Raspberry Pi Powers VR Headset for Mice

The Raspberry Pi is an excellent tool for fun projects and hobbies, but it’s also a popular choice in professional fields. Such is the case with this project from the team at the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab (opens in new tab). Using a Raspberry Pi, they’ve constructed a custom VR headset (opens in new tab) to aid in their neuroscience research involving mice.

The headset is small enough to fit on the head of a mouse and features two SPI displays. These screens project a look into a custom world designed using the open-source Godot game engine. A custom map was created in the example pictures shown with a grid texture on the ground. It has cliffs, edges, and other obstacles that the mouse can encounter as needed for their neuroscience research.

The idea behind the system is to create a virtual world in which the team can study the behavior of the mouse, given the challenges and features of the digital map. The headset can be fixed to the head of the mouse that can locomote around the virtual environment using a custom treadmill. As the mouse moves in real life, so does the virtual world it explores in real-time.

The team is using a Raspberry PI 4 to power the system. They also 3D-printed a case to mount the Pi and eyepieces for the display modules. A Fresnel lens is used inside each display, as well. According to the official documentation, the displays have a resolution of 240 x 210px. The treadmill consists of a styrofoam ball that the mouse can stand on top of, monitored by optical sensors to determine the direction and speed of movement.

Software-wise, everything runs on the Pi, including the Godot video game engine. They developed a custom display driver to take the Godot video feed and process it to output to each eye display as needed for the VR Headset.

If you want to look at this Raspberry Pi project or maybe even recreate it yourself, check out the official project page at GitHub (opens in new tab). The team provides an in-depth look at its construction and the software used to implement the VR effects in the headset.