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2015 RedBull Creation Ends with Flaming Tire Swing of Death

ศุกร์, 10/02/2015 - 06:01

Holy *#$&. That just about sums up the 2015 RedBull Creation Competition. It was fantastic. Where else could you ride a gasoline engine powered tire-swing-of-death, complete with fireball launcher? Well… maybe Burning Man…

Anyway, was it a hackathon? No, this was a build-a-thon. A few Arduinos and Atmel’s may have been used, but the majority of the projects were serious mechanical marvels. The teams had 72 hours to compete, with the very broad theme of “Serious Fun”.

And did they make some serious fun. From human-sized hamster wheels, to glass smashing recycling machines, and even an arcade style carnival game housed in a dumpster, not one team had a similar idea about Serious Fun. It was awesome.

While [Mike] and [Brian] weren’t able to make it this year (see their coverage last year), I made the drive down from Canada to see the competition – and I took some video along the way. Check it out.

In the end Team Detroitus took home the grand prize of $6,000 for their terribly unsafe but ridiculously fun Lunar Lander Tire Swing – though we prefer the name Flaming-Tire-Swing-of-Death. Good job guys!

…did we mention they’re planning on erecting it in some public park behind the recycling center? Oh Detroit. Don’t ever change. For more photos and info about the invent, check out the main page here.

Filed under: cons

Raspberry Pi 2 Game Boy Brings Sexy Back From 1989

ศุกร์, 10/02/2015 - 03:01

When the ever-versatile Raspberry Pi was released, the potential for cheap video game emulation was immediately obvious. Some of the very first Raspi projects to hit the internet were arcade cabinets, and it wasn’t long until people were making them portable. A purpose-build Linux distort called RetroPie has become very popular specifically because of the Raspi’s game-emulation potential. However, the actual hardware for these emulation systems isn’t always the most aesthetically (or ergonomically) pleasing. That’s where reddit user [Cristov9000] has managed to stand out from the crowd.

[Cristov9000] accomplished this by combining high-quality design (and 3D printing) with the careful use of original Nintendo parts. Game Boy and SNES buttons and elastomers were used to achieve the correct button feel. Other original Game Boy parts, like the volume wheel and power switch, ensure that the system feels as much like 1989 OEM hardware as possible.

Also impressive is the internal hardware, including 3 custom PCBs used to tie everything together to work via the Raspberry Pi 2 GPIO pins. The display is a 3.5″ TFT screen, and with the 6000 mAh it can handle gameplay for more than 7 hours. Other details, like the integrated mono speaker and rear shoulder buttons complete the experience. Combined with the RetroPie and an assortment of emulators, this is one of the most impressive portable gaming builds we’ve seen, especially among a crowded list of awesome raspi-based Game Boy builds.

Filed under: handhelds hacks, nintendo gameboy hacks, Raspberry Pi

Ask Hackaday: I Love The Smell Of Burnt Hair In The Morning

ศุกร์, 10/02/2015 - 00:01

At the end of the 19th century, [King Camp Gillette] had the idea of creating a disposable razor blade that didn’t need sharpening. There was one problem with this idea: metallurgy was not yet advanced enough to produce paper-thin carbon steel blades and sharpen them for a close shave. In 1901, [William Nickerson] solved this problem, and the age of disposable razors began.

The Skarp laser razor

This Kickstarter would have you believe there is a new era of beard technology dawning. It’s a laser razor called Skarp, and it’s on track to become one of the most funded Kickstarters of all time. The only problem? Even with relatively good documentation on the Kickstarter campaign, a demo video, a patent, and an expert in the field of cosmetic lasers, only the creators can figure out how it works.

Instead of using technology that has been tried and tested for thousands of years, the Skarp uses a laser to shave hairs off, right at the surface of the skin. You need only look at a billboard for laser hair removal to realize this is possible, but building a laser razor is something that has eluded us for decades. This patent from 1986 at the very least demonstrates the beginnings of the idea – put a laser beam in a handheld package and plunge it into a beard. This patent from 2005 uses fiber optics to send a laser beam to a handheld razor. Like anything out of the sci-fi genre, a laser razor is a well-tread idea in the world of invention.

