Building Project North Star
Hi, I’m Noah. I’m a Maker, and I’ve been really passionate about Augmented Reality (AR) for about ten years.
Earlier this year, Leap Motion announced Project North Star, the world’s first serious open source Augmented Reality (AR) headset project. Project North Star, besides enabling Makers and researchers to build their own headsets, has a Bill of Materials that could theoretically enable the mass production of a world-class AR device for under $100.
This graphic, comparing North Star’s field of view (FOV) with those of other AR headsets on the market, should give you some idea of just how amazing this headset is.
I am really excited about building these and would love to help other makers out there do the same. Most of the headset’s mechanical components can be printed on a normal 3D printer that you’d find in any hackerspace or makerspace, in many schools, and in countless Maker households.
About the reflective Lenses
These are the first and only mass-produced coated lenses for Project North Star, Leap Motion's Open Source AR headset project. We've used them on our own builds, and as you can see, they work beautifully.
The biggest stumbling block for those looking to build their own North Star headsets has been the fabrication of the reflective lenses. People have been spending around USD200 to have uncoated reflectors milled with a diamond tip from a big block of acrylic. They’ve been quoted prices up to USD400 to have them coating with the half-reflective silver mirroring and the anti-reflective coating that prevents an unwanted secondary reflection from the lens’ outer surface.
Six hundred bucks, just for the lenses! So much for a USD100 project price tag.
Well, since I live in Shenzhen, it just made sense to think in terms of mass production tooling, so I said “what the heck”, got an injection mold made, and found a factory that does coatings for high-end cell phones, sunglasses, and automotive components. What was up to a $600 outlay that would cause many to balk at the idea of undertaking this project, now costs project builders only $35. That should put it well within reach of almost any high school student looking to build something awesome for the science fair.
I’ve started off by making the first batch of one thousand sets of the reflectors, just to help get the project’s growing number of core enthusiasts started on their builds.
About the high-framerate Display
I’m also in talks with BOE, the manufacturer of the high-framerate (120 frames per second), high-resolution (1600 x 1440) LCD displays specified by Leap Motion. I hope to do a bulk purchase and bring these displays to Makers at a much lower price. I’m also working on producing or otherwise getting my hands on display driver boards optimized for the project, and have engaged with a company that can design such a board.
There are also people in the project’s online community who are designing their own open-source display driver boards. I hope to make those available soon, and the pieces necessary to do that have been falling neatly into place.
The Big plan
The big plan, as it were, is to offer a kit with a price below USD350, so it can be affordable for almost anyone who wants to build their own version of this groundbreaking AR headset.