the-shelf) components because the components exist already, lowering setup prices and danger, and because the saying goes: why reinvent the wheel?

Particularly when there’s somebody making else “nice components”, handily they have already got a manufacturing unit they usually’ve ironed out the manufacturing issues of creating their part lengthy earlier than you come together with an order. Except one thing is proprietary, most factories are completely happy to take cash from new clients or can present an analogous product with some small adjustments, for the precise worth.

Speaking of elements, the concern in regards to the provide of Tundra’s HDK was at all times at the back of my thoughts, because it had been out of manufacturing for a while, and it was unsure whether or not it was going to be accessible once more. Tundra had been very busy with their well-received Steam VR tracker, displaying that regardless of the part scarcity that began in the course of the Covid pandemic and since worsened, it was attainable to get one thing constructed if maybe the order numbers have been satisfactory to make it worthwhile.

With out additional delay, let’s introduce the outcome, beginning with an unboxing of what’s speculated to be the primary working prototype of Undertaking Modular.

Undertaking Modular V.1 unboxing

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Coming in a 100% recycled cardboard field, Undertaking Modular V.1 controller arrives unassembled with every part in a separate, labelled bag to maintain it secure throughout transit. As soon as the controller is assembled, the baggage might be saved away and the field used to maintain the controller itself secure.

Taking the eight totally different baggage out of the field, we’ve:

  • Monitoring Ring
  • Monitoring Head
  • Enter Pod
  • Haptic Hand strap
  • Body
  • HDK on higher rail
  • Higher grip
  • Decrease grip

Taking these things out of the baggage reveals extra element, as to precisely what’s what.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The picture above reveals every merchandise in additional element, however let’s undergo every merchandise in flip, because it helps to elucidate how this strange-looking movement controller suits collectively. 

You’ll want a few hey keys for meeting, on this case, 2mm and 3mm. If becoming out the prototype with a Tundra SteamVR HDK the primary distinction is the cautious routing of the sensor flexes by way of the cable routing system, while doing the meeting. Right here we’ll present it with out the HDK, because it makes it simpler to know.


On the coronary heart of the controller, these aluminum alloy Rails have totally different holes for mounting attachments – we’ve a “Higher Rail” and a “Decrease Rail”, with a ahead orientation indicated by etchings on the floor.

The magnified picture beneath reveals the Tundra HDK fitted into an early incarnation of the Rails, the place the retaining nuts for the entrance and rear axle bolts might be clearly seen. The threaded holes additional inboard of every axle is used to mount the plastic grips. Over time, I had points with these threads changing into worn by always rebuilding the event controllers and later switched to metal inserts for long-term sturdiness, with solely a small weight penalty.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The picture beneath reveals the Tundra HDK mounted onto the primary model of the highest rail, utilizing VRB tape, which makes for a semi-permanent becoming. 

On the high and backside ends of the rails are the Axle mounting holes – the axles (lengthy threaded bolts) present a vertical mounting floor for attaching totally different enter / output elements. Preserving it easy, we’ve some black aluminum spacers, and never proven within the picture, some spacing washers and retaining nuts which might be nyloc or plain.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Decrease rail shouldn’t be proven right here, it’s a part of the decrease grip within the v.1 design, and has a grip sensor bolted straight onto the steel rail (extra on this later).


Tying collectively the Rails is the Body, offering a structural brace in addition to a mounting airplane for the monitoring system’s optical sensors. The Body is manufactured utilizing a recycled aluminum alloy (7000 collection) materials which is shaped right into a skeletal construction, with mounting factors for attaching the Body to the Rails, and to the Monitoring Head.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As might be seen within the picture above, the aluminum Body is then co-molded utilizing particular heat-molded engineering plastic which is 100% recyclable and non-toxic. This plastic gives a easy floor across the person’s hand, and provides a noticeable diploma of power and stiffness in comparison with the aluminum skeleton by itself. 

I arrived at this particular form by way of many iterations because it additionally homes flex cabling for the optical sensors of the monitoring system, and couldn’t intrude with the person’s fingers across the enter space, while permitting a variety of ergonomic changes for the enter controls.


Bolted onto the rails utilizing 4 countersunk bolts are the Grips. The Grips are the human-hand interplay floor, permitting the person to comfortably discover, maintain and grip the controllers; and apply finger actions and grip pressure by way of the totally different controller inputs. The Grips additionally present a safe casing for the controller internals, cabling and optical sensor flexes.

The Higher Grip is an easy heat-molded plastic piece, with two countersunk bolts. The entrance bolt is longer because it additionally acts as a mounting level for the entrance of the hand strap. The rear bolt is barely shorter, offering an adjustment mechanism for the rear of the hand strap (extra on this later).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Decrease Grip within the v.1 design has a pressure-sensitive grip sensor bolted on from the within face, with a cable working into the controller inside the place it might probably interface with the GPIO system.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Utilizing the identical type and dimension of bolts because the Higher Grip, the Decrease Grip makes use of shorter size bolts in order to not penetrate the inside of the rail beneath the place the battery is situated. The Grip Sensor is bolted in place utilizing two small countersunk bolts and might be eliminated for substitute or restore, though this requires opening the Rail Body on the V.1 design.

Haptic hand strap

Nonetheless speaking about Grips, these play a vital second function which is retaining the Haptic Hand Strap to the controller physique, while offering angle and size changes for the Hand Strap to go well with the person.

