Tag Archives: virtual_reality

Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR is a Virtual Reality headset designed to work with Galaxy Note 4 smartphone using Oculus Rift technology.

The headset uses an accelorator, gyrometer, magnetic and proximity sensors to enable interaction with a virtual environment by moving the headset using the same technology as the Oculus Rift.

On the side of the headset are a number of controls including a touch pad, back button, and a volume rocker. Focal adjustment can be also be undertaken on the system.

VR Content can be viewed through an Oculus Home App.

The systems has a 96º degree viewing angle.

The Innovator Edition is available in two editions; one which just consists of the Gear VR costs £185 with a second containing a Bluetooth gamepad for controlling content within the VR environment costs £240.

Like other VR systems it could be used to remotely view immersive photos/videos of excavations/cultural heritage.

Unlike the Oculus Rift the system is wireless.

The Gear VR is designed to only work with the Galaxy Note 4, if the user already owns one then it is only an additional of £185, but the phone itself costs £600 making it an expensive purchase for use with the Gear VR. Although technically it has greater potential than Google Cardboard the fact that it only works with one phone severely limits its user-ability.

The system cannot be connected to a PC so all material has to be downloaded via the phone.


Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard are VR (Virtual Reality) goggles made out of cardboard using an android smart phone as the central processing unit and display via the Google Cardboard App. The cardboard shell can either be purchased for less than £10 complete with lenses and magnet button control or the cardboard design downloaded from the website and the other parts purchased separately.

The mobile phone provides you with orientation tracking using a gyroscope and accelerometer built into the phone which means that the the app can track the movement of the user’s head updating the imagery on the phone depending on the direction that the user is facing.

A magnetic trigger on the outside of the cardboard allows interaction with the VR environment by effecting the magnetometer in the phone. Although with calibrated magnetometers this can only act as a single button, with uncalibrated magnetometers incorporated in newer phone there is greater variety of abilities with the possibility of incorporating a joypad into the outside of the case.

The Google Camera App (On Android 4.4 and later) can record 360° Photo Spheres which can easily be viewed in the Google Cardboard App on the smartphone, other Photo Spheres can be viewed be editing their file names. The app can also view videos on YouTube including those designed for the Oculus Rift or other VR Gear with two separate views in the video. Integration with Google Earth and Google Maps Street View is also possible.

Two SDKs (Software Development Kits) can be downloaded from the website:

  • The first is the Cardboard SDK for Android which allows VR applications to be quickly created in OpenGL.
  • The second is the Cardboard SDK for Unity which allows an application created in the Unity 3D game engine to be viewed in the Google Cardboard Goggles or to design one from scratch.

Although designed for phones with the Android operating system, phones using iOS can also be used in the Google Cardboard using Durvois Dive (a plastic VR Goggle frame which also uses smartphones) apps.

Google Cardboard was designed to both allow the cheap and easy ability for almost anyone to view VR and to help push forward development of the systems.

It has the ability to both view virtual reconstructions of sites and view still 360° photographs and immersive videos of sites, these can easily be downloaded and viewed by anyone anywhere in the world using the technology. The fact that the phone can be used to create 360° Photo Spheres as well enables the both the recording and viewing of views of cultural heritage and excavations with technology that may already be owned.

Because it uses a smartphone there are limitations to its abilities that would not be there with more powerful computer systems. The quality of the imagery is also completely dependent on the quality of the smartphone screen.

Although the control is limited to the one button on the outside of the Google Cardboard some wi-fi/bluetooth game controllers can be used with Android operating systems allowing much more interaction. There have however been problems with the button working, particularly on certain models, it is after-all a technical workaround to use a device for a function it was not designed for.

News – Sulon Cortex

The Cortex is a combined virtual and augmented reality headset allowing immersive virtual experiences to be conducted in real-world environments. The unit has 3D sensors and scanners which detect and integrate the real world into the virtual environment, with the surroundings of the virtual environment being controlled with motion and gesture controls.

The Developer Kit is currently available for pre-order for $499.

The system has great potential for viewing a reconstruction of a site while walking around the site, or viewing the site in a mockup with the same wall positions. It could revolutionize the way tours of buildings are conducted with the audience wearing a headset which displays the reconstruction of the building as they walk around it.

It also has potential for a virtual museum, with artifacts being virtually projected into an existing environment, even the user’s home.

Eye Mirror 360º Lens

The Eye Mirror is a series of panoramic lenses that can be attached to existing cameras allowing a 360º view to be recorded, it was funded as a Kickstarter Project. The images/videos can be processed in real time in the web browser version of the software or the Android or iOS app,
producing a rectangular 360º product. The 360 lens video publisher software gives the ability to sharpen, brighten, add contrast and reduce video noise and output the video as a flv, mov or avi file in various compression ratios. The software costs $99.

Eye Mirror
The Eye Mirror attaches to a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), video cameras and underwater cameras, it screws into the camera filter thread on most cameras although adapters are available.

GP 360
The GP 360 is designed to work with the GoPro series of camera, although a modification to the GoPro is required.


It cost $249.

Wet Lens
This is a sealed version of the lens designed for underwater work and can be screwed onto the front of many underwater cameras.

It costs $450.

The system provides the ability to record 360º photographs/videos with existing cameras, enabling the immersive viewing of both Archaeology site and Cultural Heritage. The created photos/videos can be viewed in a number of ways including the Oculus Reality VR (Virtual Reality) headset.