But Skarp thinks it has solved all of the problems which previously block lasers from finding a place in your medicine cabinet.

A side view of an unshaven man. Source

All of the early laser-based systems have a problem, at least according [Morgan Gustavsson], creator of the Skarp and inventor of intense pulsed light, a technique used to remove hair and treat skin disorders. None of the previous laser razors can cut all types of hair. Blonde, gray, red, and blond hair are all problems for laser-based razors, until “special chromophores” were identified in human hair that would respond to specific frequencies of laser light.

With Skarp, this laser light is delivered through an optical fiber running the length of a blade. When a hair comes in contact with this optical fiber, a small amount of light leaks through the fiber, burning the hair off. The Skarp team has even posted a demo video of the process, showing a razor-shaped object can, indeed, cut hair many magnitudes slower than a metal blade.

And so we come to the multi-million dollar question: is the Skarp real? This is usually the part where informed speculation kicks in, but for once I’m at a loss.

Still, using an unshielded optical fiber to cut hair doesn’t pass the sniff test. Using a AAA battery to drive a diode laser for a month doesn’t pass the sniff test. The sheer engineering that goes into designing optics, possibly manufacturing new laser diodes, and packaging all of this into an unbelievably small enclosure doesn’t pass the sniff test. I therefore turn this over to the most erudite and sometimes suspiciously cynical population on the Internet, the Hackaday comments section. What say you? Does anyone know how much laser power and at what frequency is required to shave a beard? Why on earth would an established inventor – a leader in his field – go to Kickstarter? How on Earth is this project on target to rake in four million dollars? There’s just enough details here to make an argument one way or another. You may do so below.

Filed under: Ask Hackaday, Crowd Funding, Hackaday Columns

The HEXXX Gaming Console

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 22:31

Worried about bringing a project to demo at CCC15 (The Chaos Communication Camp), [Anthony Liekens] had to act fast. He would have brought his giant Flying Spaghetti-Monster Display (FSM for short), but unfortunately it wouldn’t fit in his car. So, looking around his garage he realized he had a pile of extra RGB LEDs, and a broken iCade Core. The gears in his head started turning and he came up with the idea for the HEXXX Gaming Console.

So what is it? It’s a hexagonal console designed for three-person gaming — like his Tron for Three and Pong for Three — he even has a 6 player Flappy Bird clone! From conception to reality, it took a mere ten stressful evenings to complete… The end result is quite fantastic.

And if you want to make your own, he’s got all the info you need, including laser cutter plans. Not to mention he even wrote a HEXXX simulator so you can build apps without the hardware!

In case you don’t remember [Anthony] was gracious enough to offer us a place to stay at Open Garage during our Hackerspacing in Europe tour! Thanks again [Anthony!]

Filed under: led hacks

Arduino Development; There’s a Makefile for That

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 21:01

Hardware and software combined, Arduino does many things right. It lowers the entry level into embedded systems development with a nifty hardware abstraction layer. It aims for cross-platform compatibility by supporting Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux operation systems. It throws out the need for an external programmer to get you up-and-blinkin’ those LEDs quickly.

One thing most of us never cease to curse about, though, is the IDE. Many have cried out wildly against the Java-based text-editor for its cryptic compiling-and-linking process, its inability to accommodate bare C or C++ source files, and (shh!) its lack of Vim keybindings. Fortunately, our cries have been heard, and the like many community-based projects, the community fights back with a custom solution.

Calling all Grumpy Engineers: The Arduino-Makefile

Enter the Arduino Makefile.

What began as [Sudar’s] lightweight program to escape the IDE has become a fully-blown, feature rich Makefile that has evolved and adapted to grow with the changes of Arduino. With a community of 47 contributors, the Makefile enables you to escape from the IDE entirely by writing code in the cushy text editor of your choice and compiling with a simple incantation of make into your terminal, be you in Linux, Mac, or Windows.