The Hand Strap is firmly elasticated, permitting the person to function the controller with out always gripping the physique, both for consolation throughout longer periods or throughout “experiences” requiring no enter, or throughout operational actions similar to throwing an in-game object.

The Hand Strap is an easy woven elastic cloth piece, one finish warmth thickened and punched by way of with a small gap for the Higher Grip entrance axle, the axle performing an anchor level and pivot to set Strap angle.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The entrance of the Hand strap is angle adjustable, by merely loosening the Higher Grip bolt a few turns, rotating the strap to regulate the exit angle, after which re-tightening the bolt which compresses it towards the Higher Rail.

The rear of the Hand strap is secured by compression between the rear of the Higher Grip and the Higher Rail, making size adjustment as straightforward as loosening or tightening the corresponding bolt utilizing a hey key. Pull it to size, tighten the bolt, and it received’t transfer once more. 

This makes for a brilliant easy strap, that’s straightforward to regulate or exchange if worn, but in addition a mounting level for a small Haptic Module that slides onto the strap, and wires into the controller inside utilizing a snap in connector (not proven right here). Boasting a really small however punchy ERM haptic motor (max 3nm), mounted onto a molded plastic physique, with a carbon fiber security defend on high, and a agency rubber pores and skin contact base.

Found throughout final 12 months’s improvement work, once I constructed a haptic take a look at mule referred to as “squirrel”, I observed that firing even low-power haptics straight into the hand’s metacarpals gives a really highly effective “in hand” stimulation, however solely required a low-power funds (in comparison with utilizing a number of bigger, in-body motors). That is very attention-grabbing to forestall fast discharge of the battery throughout haptic-rich purposes.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

One other very attention-grabbing discovering was that de-coupling the haptics from the monitoring system improves stability, as some Index controller house owners have reported issues with monitoring when the haptics fireplace. As just lately seen on the Index Reddit:

“I purchased Full package in November. Bought it round 14th. Left controller was spasing out and saved dropping monitoring throughout sturdy vibrations (proper was completely wonderful). Precisely the identical drawback that was occurring for left controllers for the reason that gadget has been launched. I needed to undergo backwards and forwards for over 2 weeks to even get supplied a substitute. I solely obtained that substitute final Wednesday. Straight away I’ve observed the controller was jittering barely throughout vibrations however at the very least it wasn’t dropping monitoring fully nor was it exhausting sufficient to fully displace it by 10-15 cm so it was bearable.”

Because the haptic motor is not mounted inside a plastic controller physique (inflicting vibration all through the construction) however floating on the Hand strap, potential enhancements to monitoring in all situations, mixed with decrease energy funds make it an attention-grabbing new improvement 😉

Enter pod

To offer a helpful vary of inputs in a compact, adjustable bundle there’s a self-contained Enter Pod, this model boasting a excessive precision analog mini-stick, which might be rapidly changed after unscrewing 5 small bolts from the underside of the Enter Pod casing.

Proven right here beneath because the design was being labored on (with a placeholder cable) the mini-stick additionally options a detachable rubber joystick cowl in concave (seen right here) and convex variations to go well with person desire and permit for put on and tear substitute. 

With a glide-ring, steel building and excessive specification pots (not Alps) you get a brilliant responsive and exact enter feeling, with elevated return-to-center precision. It’s rated for two million activations so takes a while to wear down, and it’s replaceable for round $20… not unhealthy. 

Most significantly, when testing this joystick in VR video games like Aircar and Undertaking Automobiles 2, the largest distinction was observed in “stick really feel” in comparison with present movement controllers, offering a way more correct, direct, and fewer obscure stick motion expertise. 

4 high-quality enter buttons are additionally featured within the casing, with industry-standard “A, B, System” in addition to a further user-definable enter button right here simply referred to as “X”. This provides the controller a further enter channel, just like the motion of urgent the touchpad on Index controllers, which is utilized in numerous video games.

With SteamVR boasting a extremely configurable controller enter system, it ought to be straightforward to remap controls as you require and discover the perfect use for the X button.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Enter buttons on glide rings compress high-quality microswitches mounted on a inflexible aluminum alloy baseplate that bolts into the underside of the molded plastic Enter Pod physique.

For particular tactile suggestions, the usage of high-quality microswitches gives a lovely however not overly loud “click on” when pressed. To the left of the Enter Pod within the picture above, is the Set off and Enter Pod’s Mounting Bracket.

The Set off itself is a mechanical gadget with no electrical connection, that includes a strong pivot and journey adjustment screw which is adjusted utilizing a 2mm hey key. This specific Set off began out as a part of a Steam controller and has been “tailored” to go well with this software.

The journey adjustment screw within the base of the Set off aligns with a microswitch mounted beneath the Enter Pod casing. Because the Set off is labored by the person, the screw makes contact with the microswitch, offering an enter motion. By adjusting the screw top (with hex hey), the Set off makes contact in the end with the microswitch, relying in your desire.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

This enables the Set off to be simply changed or eliminated, with none weak cable linking the Enter Pod to the Set off, or the necessity for any switching gear contained in the Set off.

And to fulfill my demand for ergonomic fine-tuning, the Enter Pod and Set off slide again and forwards 15mm on the metal bracket utilizing single bolt adjustment with a Hex key, permitting customers to fine-tune distance between controls and Grips to go well with their fingers or private desire.

15mm of adjustment distance appeared helpful, although it could be attainable to extend this distance by remodeling the entrance of the controller to extend the gap between the Entrance Axle and Monitoring Head at the price of barely growing controller size and weight.