In order to use the GoPro lens the camera lens needs to be replaced with a custom replacement lens provided by the company, although if damage is sustained during the process the company will fix the camera, or the company will do the replacement for a fee of £40. A firmware update needs to also be conducted.


The Bublcam is a Kickstarter 360º camera which records spherical photographs and videos for everything from photographic enthusiasts to baby monitoring.

The Bublcam utilizes 4 190º, 1.6 megapixels lenses to capture an overlaping digital bubble. The sensor captures 5 megapixels allowing a 3840 X 3840 as a 14 megapixel multiplexed photo to be created and has high quality low-light vision. The system can also export both panoramic and HDR (High Dynamic Range) photographs. It’s tri-axial accelerometer can assist with stabilizing images when the the orientation is changed. It is capable of recording video at 30fps at 720p or 15fps at 1080p and exports MP4 format.

The sensor OmniVision will allow the user to set gamma, contrast, gain, brightness and saturation.

The internal Bublcam Wi-fi unit will allow the video to be streamed to a PC, Mac, and mobile devices on iOS or Android using the bublApp, VLC or Quicktime. Live video stitching will be available at some point.

The Bublcam costs $699 and will begin shipping in spring 2015.

The fact that Bublcam is leveraging the Oculus Rift and Leap Motion APIs (application programming interface) means that Bublcam photographs and videos can be viewed within the Oculus Rift and controlled remotely with the Leap Motion hand tracking controller.

The Bublcam can be attached to UAVs recording both photographs and video while in the air – http://www.bublcam.com/portfolio/bubl-takes-flight/ – indeed the PlexiDrone is designed to carry the Bublcam as a payload with a dedicated mount.
Bublcam PlexiDrone mount

It can also be worn on top of a helmet allowing wearable recording to be conducted.

The relatively low level of image quality, together with the fact that the system is designed to create a panoramic photo bubble, may limit its potential for use with other techniques such as photogrammetry

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift Kickstarter Campaign is a virtual reality head-mounted display for computer gamers that was funded in 2012, since then development has continued on the project with a number of technical improvements.

The Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 (DK2) was released on March 19, 2014 and is the latest version available for developers, it includes a low-persistence OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display which eliminates motion blur and judder, high-definition display and precise low-latency positional head tracking using an external camera allowing the user to move with 6-degrees-of-freedom allowing looking around corners and leaning forward to take a closer look at objects.


On March 25th, 2014 the Oculus VR company was purchased by Facebook for $2bn to enable them to focus on the next evolution in social communications. They are also interested in the potential of experiencing sports events from a seat in the stadium, studying with students and teachers from all over the world in a virtual classroom environment and consultation face-to-face with a doctor virtually.

The Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 can be ordered from the website for $350, but the consumer version is not going to be released until 2015.

The Oculus Rift has great potential for the immersive viewing of digital media of both archaeological excavations and cultural heritage, whether stitched together photographs from systems such as the Panono or video from such systems as the 360cam, but it is also capable of immersive experiences of 3D recreations of sites. Photogrammetry or other recording techniques can be used to record areas under study and all of these technologies can be used to view material as part of the excavation decision strategy or for experts in different locations to view and comment.

It could be used as part of the post-excavation process where those writing up the project could review areas of the excavation to aid in their understanding of the archaeology.

Virtual reality has previously been used in museum and visitor centre applications, but with increased computing hardware and software power more realistic renditions can be created together with the immersive experience provided by the Oculus Rift. The system is designed to work with the Unreal Development Kit, Unreal Engine 4, and Unity 4 game engine technology allowing easy integration between 3D representations created in this software and the Oculus Rift. Here is a demonstration of the Oculus Rifts integration with Unreal Engine 3.

There have been many previous attempts at immersive archaeology including the French Immersia, an open immersive infrastructure, where the representation is projected onto four glass screens by combining the images from 13 HD projectors. 16 infrared cameras are used for a tracking system which can track people as they move around within the scene, recomputing the view that is seen as the person moves around the scene.


While the University of St Andrews has created a Virtual Museum where people can visit a museum which virtually displays the Caen Township in 1813 on the wall, interaction with the system can be made via a Microsoft Kinect. The reconstruction is also available online and via a downloadable application.

Virtual Museum

The Duke immersive Virtual Environment project (DiVE) allows the creation of 1:1 scale immersive representations of sites including an immersive tour of the site of Çatalhöyük. The DiVE system is a six-sided room with stereoscopic rear projection on all of the surfaces, the visuals are viewed with stereo glasses which provide depth perception while a “wand” held in the hand allows navigation and interaction with virtual objects.


The system at the DiVE has the additional abilities of showing “in-context stratigraphic layers menu, volumetric visualization of the excavated areas, shaders, first-hand interaction with the models, and a virtual anastylosis that shows how the building looked like before being abandoned”.


The Oculus Rift removes the need for these expensive rooms systems, providing more immersive visuals with the use of a head-mounted display. Although the current version requires external power and direct connection to a computer, hopefully future version will be battery powered and wireless allowing a more free experience.

The Oculus Rift is an added expense to a project, but not a great expense and can be used again on other projects.

As it is designed to be worn it is limited to one person at a time, so if multiple people needed to use it at once multiple displays would be needed.

The Oculus Rift uses the HDMI output from the computer that is generating the visuals, so unless the graphics card has two HDMI outputs the cable would need to be swapped over constantly.

A number of cheap or free mounts for smartphones, where the phone acts as the 3D projector, have recently been released, and although their abilities are currently limited they may to be the future of virtual reality visualisation in archaeology and cultural heritage.