Without further ado, let’s take a walking tour of the project’s highlights.

Cryptic Shortcuts–Begone!

For many beginners, writing (or even editting) a Makefile can cause some serious confusion with most Makefile authors’ shameless shortcut use. Make no mistake, the cryptic syntax of many Makefiles forms a concise list of instructions for compiling and linking your executable, but this recipe does seem a bit hard to parse for the uninitiated. What’s more, Makefiles also tend to throw bizarre errors (trailing whitespace anyone?) that are difficult to track down–especially when we want to spend most of our time bringing up embedded systems, not understanding the mechanics and syntax of a Makefile. Fortunately [Sudar] and the rest of the development team have made the interface very human readable.

Their solution: A two-part Makefile. For a simple project, your Makefile need be no longer than this snippet (inspired from the Makefile Examples):

BOARD_TAG = uno include $(ARDMK_DIR)/Arduino.mk

Project-specific settings (like which board you’re using) are outlined in this brief Makefile that then includes the larger Makefile which contains the actual nuts and bolts for building your code. The assumption here is that you’ve defined two environment variables, both ARDMK_DIR and ARDUINO_DIR that point towards the (1) Arduino Makefile directory and the (2) Arduino Installation directory. In addition, if you have additional libraries, you can include them with a line in your top-level Makefile that defines the filepath.

 USER_LIB_PATH += /home/my_username/my_libraries_directory

You’ll also need to add all libraries you’re using (both user-added and built-in) to the list of libraries like so:

ARDUINO_LIBS += Wire \ SPI \ my_custom_lib

The benefit of a “split-Makefile” setup is that the short, top-level Makefile hides the gritty compiler gymnastics involved in compiling and linking against the default and user-added Arduino Libraries. On the flip-side, this “mini” Makefile becomes a brief, informative summary of a few minor details, such as which Arduino Libraries are being used, that are likely more relevant to the author and future developers.

Raw C and C++ is In–if you prefer such things

Tired of that *.ino file extension? Tired of having to constrain yourself into those setup and loop functions? With the Makefile, you can quickly wish these away and write your code in raw C or C++. You can even neglect to #include <Arduino.h> if you want to work in vanilla C or C++ and disregard the Arduino libraries altogether.

That said, if you’re mixing C and C++, keep in mind that you’ll need to insert guards around your C header files like so:

#ifdef __cplusplus extern "C" { #endif /// the rest of my C header file #ifdef __cplusplus } #endif Adding Project Libraries

Possibly my favorite aspect of the Arduino Makefile is its flexibility to accomodate a richer file structure and painlessly split your project into multiple files. Let’s say I have a one-off project where it makes sense to include a custom library. Given the flexibility of the Makefile, you can define:

USER_LIB_PATH+=. ARDUINO_LIBS += my_custom_library

in your project Makefile and produce a directory tree like so.

├── main.ino ├── Makefile ├── my_custom_library ├── my_custom_library.cpp └── my_custom_library.h

If you need more flexibility, you can also split your source code across several directories, keeping the Makefile in the same directory of your code that acts like a “main.” (In this case, main.ino defines setup  and loop.) To do so, your Makefile will, instead, have:

USER_LIB_PATH+=../libs ARDUINO_LIBS += my_custom_library

in your project Makefile, and your directory structure will look like so:

├── libs │   └── my_custom_library │   ├── my_custom_library.cpp │   └── my_custom_library.h └── src ├── main.ino └── Makefile

Finally, we don’t need to constrain ourselves to writing just C++ classes to split projects into multiple files.  Since we’re really working with vanilla C++, you can freely split your project into multiple source (*.c, *.cpp, *.ino, *.pde) and header (*.h, *.hpp) files that live in the same directory as the Makefile, and the Makefile will compile them into one executable.