By barely loosening the Entrance Axle bolt, you possibly can rotate the Mounting Bracket across the Entrance Axle, letting you set rotation of controls relative to grips (earlier than tightening the bolt to lock it in place), which looks like a extremely helpful adjustment to have. This is able to translate to with the ability to set the Joystick angle excellent to your thumb.

The one restrict of rotation is the clearance between the edges of the Enter Pod and the neck of the controller / aspect of the Monitoring Head. The present design gives a superb vary of rotation adjustment, as additional angle adjustment could also be exterior of a usable vary for a lot of fingers.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Mounting Bracket is a thick piece of sturdy Chromoly metal plate and might be fastidiously bent to your desire utilizing a bench-mounted vice and grips, to permit customers additional customization. Alongside utilizing longer or shorter Axle bolts, totally different spacers, and totally different Grips, it’s your decision or want a slight tweak of the bracket to place your Controls in simply the precise place.

Nevertheless, it is not going to bend in regular use, although may act as a “bending fuse” if one way or the other the person subjected the Enter Pod to an irregular influence load. (after which get replaced at a value of $2)

Monitoring ring

This molded plastic piece acts as a protecting shroud that incorporates all of the optical sensor flexes as they’re routed from the HDK by way of the physique of the controller and to their particular person mounting places as described by three-dimensional mannequin Factors.

Sensors are protected against environmental influence by strong surrounding edges and ridges molded round every Sensor location, designed to give the Sensor its full subject of view while stopping direct impacts from inflicting any sensor injury or undesirable motion which may throw off calibration and subsequently trigger monitoring instability.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As seen within the picture above, the Monitoring Ring bolts onto the Body utilizing 4 small bolts (solely three proven right here) that are fitted by hand utilizing a Hex key. As soon as secured with these bolts, the Monitoring Ring sits flush towards the Body, offering a neat answer for mounting sensors and retaining flexes away from the skin world, while presenting a hand-friendly inside floor and being strong in case of impacts.  

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Optical Sensors are secured utilizing VRB tape or adhesive after threading the sensors by way of small “portholes” strategically moulded throughout the Monitoring Ring floor. As seen within the picture above, I’ve positioned a indifferent (by chance broken) sensor the place it could be situated, the flex then runs again down by way of the closest porthole and contained in the Monitoring Ring, again all the way down to the Modular Rail space.

For manufacturing, it could use optical home windows created from particular plastic, and maybe in the end a “bolt-in Monitoring Ring module” with a single connector, to make meeting and restore tremendous easy.

Monitoring head

Just like the Monitoring Ring, the Monitoring Head is an easy molded plastic piece that gives a bodily construction for the array of optical sensors serving the entrance of the controller. 

Utilizing a separate head permits the Enter Pod to stay adjustable, because the design gives frontal house for the Enter Pod to maneuver backwards and forwards on its sliding mount with as much as 15mm of adjustment for hand-fit fine-tuning.

It’s attainable to extend the adjustment vary (for instance 20-25mm) by remodeling the entrance of the controller with an extended attain for the Monitoring Head, on the expense of barely growing controller dimension; 15mm was felt to be a helpful adjustment vary together with totally different dimension Grips.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As seen within the picture above, the Monitoring Head is hooked up utilizing two medium-sized bolts which merely move by way of holes within the entrance of the Head, after which screw into heavy-duty, threaded metal inserts that are bonded to the skeleton, after which co-molded contained in the Body construction.

The v.1 controller has the addition of an influence bumper, created from a thick piece of light-weight aluminum alloy. This reduces frontal influence injury to the controller in addition to protects optical sensors from particular person injury. It’s minimize in a form to go well with the optical sensors, therefore the odd form.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The molded ribs on the Monitoring Head proceed this theme of defending optical sensors from user-caused impacts with play house partitions or furnishings. For manufacturing, just like the Monitoring Ring, it might be re-designed with optical window plastics, or the most suitable choice of a bolt-in “Monitoring Head module” with a single connector for easy meeting and restore. 

Throughout hand testing and motion, it was rapidly observed that this new design of controller with a separate monitoring head additionally protects the person from any play house impacts, having bloodied my fingers numerous occasions through the years that is most welcome. I had no points, or worry for the power of the controller, however be careful for furnishings or laptop screens as it would put a gap straight by way of no matter it hits!

Cable routing

Lastly, we’ve a bag with some cable routing components to maintain cables tidy throughout the controller and forestall undesirable interactions with person’s fingers. The blue and yellow cables proven listed here are placeholders to assist work out the cable path and what was wanted to retain them within the appropriate orientation.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

V.1 Meeting time?

Initially, I deliberate to indicate the meeting of the v.1 controller with the Tundra SteamVR HDK, till a horrible realization was made throughout a follow meeting run. I had made a small calculation error when initially figuring out how a lot ahead house was wanted to connect the USB-C cable 🙁

This calculation work was performed months earlier than, and I’d even had a sneaky feeling at the back of my thoughts that there could be clearance points, however had did not double-check till my error grew to become apparent late within the day.  Plugging a USB cable into the Tundra HDK was very totally different from plugging one right into a manufacturing controller, which has its USB port situated on the skin of the casing, often on the backside of the physique grip

Tundra’s HDK that includes the USB-C port on its forward-facing edge (when constructing a left controller) and with the HDK mounted contained in the controller meant the port was exhausting to entry with an exterior cable.

