FPV on the cheap; 1990's VR equipment


I want to share my FPV setup I built on a small budget which uses some Virtual I/O iGlasses made in 1995.  I bought these in 2001 for about ~$75 and they are 600x800 in resolution and 120htz (60htz per eye).  They are capable of displaying 3D video too.  The 3D effect requires a video multiplexor, and while this has some neat applications for UAVs, I won't talk about that here.  The goggles were originally pretty expensive and universities used them for VR caves and the military used them as well.  They use a prism so you can actually see through them, I personally think this is somewhat preferable to the Oculus Rift head-in-a-box approach.  I admit on bright days you may need a dark bag anyway.  These were originally sold with an optional head-tracking unit as well.


The iGlasses use a barrel jack that is connected to an AC/DC adapter which provides 6v DC power.  I disconnected this and soldered on a USB cord I had lying around.  This way I can use an inexpensive USB power supply and make them portable.  The USB power supplies typically run about $5-10 dollars and the CR18650 lithium cells can be found for a couple dollars each or even for free when re-purposed from old laptop batteries.  If the 4500mAh rating can be believed then I have 18Ah of power for each little USB black box.  The video RX pulls more power than the iGlasses.  I'm not sure how long it will run, but far longer than my quad.  I've run an rPi for nearly 24hrs.  Another nice feature is that they can charge in a daisy chain, so I can charge several and even a GoPro at the end of the series with only one charger.    

The iGlasses are hit and miss on eBay.  Often they don't come with a cord or the head-phones are broken. Some people think they're still worth the $1,500 they paid in 1995.  Still, they frequently go for $20-80 (and by writing this I may affect the existing near zero demand).  I have flown with the headphones and they provide some information on intermittently windy days, but for the most part all you can hear is the props.  The headphones are not really necessary.  The company that makes them went out of business, but I suspect some of the video glasses for sale from China are direct descendants, derivatives of very nearly the same technology.  I have been watching them for years and some of the same selling points crop up in the new sales literature.  These iGlasses were supposed to be like watching an 80" TV from x number of feet away which occasionally shows up in the video glasses listings on eBay (the silver ones with a red-Jordi-style-visor.  There are still cheaper versions which I doubt perform as well as these do, as well as nicer ones too.    


The cord is not crucial either as the iGlasses use the same header pins most of us are already accustomed to working with for servos and flight controllers, etc.  If you look at my setup above the cords are probably the heaviest part.  I haven't started to make my own cable yet, but I'll share the pinout I stumbled on some time ago.

These goggles are pushing 20 years old.  They're not HD, but for the analogue stuff most of us are using they're great.  They're not super bright either so I typically have to fly standing in the shade when there is full sun.  I made a cardboard visor which helps and when the iGlasses were mint they came with a similar piece of plastic for the same purpose.  They work great in the evening.  I personally haven't tried any fatshark products, but a friend who has said he liked my setup better than his goggles.  The resolution is adequate for most, I believe; it allows for good compositions for photography and FPV flying.  


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  • I love the USB modification Thankyou . I did notice they worked down to 4.8 volts . My IGlasses 3D pro are vga input so I have to convert useing a cvbs to vga converter . These were £300 15 years ago and have worked flawlessly .they are great on those summer evenings flying my multiplex glider at an obscene height and quite often seeing private aircraft flying below me .so I would say I glasses are well worth picking up cheap .G
  • @Liam I see. I am going to try to do a similar setup with these goggles because they seem really sturdy and well built. Thanks :) 

  • @Johnnybulba, that's exactly what I use and I think it works great.  Friends that have used it say they like mine better than earlier versions of the fat sharks.  Perhaps they would be brighter if you tinkered with your powersupply.  The USB power supply I use takes 4 cr18650's which claim to be 4500ma.  One power bank powers my video receiver as well as the iglasses for a very long time.  I usually fly for about an hour with 3 battery changes and often forget to turn it off, I take two, but I've never run out of power.

  • @Liam sorry to dig up an old post. I've got an old pair of these that works perfectly. I've got the RCA version. I was wondering, I noticed the thing requires 6v at 500mA, but can it be powered by a standard 5v USB 1A lithium power bank that are commonly used to charge cell phones And ipads etc?? Let me know, thanks!
  • I have the HRV model. Seems to have a hard time re-syncing when the video gets choppy. 

  • @Josh. At least once. @Aaron, I think you're correct, 640 x 480.

  • Cool! I do like that you can see the surrounding world. I find that if I am standing with my Fatsharks and doing some aggressive flying I can get a bit wobbly... A stationary background may help that.

    I do believe that in a short time we will have an influx of lower cost options for video goggles.

  • I think I paid about $700 for mine back in 1995/1996.  I thought the resolution was 640 by 480, but I guess per eye and side by side that comes out to about 600 by 800 ish. They work well with glasses too.

  • Sweet.  I still have a pair of these.  Makes me want to hack the head tracker components as an input device for a camera gimbal.

  • Do you wear a dark bag over your head while wearing these in bright light? Hilarious, but nice work.

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