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Aprone's hardware

Aprone's Accessible Hardware

Introduction

When it comes to audio games, the environments have been mostly limited to 2 dimensions. Several games appear to contain 3D worlds, but they lack true vertical movement because it is so difficult to represent height differences with sound. Because it is to difficult to take advantage of the 3rd dimension, it puts serious limits to what can be achieved in audio games. As it stands, about 99% of all audio games are limited to 2 dimensions!

We have only 3 options. We can do nothing, we can wait for advancements in sound, or we can use hardware. The See Munkey is a head mounted motion tracking device, which relays rotational data back to the computer to be used by games and programs. When used with a game that is designed to use this data, it can create a virtual world around you where each movement of your head turns it in the game world as well.

Head motion plays a very important role in how we place sounds around us in real life. Even when your head turns very small amounts, our brains measure the changes in sound for each ear. These measurements tell us whether a sound is coming from above us, below us, in front, or behind. In games we have to put forth extra work to move around, so even when the sound sources change it is unnatural and unintuitive. With the help of the See Munkey, we can bridge this gap!


Mapping software

The Munkey mapper software allows you to calibrate your device, load firmware updates, but most importantly it allows you to map mouse and keyboard commands to the way you turn your head. This allows you to play games using the See Munkey, that were never designed to use it. This software is still being developed, so many of the planned features are not yet implemented.
Download Munkey mapper

Manuals

Developer's manual
User's manual coming soon.


Questions and Answers

Q: How much does it cost?
A: The device costs $50 plus between $4 and $10 in shipping, depending on where you live. I originally thought the maximum shipping would be $8 but I've had to adjust the price after sending out a few and learning that the shipping was a bit more than the online shipping estimators predicted.

Q: Where do you sell these?
A: The online store is further down this page.

Q: How many are for sale, and can I pre-order one if you run out?
A: The online shop tracks how many finished See Munkeys I have available, and it will stop people from buying any once I run out. I don't think the store lists how many are currently in stock, but I'd have to check on that. When I do run out, I will not accept pre-orders. I've already had a handful of people ask me about that, but I'm absolutely not comfortable taking anyone's money until I've got the product in my hands to ship out to them.

Q: How do I enter my shipping address if I buy one from your online store?
A: My store is offered through Paypal's merchant tools, so during the buying process it will redirect you to the actual paypal site. Once at their site, it automatically uses the address you have tied to your paypal account, but also allows you to change it at that time. A separate section for addresses might be nice, but that's not how they have the store set up.

Q: What happens if I drop it?
A: The device is completely encased in hard rubber to make it, hopefully, drop proof.

Q: What happens if I eat it?
A: You'll die. Actually I don't really know that. My friend Steve isn't being a "team player" so I can't answer this question yet. The device is about 2.5 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 3/4 inch tall so swallowing it would be difficult but not impossible. It also has a 6 foot USB cord on it, so I actually think you'd choke on that after getting the thing down. LOL!

Q: Will other developers have to pay to use this device in their games/software?
A: Nope, not at all. I'm definitely not going to get rich from selling these things, so the entire point is to get a new and useful tool out there for other developers to take advantage of. This probably isn't the perfect solution to adding 3D to audio games, but it's far better than what we're using already.

Q: Will this come with a warranty?
A: No. Most places that give you a warranty are charging everyone extra money to pay for that. I've cut every corner I could to make these as cheaply as possible, so replacing devices with a warranty would quite literally be money coming out of my own pocket, and I'm far too poor for that! HAHA! I do believe I'll at least let people send back broken headsets to I can see if they can be fixed. I'll feel terrible if someone gets a broken one, which is why I've encased them in hard rubber and am sending them in boxes rated as "indestructable".