Other Micros are Fair Game Too

Finally, the Arduino-Makefile is also compatible with a host of other microcontrollers and programmers, not just the ATMEGA328P on the Uno. In short, this feature is an exposition of the features of AVRDUDE, the program for downloading and uploading code to various AVR microcontrollers. Last, but not least, it’s also Teensy-compatible.

Define Our Standard

If you’re looking to get comfortable with the Arduino-Makefile workflow, have a quick look at their examples directory for a host of different use-cases. You can also take a peek at my i2c_demultiplexing_demo source from a couple weeks back for yet another example. At the end of the day, Arduino, with its giant library collection, makes project prototyping fast. For bigger projects, though, we don’t tend to see any standard practices for file organization to make projects easier to navigate. That’s where you come in. With the flexibility of the Makefile, you get it all: the text editor you always wanted, the separate header and implementation files, a clean directory… Now it’s your shot to take this tool and refine your workflow into a method worth sharing with the rest of us.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Featured

Because Burning Man Needed More LEDs

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 18:01

There are a lot of blinky glowy things at Burning Man every year, and [Mark] decided he would literally throw his hat into the ring. He built a high visibility top hat studded with more RGB LEDs than common sense would dictate. It’s a flashy hat, and a very good example of the fashion statement a few hundred LEDs can make.

[Mark]’s top hat has 481 WS2812b addressable LEDs studded around the perimeter, a common LED choice for bright and blinky wearables. These LEDs are driven by a Teensy 3.1, with a Bluetooth transceiver, a GPS module, a compass, and gyro/accelerometer attached to the microcontroller. That’s a lot of hardware, but it gives [Mark] the capability of having the hat react to its own orientation, point itself North, and allow for control via a modified Nintendo NES controller.

The WS2812 LEDs draw a lot of power, and for any wearable project having portable power is a chief concern. [Mark]’s original plan was to use an 8x battery holder for the electronics enclosure, and use five AA batteries to power the hat. The total idle draw of the LEDs was 4.5 Watts, and with even a few LEDs blinking colors there was a significant voltage drop. The idea of powering the hat with AA batteries was discarded and the power source was changed to a 195 Watt-hour lithium ion battery bank that was topped off each day with a solar panel.

The hat is awesome, exceedingly bright, and something that gets a lot of attention everywhere  it goes. For indoor use, it might be too bright, but this could be fixed with the addition of a bit of black stretchy fabric, like what our own [Mike Szczys] did for his DEF CON hat. [Mark]’s hat is just version 1, and he plans on making a second LED hat for next year.

Filed under: led hacks, wearable hacks

This PCB Business Card is Logically Different

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 15:01

Having seen a number of PCB business cards [Will] decided to go against the more popular choice of a micro-controller based design and show some character with a logic based finite state machine. [Will] uses a single 7-segment display to scroll through the letters of his name with a state machine that outputs the desired combination of 1’s and 0’s to the LED display each time the tactile button is pushed.

[Will] uses a 4-bit counter made up of D Flip-Flops for the clock signal as a conditional input to 6 of the 4-input AND gates. He doesn’t go into the painful details of displaying each character through the process (thankfully) but he does mention that he uses the Quine-McCluskey technique for reduction instead of Boolean algebra. Since his name is 11 characters long and the 4-bit binary counter goes from 0000 to 1111 leaving 5 more pushes of the button before rolling the count back to 0000, during which time the display is left blank. [Will] kindly includes the eagle and Gerber files for your downloading pleasure over at his blog if you’re interested in getting a little deeper into the design.

[Will] went with boards 0.8mm thin instead of the standard 1.6mm which affords more thickness for the surface mount parts. The BOM totals: 15 ICs, a coin cell battery, a push button, 7 current limiting resistors, and a capacitor as a hardware debounce. [Will] assembled them himself by hand placing the SMD components and left the soldering to his Reflow Château.