Brief by simply 1.5mm (shut, however no cigar), this clearance situation prevented a USB cable from being hooked up to the HDK for SteamVR integration and calibration. I couldn’t transfer the HDK additional again as it could have squashed the GPIO flex towards the rear rail and prevented any GPIO connections from being made.  

I thought of doing it with out the controller partially assembled (no entrance axle, to create space for the USB cable), however was instantly involved as this might throw out calibration. The opposite possibility was shaving down the USB cable head, mounting the HDK at a slight angle after which leaving the USB cable hanging out of the controller, which wasn’t in any respect fascinating for a wi-fi gadget.

So right here we’re, some pictures displaying the Modular v.1 controller, so far as I may get earlier than banging head-first into this show-stopping drawback. A heavy lesson was realized on this occasion, ouch!

(Picture by Rob Cole)

At this level I felt like giving up, because it meant beginning the whole construct from scratch with dimensions to go well with the USB cable entry drawback; however being a solo developer, there isn’t a one to listen to you cry into your third cup of espresso earlier than breakfast 🙁

Following my horrible discovery, I rapidly righted myself, as with each roadblock there was now a possibility to make enhancements going ahead, if I put within the effort and time. 

A number of months of exhausting work later, involving means too many early mornings, many extra cups of espresso, and lengthy hours on high of working a really busy full-time actual job, the v.2 controller prototype was created, and prepared for unboxing.

Undertaking Modular v.2 unboxing

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Opening the 100% recycled field, we discover numerous elements inside totally different baggage. I’ve put these out on the workbench for straightforward identification. Should you have been to purchase this as a “package” that is how it could come, however it might be attainable to supply pre-built variations by utilizing an meeting and restore service for every continent.

The second controller shares the identical MRF idea as the primary, however with additional refinement, enhancements for cable routing, higher adjustment, and ease of producing.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Throughout the means of constructing the second controller, I began considering rather a lot about how this might be manufactured, and if it was attainable to open this concept as much as everybody. The end result might be a possible new open normal, for manufacturing this type of MRF controller…

Probably the most fast change is to the Rails that are longer, barely narrower and now have threaded metal inserts bonded into the aluminum, with a serrated nylon spacer above every insert, which gives a strong interface for every Grip. The threaded inserts forestall injury from repeated tightening and loosening of the Grip bolts, even when the person is a bit clumsy.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Higher Rail has an aluminum alloy mounting plate for the Tundra HDK, which merely sticks onto the plate utilizing high-strength 3M model VRB adhesive tape. This enables some adjustment following preliminary contact, earlier than rapidly hardening to create a near-permanent bond (it may be eliminated very fastidiously utilizing a scalpel).

The mounting plate for the HDK is fitted utilizing 2 small countersunk bolts in order that the plate might be eliminated with the HDK nonetheless in place if required for upkeep or substitute.

The Decrease Rail as seen within the picture above has a small Contact sensor, with a ribbon cable for connection to GPIO. The Contact sensor protrudes by way of an open slot within the Decrease Grip, permitting the person to simply work the enter, while being impartial of the Grip itself.

The contact sensor itself might be eliminated in seconds by loosening two small mounting bolts and unclipping its sensor cable from a GPIO module, permitting straightforward substitute if broken. This specific unit is a placeholder* with an approximation of quantity for presently accessible elements, and a ribbon cable to permit it to be “plugged” into the GPIO module to test match and clearance.

*Using “placeholders” (inert approximation) for various modular elements permits the development of various parts at totally different occasions as components turn out to be accessible and experience gained, while permitting the general undertaking to proceed transferring ahead. As I’m not a mechanical engineer nor an electronics professional there are parts of the Modular V2 controller that might be additional constructed out or modified in the course of the pre-production course of.

Lastly, the Decrease Rail acts as a holder for the Li-ion battery, which is solely mounted on skinny VRB tape and firmly secured with a number of slender wraps {of electrical} tape across the battery and rail (this doesn’t trigger bodily interference with something not like zip ties or clips).

Constructing the RAILS

Beginning with the Rails, we discover all of the components laid out on the field, as within the picture beneath:

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Beginning with the Rail Axle bolts, the longer bolt is pushed by way of the corresponding gap on the exterior going through the entrance finish of the Higher Rail, with a skinny washer beneath its head to guard the aluminum floor. On the within face of the Rail, a spring washer and flat washer will preserve issues tight as soon as absolutely assembled, and accommodate slight manufacturing misalignment.

The entrance “exhausting mounting” of the Body is obtainable up, the bolt passes by way of the Body’s eyelet and we add aluminum spacers, the Enter Pod mounting bracket, some extra spacers, after which the Decrease Rail, with a flat washer and retaining nut. It may be tightened with only a Hex key, however it’s beneficial to carry the retaining nut with a small spanner and provides it a mild cosy tight (3nm if utilizing a torque wrench).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

A variety of aluminum spacers and metal washers are used right here to supply a easy however efficient spacing methodology for the entrance enter pod metal mounting bracket, permitting top adjustment of the Enter Pod and Set off relative to the Grips simply by swapping spacers above or beneath the metal bracket… tremendous easy!

Including or subtracting spacers between the Rails will enhance or lower the peak of the MRF controller, which is a brilliant helpful methodology to accommodate outlier XS or XL fingers. Utilizing shorter or longer axle bolts in that occasion maintains clearance for the Grips and different components.

