Three Adventures in Cable Management

Three Adventures in Cable Management

posted in: Tech Posts - Other | 0

hippoIt’s crazy how often working with cutting-edge futuristic technology involves a literal cutting edge.

The same box cutter that Emily used to create our prototype camera head out of foam core has found a new job stripping audio cable.

The past couple posts have been all about designing spaces for viewing VR in a way that gets away from the forward-facing bias, as well as being inviting and low-pressure. We already had setups for sitting on the floor and for lying down, so we designed an experience for standing up, where the VR magically comes down from above.

cables-hanging2I had this vision of a minimalist VR environment that you see while standing between two hanging speakers, which not only creates extremely realistic positional audio for the two objects in the environment, but also attracts you to the art installation, gives a cue on where to look once you’re in there, and avoids the common problem of how to manage headphones on top of headset.

Cable Management Adventure #1: Speaker Cables

I had these speakers with a tear-drop shape that I thought would be perfect. Removing the base of the speakers was easy. Trickier was that they were designed to plug into a central sub that had already routed the stereo audio into mono for each speaker. Plug either speaker into a standard stereo jack, and they would only play the right ear.

I wanted one right and one left, so that I could play my two audio tracks in two different speakers, but I didn’t want the cable management nightmare of using the subwoofer hub that not only has to sit on the floor but also requires separate power.

I really love cable puzzles. I love looking at a pile of wires and splitters and converters and having to figure out what convoluted combination might work for getting me what I need. I had a similar puzzle later with trying to extend and fit different hdmi cables into a single mac mini using an assortment of cables and dongles, but audio is fun because the insides of the cables are easily reconfigurable too.

cables-splitterFor my speaker puzzle, one option might have been to cut off one speaker’s jack, open up the cable to presumably find a single wire, and connect that to the other side of another jack (the speaker’s jack was thick molded plastic that seemed difficult to cut into without accidentally destroying it). But I wasn’t quite sure what was in there, and didn’t have extra jacks I really wanted to cannibalize.

I ended up taking a standard headphone splitter and switching the right and left wires on one of the outputs. Then I could plug the splitter into the headphone jack and use one splitter jack for each speaker. Both speakers think they’re playing only the right ear but one speaker is being fed backwards information. No jacks were destroyed, and the doctored splitter still works as a splitter.

Perfect! Now on to the next problem.

Cable Management Adventure #2: Oculus Rift Cables

cables-bungeesOur prototype camera head relied heavily on the use of rubber bands. Our prototype minimalist hanging VR environment relies heavily on bungee cords.

Oculus Rift cables are not meant to be long enough to route around the ceiling! Maybe I should’ve used usb and hdmi extenders, but for the moment the best solution is to suspend the mac mini above ground.

The mouse is long enough to reach a nearby chair, but the only option for the keyboard is to bungee it to the corner of the frame.

Starting the video in VR currently involves precariously mushing my face into the hanging headset with one eye closed, while using the mouse against the wall, and reaching up to use the keyboard bungeed to the frame.

We are creating the future, here.


Cable Management Adventure #3: GoPro Power

The minimalist art film for the above installation was captured using multiple gopros, and gopros are not known for their long battery life. I knew the first shoot went wrong when one of the files transferred really quickly.

Luckily, Emily created a beautiful solution so that we can keep all our cameras plugged in while they are filming. 14 cameras and 14 15-foot mini usb cables should be a cable management nightmare, but over here at eleVR we know how to braid in a variety of media.

Each one is labeled at each end using sharpie on white electrical tape. Also we have a usb hub that can power 14 usb cables.

Cable Management Conclusion:

It’s amazing that VR can transport us to other worlds and take us on wild adventures. It’s even more amazing, to me, that it can take the mundane and make it magical.

I love art that lets us experience invisibly-normal things in new ways, and this little minimalist VR piece is a foray into that genre. Likewise, even if this blog post isn’t a fancy technical post or DIY tutorial or release of open source software, I hope it will reach those kindred spirits who delight in simple things made magical by their context.

I love cable management. I love cable management for virtual reality. That is all.