The use of logic gates instead of a micro-controller shows some understanding of logic based design, which is a bit rare when compared to hobbyists with some micro-controller knowledge. Not to say that the PCB business cards that include a micro aren’t impressive in their own right. If you need to brush up your logic chops there are a few recent posts that you might find useful: [Bil Herd’s] logic series, and [Al Williams] covered a browser based logic discussion of flip-flops.

Filed under: classic hacks, lifehacks

World Maker Faire 2015: Prometheus and The New Air Quality Egg

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 12:01

There were plenty of projects and products to be seen at the 2015 World Maker Faire. In the maker pavilion, we found [Rocco Tuccio] showing off Prometheus, his PCB CNC router. Machines like this make prototyping circuits easy. Just place a blank piece of copper clad in the machine, load up your design, and a few minutes later you’ll have a board ready to stuff. Prometheus sports some impressive specs: 7 mil (0.18 mm) trace and space, and a Total Indicated Runout (TIR) of .0001 inches (2.5 micron). Not bad for a spindle turning 40,000 RPM. [Rocco] has spent the last two years designing this machine, and has sourced most of the parts from local US vendors. The unique part of Prometheus is the spindle design. Like many other small PCB routers, Prometheus uses a brushless quadcopter motor for power. Rather than go with a belt system, [Rocco] simplified things to a simple friction drive. The only precision parts he has to worry about are the bearings which hold the cutting bits in place. Prometheus isn’t for sale yet. [Rocco] plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the coming months.


A few minutes later we ran into [Victor Aprea] from Wicked Device, showing off the Air Quality Egg V2. [Victor] and his partner [Dirk] ran the design and manufacturing side of the Air Quality Egg, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2012. The eggs from that campaign can be found online at the project’s website. [Victor and Dirk] have greatly improved on the Egg since then. The biggest update are the sensors. Sensors for ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide are now much more sensitive units from SpecSensors. These sensors don’t come cheap though. To keep costs down, [Victor and Dirk] have released three separate versions of the product with different sensor suites. On the connectivity side, the egg is now based upon Wicked Device’s Wildfire, allowing it to connect to WiFi networks. These Eggs mean business too – [Victor  and Dirk] obtained permission to co-locate a trio of eggs alongside an official New York State/EPA air quality sensing unit. The Eggs all read within 2 parts per million for carbon monoxide, and 10 parts per billion for sulfur dioxide. As with the original Egg, these devices are open source hardware. Source code is available on Wicked Device’s Github.

Filed under: misc hacks

3D Popup Cards from 3D Photos

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 09:01

The world of 3D printing is growing rapidly. Some might say it’s growing layer by layer. But there was one aspect that [Ken] wanted to improve upon, and that was in the area of 3D photos. Specifically, printing a 3D pop-up-style photograph that collapses to save space so you can easily carry it around.

It’s been possible to take 3D scans of objects and render a 3D print for a while now, but [Ken] wanted something a little more portable. His 3D pop-up photographs are similar to pop-up books for children, in that when the page is unfolded a three-dimensional shape distances itself from the background.

The process works by taking a normal 3D photo. With the help of some software, sets of points that are equidistant from the camera are grouped into layers. From there, they can be printed in the old 2-dimensional fashion and then connected to achieve the 3D effect. Using a Kinect or similar device would allow for any number of layers and ways of using this method. So we’re throwing down the gauntlet — we want to see an arms-race of pop-up photographs. Who will be the one to have the most layers, and who will find a photograph subject that makes the most sense in this medium? Remember how cool those vector-cut topographical maps were? There must be a similarly impressive application for this!

[Ken] isn’t a stranger around these parts. He was previously featured for his unique weather display and his semi-real-life Mario Kart, so be sure to check those out as well.

Filed under: digital cameras hacks, Kinect hacks

Robot Dances on the Icy Ceiling

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 06:01

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is working on a robot for the exploration of Europa’s oceans. A big problem is the oceans are under a permanent ice ceiling. JPL is making that ceiling a feature with a robot that dances, okay wheels, on the ceiling.

The Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration (BRUIE) is, as the name says, buoyant so it floats against the ice ceiling. Two large paddle wheels allow it to drive along the ceiling.

Andy Klesh from JPL with BRUIE

In 2012 they took an earlier version to Barrow, Alaska for testing under the ice. While the temperatures encountered there may not match those of Europa’s frozen methane [Europa is water, also – Rud] it’s still a challenging environment for man and robot. One of the challenges for the arctic exploration team was the need to test when the ice was thin enough to make a hole. They had to proceed judiciously to avoid falling in.

Recently they tested a newer version rover the California Science Center aquarium, giving new meaning to the phrase “swimming with the fishes.” Andy Klesh, principal investigator for the rover at JPL and volunteer diver at the science center accompanied BRUIE during the testing. Sometime in the future they hope to turn BRUIE loose in a lake where it can explore autonomously.

Fortunately the arctic team didn’t encounter any polar bears, another possible risk. When the rover makes it to Europa it’s unlikely to encounter an extra-terrestrial equivalent.

Video coverage after the break.

Filed under: robots hacks

New Part Day: Tiny, Tiny Bluetooth Chips

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 03:01

The future of tiny electronics is wearables, it seems, with companies coming out with tiny devices that are able to check your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature while relaying this data back to your phone over a Bluetooth connection. Intel has the Curie module, a small System on Chip (SoC) meant for wearables, and the STM32 inside the Fitbit is one of the smallest ARM microcontrollers you’ll ever find. Now there’s a new part available that’s smaller than anything else and has an integrated Bluetooth radio; just what you need when you need an Internet of Motes of Dust.

The Atmel BTLC1000 is a tiny SoC designed for wearables. The internals aren’t exceptional in and of themselves – it’s an ARM Cortex M0 running at 26 MHz. There’s a Bluetooth 4.1 radio inside this chip, and enough I/O, RAM, and ROM to connect to a few sensors and do a few interesting things. What makes this chip so exceptional is its size – a mere 2.262mm by 2.142mm. It’s a chip that can fit along the thickness of some PCBs.

To provide some perspective: the smallest ATtiny, the ‘tiny4/5/9/10 in an SOT23-6 package, is 2.90mm long. The smallest PICs are similarly sized, and both have a tiny amount of RAM and Flash space. The BTLC1000 is surprisingly capable, with 128kB each of RAM and ROM.

The future of wearable devices is smaller, faster and more capable devices, and with a tiny chip that can fit on the head of a pin, this is certainly an interesting chip for applications where performance can be traded for package size. If you’re ready to dive in with this chip the preliminary datasheets are now available.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Microcontrollers

Can You Hear Me Now?

พฤ, 10/01/2015 - 00:01

It’s great to build projects just to do something neat, to learn; to impress friends and other hackers. It’s even better to address a real need.

I’ve worn hearing aids for 40 some years. My response to the question “Can you hear me now?” is still all too often, “No.” Because of this I heartily applaud the Aegis Acoustics Headset currently active on Kickstarter. I’m happy to see it’s blown through its goal with over a month left.

The Aegis is targeted at prevent hearing loss, primarily in teens since they use headsets so often. It’s equally applicable to adults and pre-teens. The Aegis works by limiting the sound level emitted to 85db, which is a safe level. Above that the risk of damage to the tiny hairs in the cochlea – the inner ear – increases dramatically with a 3db increase cutting the safety time in half.

Future’s So Bright I’ve Got to Wear ‘Aids

My personal experience explains why this is important. At my first professional level job as a software developer I noticed that people at the other end of the table often mumbled during meetings. Not really, because everyone else understood them fine. I needed hearing aids.

My first hearing aids were analog devices. There were three frequency bands across the audio spectrum whose volumes could be custom set for my ears — resulting in crude and limited improvements in what I could hear. My current hearing aids are technological marvels of digital signal processing with a multitude of algorithms the audiologist can use to help me hear better. They even coordinate their actions by communicating between themselves.