The one limitation for the smallest Rail top could be the stack top of the inner electronics and battery. For many hand sizes the usage of totally different Grip sizes will present what’s required.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

We repeat the method with the rear axle bolt and spacers, rapidly ending up with this metallic and plastic construction which is the guts of the Modular Rail Body controller design.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As you’ll have observed within the picture above, there’s a little dice hiding on the backside of the controller between the Higher and Decrease Rails. While it’s clearly one other homage to the legendary “Unity Dice” this widget has a really helpful operate. The picture additionally reveals the Contact Sensor bolted into place on the Decrease Rail, and its ribbon cable related by a socket to the little dice.

There’s a GPIO CUBE

(Picture by Rob Cole)

As seen within the picture above, a brand new addition to the second model of the controller is the GPIO CUBE, a small widget containing a microcontroller and a number of surface-mounted sockets for ribbon cables and a haptic strap connection. Like all MRF controller components, it may be changed if broken or defective, or if new enter choices turn out to be accessible in the course of the controller’s lifetime.

The Haptic Strap connector faces backward, offering a easy cable route for the facility cable which follows the curve of the monitoring ring. All different connectors face ahead, with a really quick ribbon connecting the GPIO Dice to the Tundra HDK’s GPIO connector on its backside edge.

The present GPIO Dice is one other placeholder, however incorporates the right surface-mounted sockets and a microcontroller is embedded contained in the Dice to supply a real-world approximation of the house required for such an merchandise. The surface-mounted sockets enable the insertion of ribbon cabling in order that the cable routing might be decided with nice accuracy, prepared for a working unit. 

Building of the GPIO Dice would require the help of electronics consultants, it’s means past my ability set. Is it maybe one thing that an professional firm like Tundra Labs may present together with a Steam VR unit and plug-in monitoring sensors modules?

Becoming the Plastics

Laying out the package on a helpful picket desk, as within the picture beneath, we are able to see a clearer image of how Modular v.2 suits collectively. The GPIO Dice is already fitted, so not proven as a separate merchandise.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The orientation of the Monitoring Ring relative to the Body is now a lot simpler to know, though there’s a model new molded plastic ingredient referred to as Neck.

The Neck gives each a shroud to shield optical sensor flexes routing into the entrance for the Monitoring Head, and likewise two further mounting factors for optical sensors with an orientation and place not attainable if simply utilizing the Monitoring Ring itself.

However first, we’ll match the Monitoring Ring, because the Neck then locks towards the entrance of that Ring. 

Becoming the Monitoring Ring

The Monitoring Ring is de facto easy to suit, simply maintain it towards the Body, line up the center mounting bolt and begin to screw the bolt in utilizing a 2mm Hex Key.

When becoming the Tundra HDK with flexes for sensors, every sensor is handed by way of portholes throughout the Ring, earlier than the Ring is fastidiously lifted towards the Body to begin the becoming course of.

After the primary bolt is fitted to the center mounting, add the remaining three bolts, lastly tightening every bolt to securely lock the Ring into the Body. Threaded steel inserts within the Body present the mounting factors for these bolts, offering a dependable mounting answer proof against becoming and refitting injury.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Becoming the Neck

The Neck rapidly secures to the Body utilizing two small bolts which thread into threaded steel inserts situated on the aspect and high of the Body. As with the steel inserts used for the Monitoring Ring, these are resistant to break when becoming and refitting.

When putting in the Tundra HDK, sensor flexes for the Monitoring Head (and the entrance half of the Monitoring Ring / Neck)  move by way of a deep aid channel molded contained in the Neck, to maintain the flexes away from the mounting bolts or any restriction. The 2 optical sensors on the Neck are the final to be fitted, every passing by way of a porthole from the inside, and boasting molded influence safety for the sensor bays just like the sensors bays on the Monitoring Ring and Monitoring Head. 

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The shorter M3 bolt is first used to carry the Neck in place, loosely tightened, then the longer M3 bolt is fitted to the highest mounting; lastly, each are firmly tightened to lock the Neck to the body.

Becoming the Monitoring Head

Becoming the monitoring head is equally easy, this makes use of two bigger M5 titanium bolts and a few washers. The sequence beneath reveals the top being fitted with the bolts, then spring washers (and a further spacing washer on the left aspect), the top is then positioned on the entrance of the Body, and the bolts tightened till they backside out off exhausting stops.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Sensor flexes might be both fitted into the Head earlier than this step is completed (being cautious when lifting into place) or really threaded by way of the entry ports within the head as soon as it’s fitted, because it’s fully empty inside with entry on the rear.

Becoming the Enter Module and Set off

The Set off is a brand-new improvement with a particular form and a set off finger relaxation / onboarding ramp on the vanguard. This allows you to simply discover and preserve a superb place on the set off, or simply relaxation your finger towards the ramp if you play Beat Saber, avoiding any Set off contact or undesirable motion.

Throughout current testing of the Pimax Sword controllers, I used an unorthodox hand grip throughout Beat Saber as holding them within the regular means made the Touchpads always click on throughout speedy arm actions. Having someplace safe to firmly maintain a controller when not utilizing enter controls is an effective benefit.

The brand new Set off unit is absolutely rebuildable, with a metal axle pin that may be pressed out utilizing a small Hex Key. The Set off blade is replaceable too, for injury substitute or customization for various customers. You possibly can even simply minimize it to form utilizing a steel file or some grit paper!