Q: Is the See Munkey durable? I worry it will be fragile and could break if I drop it, especially if there is no warranty.
A: The See Munkey is incredibly durable! I have run one through a punishing series of stress tests to see what it takes to destroy the thing, and I recorded the results so that everyone can hear it for themselves.
Fall test 1
Fall test 2
Fall test 3
Crush test 1
Crush test 2
Burn test 1
Water test 1

I strongly recommend that people do not intentionally try to hurt their See Munkey. The one I was testing on survived situations that boggle the mind, but there is always an element of luck involved. Falling down stairs did more damage to the clip than being thrown from a second story window onto concrete, which proves that how something lands plays an important role to how resistant it is to breaking. I would hate to have someone flush their $50 down the toilet, figuratively or literally (during some kind of insane flush test!) Haha! So the purpose of the stress tests is to give you some peace of mind about what you are buying. Most electronics are pretty fragile and when people hear that this device is being hand built in my living room, they probably worry about that even more. I set out to make this device strong enough so that it would be one less thing for you to worry about. Built Munkey strong! Raaah!

Q: Can I get a cordless version?
A: Sorry no. Making this thing cordless would easily double or triple the price. I searched high and low to get just the right parts to keep this thing affordable, and wireless just didn't work for that. To give a small idea of how many corners were cut, just ONE of the parts in this thing costs $100 when purchased fully assembled! I went with off brand, unassembled parts, that had to be calibrated manually and run my own software written from scratch.

Q: What happens if I buy one and then you build a more advanced version?
A: I've actually planned for that. The See Munkey headset is already packed with all of the accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, processing power, and memory it should ever need. Writing software that turns all of those sensors into reliable Yaw, Pitch, and Roll data is something groups have invested years into. I've spend about a week coming up with my own, but I'm sure that will improve quite a bit over time as I work out more complicated math to improve performance. The headset has already been designed to grow over time in 2 ways, without you needing to replace it with a new device. If I wake up in the middle of the night with some brand new idea for coding the See Munkey, I can release it as a firmware update that anyone can choose to download. That would improve the performance of your device while still having it work on every game and piece of software that it worked on before. It would just work better! The other option is for developers to output the raw sensor data instead of just the yaw, pitch, and roll. So lets pretend that a game developer feels he can do a better job arriving at yaw, pitch, and roll than the device naturally does. In his game he can pull the raw data and use his own set of mathematical equations on it. For developers who are happy with the results provided by the headset, they can just have their game pull in the 3 processed values. I like this approach because people are going to come along that are far smarter than I am. With the ability to read the raw sensor data, they will be able to make the See Munkey perform in ways far beyond what it can do at this exact moment, and yet no one would have to go buy a new one! Yay! :D

Q: What was the third question?
A: That was asking about pre-orders. When the amount I have in stock has run out, people will have to wait for the parts shipment to arrive before I'll sell more. I don't allow pre-orders. (I'm asked this a LOT so I put it in here twice)

Q: Does the See Munkey use binural sound to more precicely simulate real life when sounds are around you?
A: That would be a software thing, and the See Munkey is just hardware. If a developer is using binural sound in his game or program, then the See Munkey can easily be used to enhance it, but we are talking about 2 different things.

Q: Will this work on any pc and OS?
A: The physical See Munkey head set should work on any version of Windows, Mac, or Linux. I have not personally tested it on very many systems but the hardware it is built with was chosen because it works on them all. If I run into any OS that it doesn't work on, I'll be sure to let people know. The software side of things will be a bit different. The key mapping program I've thrown together, called Munkey Mapper, is designed for Windows. It currently works on XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. It should also work on Windows 95 but I don't think that will be helpful to many people. Since any other developer can write their own software, I'm sure it wouldn't be long before someone would release their own mouse and keyboard mapping software for Mac or Linux. In fact, I fully expect my windows based mapping software to be replaced by one created by another developer! We have some incredibly talented programmers around here, and any one of them could put together their own mapper that has more bells and whistles than mine does, plus we all know I'm not the poster child for polishing software before releasing it! Haha! :D Basically we'll still have the same situation where some games won't work on certain operating systems, just because of the preferences of the games' designers. The See Munkey itself won't cause any of those limitations though.