I still need to ask people to repeat what they say at times. But who doesn’t? I had a successful career despite my loss. But it is still a royal pain-in-the-butt to miss out on one-third of the dialog in a movie, to not go to a local coffee house because I won’t understand the lyrics or comments by the musicians, and miss out on all the other small parts of life along these lines.

Hacking for Hearing

There are a range of areas where hackers could contribute and not just in assisting individuals, like myself, who personally gain from technological assistance.

Consider how the cell phone improved communications in developing countries. Using radio communications the countries avoided the need to string thousands of miles of wires. That saved the expense and the decades of construction time. It’s easier to get cell phone service than water in some locations. It’s important to notice that it didn’t come about because of a big plan. It came about as an unseen consequence of a technical development.

“We can rebuild him…we have the technology” is from the opening of an old TV series and movies, “The 6 Million Dollar Man” and has found it’s place in the pop-culture vocabulary. But it rings true. We have the technology. We have the tools. We have the expertise. We’re hackers and builders. We and the technology are all over the place. We’re a solution looking for a problem.

Devices that Extend the Body

All signs point to a coming revolution of devices that protect our bodies and make them work better. The 2015 Hackaday Prize theme is Build Something That Matters and that sentiment is obviously taking hold throughout the hardware hacker movement. The Aegis headphones I mentioned above are one example of preventive devices, but look around and there are many more like the UV-Badge which gives you feedback on safe levels of sunlight for your skin.

Surely we’re going to see further augmentation for the devices that help restore function. Wearables are all the rage, how long will it be before your smartwatch notification functions make it into my hearing aids? Imagine the improvements we will see in custom hearing profiles born of that smartphone-hearing aid connection. The foundations of this are user-controlled profile switching which is already in place for apps like Belltone’s HearPlus. If the advanced electronics in the smartphone can build a better noise profile and transfer it to the hearing aid my visits to the coffee shop just might get a lot better. And this doesn’t mean the devices need to look the same either. I love the Design Affairs Studio hearing aid concept that is shown at the top of this article. Hardware can be a status symbol after all.

This type of forward thinking easily extends to all assistive technologies such as wheelchair improvements and navigation systems for the blind.

As you look toward your next big hack, roll these concepts around in your mind. The tools, software, and talent have never been easier to connect for our group of citizen scientists who are hacking in basements and garages. It’s exciting to think about the change we can affect using the skills honed over the past decades of this hardware enlightenment we’re all living.

Filed under: Featured, Medical hacks, rants

Novation Launchpad MIDI Controller Moves Toward Open Source

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 23:00

The Novation Launchpad is a MIDI controller, most commonly used with the Ableton Live digital audio workstation. It’s an eight by eight grid of buttons with RGB LED backlights that sends MIDI commands to your PC over USB. It’s often used to trigger clips, which is demonstrated by the artist Madeon in this video.

The Launchpad is useful as a MIDI input device, but that’s about all it used to do. But now, Novation has released an open source API for the Novation Pro. This makes it possible to write your own code to run on the controller, which can be flashed using a USB bootloader. An API gives you access to the hardware, and example code is provided.

[Jason Hotchkiss], who gave us the tip on this, has been hacking around with the API. The Launchpad Pro has a good old 5 pin MIDI output, which can be connected directly to a synth. [Jason]’s custom firmware uses the Launchpad Pro as a standalone MIDI sequencer. You can check out a video of this after the break.

Unfortunately, Novation didn’t open source the factory firmware. However, this open API is a welcome change to the usual closed-source nature of audio devices.

Filed under: musical hacks

Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Berlin, Germany

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 22:23

Join the Hackaday Crew in Berlin this Saturday for a meetup!