A stiff metal spring gives the return motion, with adjustable spring pressure utilizing a hey key to go well with person desire. Similar to Modular V.1, the Set off has a decrease contact bolt that works a microswitch within the base of the Enter Module (images taken earlier than set up).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Becoming the Enter Module and the Set off shouldn’t be tough, however might be tough the primary time. Provide up the Enter Module to the metal bracket on the entrance of the controller’s Rail Body. Press it dwelling onto the slot within the bracket, after which decrease the Set off into place. The Set off is retained with a single bolt and metal spring washer: it’s simpler to pre-fit these into the Set off earlier than meeting.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Utilizing a Hey key, the bolt is gently turned till it finds a threaded steel insert within the base of the Enter Module. Hold turning till mild resistance is felt, this can be a plastic spacer compressing. Now you possibly can regulate the fore / aft place of the Enter Module and Set off relative to the Grips.

As soon as proud of the place, lock the bolt down, it solely must be 2-3 mm. For manufacturing, this attachment mechanism could be re-engineered to make it further sturdy, however for the prototype, it really works nicely offering a agency platform for the controls to mount on, however one that may be adjusted in seconds.

As soon as that is all fitted, you possibly can push the Enter Pod ribbon cable by way of a spot between the entrance of the Grips, so it runs inside in the direction of the GPIO dice on the rear.

Becoming the grips and the strap

The Grips and Strap co-exist so are fitted on the similar time. If you’re not utilizing a hand strap in your controller you simply don’t match it and match the Grips straight into their mountings on the Rails.

When utilizing a strap, begin with Higher Grip and its longer bolt, and push it by way of the Grip so it stands out inside. Take the entrance of the strap (which has a gap) and push it down over the bolt, so the bolt comes by way of.

Now raise the Grip onto the Rail, and slowly tighten the entrance bolt, however not securely but. You possibly can regulate the exit angle of the strap from the controller by merely rotating the strap, after which tightening the bolt.

Lastly, lay the strap out so it follows the curve of the Monitoring Ring, suits the shorter rear bolt however not securely. On this instance, the Haptic Module is fitted so the facility cable follows the identical curve.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Take the unfastened finish of the strap, and slide it by way of the flat hole behind the bolt, between the rear of the Grip and the Rail, as seen within the picture above. After you have determined in your strap size, simply tighten the bolt firmly all the way down to lock it in place. Bigger fingers can use the strap at full size, smaller fingers could favor to trim it down. 


After pages of textual content and plenty of images, right here’s the partially assembled Modular V2 controller with a few pictures that ought to provide you with a good suggestion what it now seems like. This “tracked object” prototype is simply lacking the Tundra HDK and Li-Ion battery, which might be fitted on the finish of this text.

(Picture by Rob Cole)
(Picture by Rob Cole)

Hand match session

Fast run by way of of the ergonomics adjustment of the V.2 Modular controller

  • Enter Pod and Set off: 15mm fore / aft, rotation and top relative to Grips
  • Grips: bolt-on Grips for various hand sizes, totally different textures, and shapes, and so on.
  • Hand Strap: Strap angle (relative to the entrance of Grip) and strap size
  • Rails: Peak regulate with quick / lengthy bolts for outliers (XS and XL fingers)

Taking the Modular V2 controller for a “take a look at drive” or hand match session, as every thing is mechanically working – joystick, buttons, set off, strap, all of the changes might be tried.

Becoming a small block of wooden with an analogous weight to the HDK and battery between the Rails ensured it was dealt with in an analogous means. It’s straightforward to get a superb really feel by attempting out numerous totally different hand actions and hand poses that might be made throughout a room scale VR session. 

Can the controls be reached? Is something inflicting obstruction? How is the burden? What about inertia when rapidly moved round? Is the Set off in the perfect place? Can that further button be operated with the sting of my thumb? How does it really feel with an Index controller within the different hand?

Opening and shutting feels actually good, my hand naturally finds its means again to the controls. There is no such thing as a obstruction, or any clearance situation between my hand opening and shutting, which may be very welcome. My fingers fall naturally on the Contact Sensor, although the encircling Decrease Grip makes it straightforward to keep away from unintentional activation (an adjustable threshold in software program could be included).

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The Set off works nicely and feels aligned with my index finger, repeated fast pulls are agency however easy. There is no such thing as a side-to-side motion, wobble, or creaking, the Set off blade feels very inflexible.

I strive adjusting the spring pressure and it makes the Set off noticeably firmer, which could be good for sturdy fingers or simply those who just like the elevated activation pressure.  Decreasing the spring pressure to a minimal makes for a neater pull which might be much less tiring throughout an extended session.

My thumb feels nicely aligned with the joystick, not like my Index controllers, and naturally, the stick feels actually exact with no float, wobble, or plastic mushiness. I strive utilizing the Enter Pod and Set off attain and rotation changes and see the totally different positions my medium-sized hand takes. It’s straightforward to make the controller really feel fairly totally different by the way it’s adjusted.

I ask my spouse to strive becoming it for her smaller fingers and it simply accommodates her wants, a lot better than the V.1 which she discovered just a little bulkier (she likes Index controllers with out Palm boosters). One in all my older work colleagues with massive fingers (son-in-law owns a Quest 2) says he finds the controller a greater match for his lengthy fingers which get cramped utilizing the Contact controllers.   