Q: What exactly will I get if I buy a See Munkey?
A: When I ship out the See Munkeys, the box contains a plastic headband and the device itself. The device consists of a rectangular rubber body, a 6 foot USB cord that is not removable, and a plastic clip that has been glued to the block. So the box will contain 2 "things". The first 25 people to get a device will receive them in 2 boxes that have been glued and taped together. I, in my infinite wisdom, ordered boxes that were too short to hold the device so I am gluing 2 boxes together and using a razor blade to cut the middles out to combine their heights. My next order of boxes will be tall enough so that I won't have to do this, hahaha.

Q: Where will the user manual be for the device?
A: I will have the user manual on my webpage. It is easier to keep it online as a digitial file so that I can update it as needed. I also don't have the equipment needed to print a braille version to send along with the device, so sorry to anyone who was hoping to have a physical book to go along with the device.

Q: Will I need any new hardware drivers to use this device?
A: While the See Munkey starts up just fine on my windows 7 and windows 8 machines, we've had at least 2 people on an XP machine that were asked to provide hardware drivers after hooking up their device. If that happens, and I think we've all had this happen at some point with a new printer or something, I do have the drivers you would need. To give credit where credit is due, the original webpage is here (link) and the original download link is here (link). I've moved a copy to my own website just so I always have it available, and that can be found here (link). Download and unzip the files to some temporary directory somewhere. Plug in the See Munkey and the Add new hardware wizard will open. When asked Can Windows connect to Windows Update to search for software? select No, not this time. Click next. Select Install from a list or specified location (Advanced) and click next. Make sure that Search for the best driver in these locations is checked; uncheck Search removable media; check Include this location in the search and browse to the folder you unzipped. Click next. The wizard will search for the driver and then tell you that a "USB Serial Converter" was found. Click finish. The new hardware wizard will appear again. Go through the same steps and select the same options and location to search. This time, a "USB Serial Port" will be found. You can check that the drivers have been installed by opening the Windows Device Mananger (in the Hardware tab of System control panel). Look for a "USB Serial Port" in the Ports section; that's the See Munkey.

Q: Will there be a shipping tracking number so I can know when my See Munkey will arrive in the mail?
A: If you live in the United States, then I think there will be a tracking number. I've already checked, and anything being shipped out of the US requires a ton of money to add a tracking number, so I won't be offering that as an option. As an update, I've sent out several and the USPS tracking numbers aren't working. I don't know if this is a problem with the post office or if they quickly disable the numbers because I'm not paying extra fees for tracking. *Aprone shrugs*

Q: My headphones have a particularly thick band along the top. Will the See Munkey's clip fit?
A: The clip on the device is spring loaded so that it can open and close to hopefully match any reasonable size. The band on my headphones are pretty thick, and it holds on to them perfectly. The clip itself is the kind of clip NASA would use, if they shopped at the dollar store and needed to hold their bag of chips to the refridgerator. :D Haha! In reality, it's better than that joke makes it sound.

Q: Is it possible to make a recording so we can hear how it sounds to wear the device?
A: I would try to make a recording but no one would be able to tell the difference in it. The recording wouldn't be moving along with your own head, so I don't think it would sound any different than any normal Swamp walkthrough or other audio game recording. The "magic" happens because even tiny movements of my head change the sounds around me to match, and I can't think of any way to preview that experience to someone else without having them actually wear a device their self.

Q: How accurate is the See Munkey?
A: The measurement data is accurate to 2 decimal places, but outside influences can cause slight fluctuations in the numbers. Even with those fluctuations, the device can easily keep track of individual degrees as you move.