Later I strive swapping spacers on the Entrance axle, which adjustments the peak of the Enter Pod relative to the Grips. This enables further wonderful tuning to go well with the person, particularly the joystick top.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

I do some energetic throwing actions, however the controller stays put, which is shocking contemplating it’s obtained a easy elastic hand strap. For manufacturing, the strap might be a customized unit, with maybe a bit extra form or some molded parts across the Haptic Module.

In comparison with the V1 controller (which I did numerous hand match testing with) the V2 feels extra balanced with the burden centrally situated. The V1 felt a bit lopsided when it comes to weight steadiness as a result of bulkier monitoring ring, which I had slimmed down significantly for the V2, and it’s noticeable.

General it was a profitable testing session: particular enhancements have been remodeled V1.

Subsequent steps – SteamVR Integration

This begins with becoming the Tundra HDK to the Higher Rail utilizing VRB tape, after cleansing contact surfaces with Isopropyl Alcohol, to degrease any contaminants. I additionally degrease my chopping instruments, as I’m utilizing the scalpel to each trim and place the VRB tape with out getting pores and skin oils onto it.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The sensor flexes are fitted out, the monitoring elements lifted into place, and every thing bolts down. Subsequent we might transfer onto SteamVR integration by writing the JSON, and scanning the controller in 3D to permit correct era of a render mannequin with all mannequin Factors and Normals, together with exact measurements of the optical sensor array.

I attempted scanning utilizing smartphone-based purposes however the outcomes have been fully unsatisfactory so I’ve obtained an appointment at a facility within the New 12 months (it has been booked up for months) in East London: hopefully, they may also help me create a “Digital Twin”.

(Picture by Rob Cole)


Effectively, that was a brilliant busy 12 months, and regardless of two massive setbacks (authorized and miscalculation), one way or the other I managed to supply one thing that’s obtained some actual potential.

A lot of this 12 months was spent determining the difficult puzzle of packaging a movement controller across the human hand, in hindsight I’d have performed a headset as you’ve obtained a good quantity of house to work with, and every thing tasks outwards from the face gasket. Take into consideration Pimax’s 8K collection as a superb instance of how massive in dimension, however nonetheless useful an HMD might be.  

Making an attempt to get a movement controller to work inside the constraints of the human hand, while being adjustable to suit as many fingers as attainable, ending with the beginning of a working prototype, nicely it’s been an attention-grabbing journey! 

It’s additionally been actually robust engaged on the whole design as a self-funded solo developer, while working a full-time common job. Merchandise like movement controllers are sometimes developed by well-funded, multi-disciplinary groups working in full-time roles.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Even discovering time to turn out to be competent in a CAD bundle like Fusion360 proved not possible this 12 months, therefore the sneaky transfer of utilizing 3D scanning to generate a digital mannequin for SteamVR integration. My major curiosity and expertise in XR is human components engineering (ergonomics), as I discussed in final 12 months’s article:

“Maybe the design is one thing that might be manufactured in a extra refined model, if funding was really accessible. Personally, I’d favor to work on the ergonomics and changes and go away the mechanical engineering and electronics to individuals who have expertise and extra information.”

The Modular Rail Body bodily kind actually works nicely when it comes to placing controls in the precise locations and permitting a variety of ergonomic changes. It’s actually attainable to construct round this platform, and construct at a bigger scale to get it out to extra individuals.

The subsequent logical step could be to productize the design, with enter from multi-disciplinary specialists to handle mechanical engineering, supplies, electronics integration, programming, manufacturing tooling, and so on.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

The cash

Relating to pricing? Greater high quality prices more cash, however teams of customers do exist in numerous tools markets who’re eager to pay increased costs for increased high quality merchandise. The wholesome gross sales of $1000 Index actually proved that VR fans pays extra for higher.

A superb instance given throughout my industrial design coaching is: many customers are proud of low-cost headphones, however a wholesome market exists for high-quality headphones for audiophiles. They respect the distinction, and with many being time-poor, need the perfect efficiency throughout their restricted time, they usually need dependable tools.

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Maybe it isn’t a stretch to assume that many PCVR house owners discover themselves within the “time-poor” class: in any case, one thing (good job with lengthy hours ) has to pay for a VR-capable gaming PC and PCVR system. When sending many Index controllers again for RMA, high marks to Steam Help for at all times being useful however as a result of haphazard nature of manufacturing, it was generally weeks with out substitute controller(s).

I even purchased a second pair, however these quickly required their very own RMA. This downtime was irritating because it stopped me from utilizing a lot of VR titles that required movement controllers (I did take pleasure in some wonderful seated and sim video games although!) I‘d actually be keen to pay Index headset cash ($499) for a pair of Modular controllers that might be rebuilt, tailored, and upgraded over numerous years. $249 for one Professional stage controller appears honest, however the market could determine in any other case if it ever went to manufacturing.

My closing arguments for the Modular Rail Body design idea

  • Rebuildable = long run possession with minimal downtime
  • Modular enter decisions = go well with the person, not the controller
  • Totally adjustable ergonomics = finest hand match, no compromises right here!
  • Top quality enter elements = finest “really feel”  (tight stick, no wobbling or creaking)
  • Toughened to withstand impacts = carry on taking part in, accidents occur
  • Large discount in E-Waste and delivery air pollution = much less plastic, much less hurt to the planet
  • Future proof with upgrades = not out of date by subsequent 12 months
  • Completely different monitoring techniques = Steam VR, white LED (WMR type), IR LED (Meta type)
  • AR use with move by way of digicam monitoring of fiducial markers?
  • Customise = do no matter you want or can put collectively, encourages collaboration 🙂
(Picture by Rob Cole)

A closing thought, while working this 12 months on the Modular Undertaking, maybe the long run for MRF controllers is opening the thought as much as everybody, to allow them to go construct and have enjoyable. Should you can construct the Rails (straightforward) and Body (a bit tricker) it’s a superb beginning platform to construct onto. It wants some professional help for electronics and software program, however something’s attainable if sufficient individuals become involved.

Valve have commented on Nintendo previously, from a broadly reported interview (taken right here from Nintendoeverything.com), Gabe Newell said:

“We’ve at all times been just a little bit jealous of firms like Nintendo. When Miyamoto is sitting down and desirous about the following model of Zelda or Mario, he’s considering what’s the controller going to appear like, what kind of graphics and different capabilities. He can introduce new capabilities like movement enter as a result of he controls each of these issues. And he could make the {hardware} look pretty much as good as attainable as a result of he’s designing the software program on the similar time that’s actually going to make the most of it. So that’s one thing we’ve been jealous of, and that’s one thing that you simply’ll see us benefiting from subsequently.”

Because the MRF platform permits straightforward customization, how about releasing a recreation with an MRF part, for instance, a brand new sensor, enter, or haptic? Similar thought as Guitar Hero, and different video games bundled with peripherals of the previous, however a lot decrease value because it’s solely a part, not a brand new controller.

An open normal?

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Bootstrapping a brand new controller normal wasn’t my preliminary thought, however with each Meta and Pico reportedly promoting loss-making {hardware} for his or her closed platforms, which has distorted the market, it’s robust for small firms, startups, and solo builders to make something by creating and promoting tracked {hardware}.

I’m utilizing SteamVR as a result of Valve licenses their expertise to builders like me at no cost, by way of the Steamworks program. The one actual value is your time and $200 shopping for a SteamVR HDK.

Documentation is offered although a bit outdated, the SDK is downloaded free beneath license from Steamworks and incorporates numerous helpful instruments for prototyping. Because of Valve and Tundra Labs, it encourages experimentation as a result of you possibly can really get in there and open all of it up. You possibly can design and promote hand straps for Quest 2, however you aren’t going to be promoting customized controllers utilizing their monitoring {hardware} and code.

I checked out definitions of “open requirements” and “open supply” as methods of placing my work into the general public area for everybody to make use of. It doesn’t appear to be one thing that one individual can ratify, however an Open Customary referred to as OpenXRC could be my hope, sparking an ecosystem of MRF-compatible components from totally different producers massive, small and impartial! We are able to solely dream…

(Picture by Rob Cole)

Because the Undertaking involves a detailed, I’ve turn out to be conscious that Tundra’s HDK is on the finish of the road. I made some enquiries (to get a second unit to construct one other controller) however nothing got here of it. In the end, it wasn’t designed for manufacturing models and wouldn’t have been cost-effective to construct manufacturing controllers with, however its function was to permit prototyping.

On this respect it did its job fantastically, forcing me to make some inventive design decisions with radical considering to accommodate its bodily restrictions (i.e. the size of flexes and positions of sockets).  The end result was that I ended up with one thing very totally different from what I initially meant. It undoubtedly labored out higher, so thanks Luke! [Luke Beno, founder of Tundra Labs]

Whether or not this controller ever turns into a product that individuals can purchase is determined by many components. There’s nonetheless plenty of work to do and it could want an enormous pile of money. There are additionally doubts in regards to the long-term way forward for lighthouse monitoring, although the Modular controller design can simply adapt to totally different monitoring techniques, perhaps even some small on-board cameras like these used on the brand new Quest Professional controllers.

If this text will get {industry} individuals and customers considering, then it’s all been worthwhile. The Nintendo {hardware} and software program integration has some actual worth and might be supported by the modular nature of NRF. Think about the following VR recreation stimulating your hand with a light electrical tingle by way of an MRF add-on, everytime you replenish your well being! What about an additional button to make use of a brand new recreation mode? Or a unit that gives cold and hot sensations for the fingers?

In some methods, it was by no means about going to manufacturing, however seeing what might be constructed by happening an unconventional route.  Listening to individuals discuss wanting “Modular controllers” after final 12 months’s article was printed was a really satisfying feeling.


(Picture by Rob Cole)

Many due to everybody who has helped, suggested, and inspired me, together with individuals who invited me to totally different conferences initially of the 12 months. Particular due to these legendary {hardware} guys for the Zoom name, I’m nonetheless stoked about that 🙂

Thanks to Tony a.ok.a. Mr. Skarredghost for publishing this, my twelfth article, and placing up with an infinite barrage of excited emails and Steam voice chats in the course of the previous 12 months, I promise no extra (for some time…)

Big due to my long-suffering spouse Sara Ramos for her unwitting function as a {hardware} widow, and for taking some nice images. 

And naturally, my real due to you, the reader, for getting this far. I hope it was helpful and reveals what you are able to do with simply an thought. Let’s see what the long run will convey…

(… and if you wish to get in contact, you’ll find me right here www.immersionmechanics.tech)

Disclaimer: this weblog incorporates commercial and affiliate hyperlinks to maintain itself. Should you click on on an affiliate hyperlink, I will be very completely happy as a result of I am going to earn a small fee in your buy. You could find my boring full disclosure right here.

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