Q: What is an IMU, what is drift, and how does it affect the See Munkey?
A: The See Munkey's various sensors make up an Internal Measurement Unit, or IMU for short. IMUs are present in a wide variety of specialized electronics, such as rockets, military drones, satellites, self-balancing robots, quad copters, segways, camera stabilizers, and more. The most common problem with all IMUs is a problem called drift. As internal gyroscopes spin, slight amounts of friction or resistance cause the sensors to believe they are moving even when they are standing still. A large task of the software is determining how the sensors create drift as they are moved in different directions and at different speeds, and counter acting the effect for the final yaw, pitch, and roll values. At the time of writing this the See Munkey has gone through 3 different versions of firmware, and the second upgrade eliminated drift entirely. So I'm happy to say that drift, as the force which plagues nearly all IMU devices, will not affect the See Munkey.

Q: What is dead reckoning, and how does it affect the See Munkey?
A: IMU devices, like the See Munkey, rely on a technique to track their position, called dead reckoning. The idea of dead reckoning is that you base your current position on your last one, and it is something we do quite frequently in our daily lives. This technique is subject to cumulative errors. Lets say for example that you turn your head exactly 90 degrees to the left, but the sensors in the device believe it is only 89.9 degrees. You wouldn't notice a difference of 0.1 degrees, but the device is now going to remain slightly offset from your actual body. Over time as you move more and more, tiny unnoticeable differences will begin to add up until you do notice them. When this happens, IMU devices need some outside force to correct them and get them back on track. You could think of this as navigating a large open room without any sight or sounds to help you. Even if you had memorized how many steps to take in each direction, you will undoubtably be a few inches or a few feet away from where you wanted to be at the end of the path. If 4 or 5 times during the trip you were able to step on a carpet square marking specific locations, it would allow you to make the tiny adjustments needed to stay on course. The See Munkey will ocassionally require outside help as well, which will come in the form of a single key that you press while looking straight ahead. This is a quick message to the device telling it that you are physically facing straight ahead and it should adjust itself to get rid of any errors that have been building up. As I've said previously, the See Munkey has gone through a few software upgrades since it was first designed. I'm pleased to report that each software upgrade has made the See Munkey much better at dead reckoning, and has resulted in it needing outside help less and less often. I fully expect to continue improving the design in this way.

Q: How is the See Munkey different from something like the Wii?
A: A Wii tracks you visually, or rather it tracks the Wii mote visually using infa red. Vision based trackers and IMU based trackers are very different approaches, and each have their own set of pros and cons. Vision based trackers have an anchored sensor which means they do not rely on dead reckoning to measure movements. This makes them immune to drift or to accumulated error, but also means they struggle with rotational information. A Vision approach excells at positional movement such as going up, down, left or right, while something like turning your head, nodding up and down, or tilting it would be wildly inaccurate. There are some high-end versions that do a pretty good job, but even an expensive vision based system will pale in comparison with a cheaply built IMU when it comes to tracking rotation. An IMU based system can have all of the calculations done on the device itself which saves the computer from having to do any of that work. On a vision based system, the computer must run complex tracking software that can quickly bog down slower systems.

Q: When I buy a See Munkey, am I also getting/buying your upcoming RPG?
A: No. My upcoming RPG will require the See Munkey to play, but I am treating these as 2 completely separate things. I know it seems strange to buy a hardware device without having a game to go with it, but I don't want people to buy the See Munkey based entirely on a game that isn't even close to finished. I can just imagine people deciding that they don't want to play the RPG and then being upset that they already "paid for it" when they bought a See Munkey, so I need to be as clear as I can that this is its own separate thing.

Q: Why would I want to buy a See Munkey before there are any good games out for it?
A: That is a good question, and it has a few answers. At the time of writing this, the See Munkey doens't have any games written for it yet, and even the mapping software is unfinished. It might seem strange to buy a device that doesn't have any software for it yet! If you are a developer, you probably have no need for my mapping software to be finished because you will be doing your own project. Getting your hands on a device early will give you more time to play around with it, learn how it works, and use it in your own projects. If you are not a developer, you might want to get one early so that you already have one when software is available. If someone uploads a cool new game that can use the See Munkey, you might not want to sit around waiting for yours to come in the mail while other people are playing the new game. The last reason is that you believe in the project and want to help support it. I only have enough money to buy a limited number of parts at a time, so I have to then wait and sell the devices I've built. Once those sell I can take the money from the sales and order new parts. This cycle has a lot of delays because it takes 2 weeks for the parts to ship to my house, and I can't even order them until I've sold all of the See Munkeys I've built. If people buy the devices it speeds this process along and gets more of them out into the hands of the community. Game developers are more likely to add See Munkey support to their games if there are a lot of players who have them.

Q: Is the head band that comes with the See Munkey too feminine? (You can thank Kai for this question, ROFL) A: For people who might use ear buds, the See Munkey ships with a small head band that you can wear and clip the device on to. The head band is a super cheap piece of plastic which has been reinforced with some hot glue. These were the cheapest things I could come up with that would hold the device, and I believe they only cost about $0.40 even including the glue. Are they manly? Well while watching movies I have yet to see any action heroes sporting these tiny plastic head bands, so that might answer your question.

Q: What colors are available, and can I choose which color I get when I buy a device?
A: When I buy the clips and head bands, they come in a variety of colors. The clips come in purple, red, blue, green, teal, orange and brown. The colors are random so I don't really have control over which colors I'll have available as I'm building the devices. The head bands are white, brown, and black. Whenever I buy them they come with equal numbers of all 3 colors. The See Munkey body has a white cord and is semi transparent white. When people buy a device I randomly pick a clip and a band color so you won't know what you're going to get. I don't think it would be a good idea for me to let people request certain color combinations because I'll probably end up with certain ones that no one request, or I'll end up being asked for colors that I'm out of.

Q: How do I wear this thing?
A: When worn, the clip will be on the bottom and the cord comes out of the back like a tail. The best position is for the device to sit flat on the top of your head when you are naturally facing forward. If for some reason you feel the need to place the See Munkey further to one side or tilted further back on your head, then it should work but may not work quite as well as it was designed for. The calibration code does its best to learn the individual movements of each person, but almost all testing has been done where the "at rest" forward position had the device flat on the center of the head.

Q: How would I fire weapons and whatnot with this device? Does it have buttons like a game controller?
A: The device has no buttons. This is an understandable mistake to make since all of your usual input devices have some sort of button on them. Keyboards, mice, joysticks, and game controllers all have buttons. The See Munkey is designed only to be a motion tracker. Using a separate mapping program you can tie movements to things like mouse clicks or pressing keys, or if you are playing a game written to support the device, specific movements might be how you fire your rockets or punch the other boxer in the face. It will really come down to the games themselves.

Q: Would it work with say flight simulators like Three-d velocity and other hand to ear products that have USB support written into them.
A: I'm not entirely sure what "USB support" means, but I think this is referring to games that already support game controllers or a joystick. The See Munkey is its own device type so it won't work in place of a joystick or a game controller unless the game was designed to work with the See Munkey.

Q: What are the hardware specs for the See Munkey?
A: It uses an Arm-based ATmega 328, 30k of flash memory, ADXL345 accelerometers, HMC5883L magnetometers, and ITG-3200 gyroscopes. The IMU sensors are very similar (hardware wise) to the Sparkfun SEN-10724 Sensor stick (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10724).

Q: How long will it take to ship to my house?
A: Weekends and holidays always slow things down, but so far, every person who has bought a See Munkey received it within 3 business days! That's no guarentee of course, but at least it gives us an idea of how quickly it will arrive.

Q: Is this hair stuck to my See Munkey?
A: Hahaha, no. The glue I use dries as thin strands that can be mistaken as hair. Before shipping the devices out, I take a few minutes to clean them off, but sometimes I miss a few strands.

Store

See Munkey headset



Link to audio games
Link to Developer's manual for the See Munkey
Provided by Kaldobsky L.L.C.