This weekend in Berlin, Germany, there are at least two events happening and [Sophi], [Elliot] and [Bilke] are going to check them all out. The Vintage Computing Festival is one of the big events, and it looks like there will be lots of geeky magic to play with. This weekend is also Maker Faire Berlin where we’re looking forward to hanging out with our friends from Hackaday.io and we’re excited about meeting new people and projects.

Hackaday often throws a party after Maker Faire to celebrate all of our community projects and we’re doing it again Saturday night. We are co-hosting a party with the Vintage Computing Festival, on the same site as the festival, and all are welcome. We’ll have drinks and snacks, and the VCF has live music planned for the evening. This event is free, but we’d like you to RSVP so we know how many refreshments are needed.

Your first drink is on us, and naturally, if you bring a project,your second one is on us too! Please help spread the word by telling your friends, sharing on social media, and mobilizing all the people at your Hackerspace. See you on Saturday!

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, The Hackaday Prize

Teeny Tiny Very Small – Atomic Resolution and the Home Hobbyist

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 21:01

Atoms are small. Really small. You just won’t believe how minusculely microscopically mindbogglingly small they are. I mean you may think it’s a short way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to atoms.

Atoms really are small. The atomic radius of a carbon atom is on the order of 0.1 nanometers, that’s 0.0000001 millimeters. It’s hard to grasp how fantastically small this is compared to objects we generally encounter, but as a starting point I’d recommend looking at the “Powers of Ten” video found below whose ability to convey the concept has been unrivaled since it was published in 1977.

The term nanometer might be most familiar from the semiconductor industry, and its seemingly unstoppable march to smaller feature sizes. Feature sizes currently hover somewhere around the 10 nanometer mark. So while these multi-billion dollar facilities can achieve 10nm precision it’s somewhat surprising that sub-nanometer feature size positioning, and fabrication techniques are available at relatively low cost to the hacker hobbyist.

In this article we’re going to review some of the amazing work demonstrated by hobbyists in the area of the very very small through use of cutting edge, but low cost techniques.

Nanopositioning A homebrew Piezo actuator by Nebojsa Jaksic, Colorado State University-Pueblo

The first technique in our toolkit is sub-nanometer precision positioning. Piezoelectic materials contract in response to an applied voltage. You’ll most likely be familiar with the cheap piezo buzzers in greeting cards or beepers in cheap gadgets. However, in nanopositioning their precise motion is exploited to provide positioning. These actuators often take the form of Piezo stacks or tubes formed into XYZ stages costing of 100s to 1000s of dollars. However starting with John Alexander’s design, accurate actuators have been developed by hobbyists from cheap Piezo buzzers. Using these sub-dollar devices, cut into quadrants sub-nanometer precision motion can be achieved in X, Y and Z axis over about 10 microns of travel.

Atomically Sharp Tips A sharp point is formed from a single atom

While being able to move things with atomic precision is great, it’s of little value until you have a method of fabricating nanoscale features. This turns out to be pretty simple, by simply cutting Platinum Iridium wire while pulling it using a pair of titanium wirecutters the wire can be pinched and pulled into a sharp tip.  While this tip will be somewhat irregular, there will be one atom at the tip slightly ahead of all the others, providing a tiny nanoscale feature.

Atomic Scale Imaging and Measurement

Optical microscopes are limited by the wavelength of light and therefore at best provide a resolution of about 200 nanometers (2000 carbon atoms). There are a couple of neat techniques we can use however to make atomic scale measurements.

By combining nanopositioning and atomically sharp tips we can begin to build a scanning tunneling microscope (STM).  These microscopes scan the tip across a surface, measuring a tunneling current flowing between the tip and the surface (in general using a trans-impedance amplifier). A version of this technique was used in IBMs famous atomic resolution movie “A Boy And His Atom”.

Hackers like John Alexander and Dan Berard  have successfully built these systems for 100s of dollars. Tunneling microscopes however are limited to imaging conductive surfaces. In contrast to this, Atomic Force Microscopes exploit Van der Waals forces to deflect a tip. Because of this non-conductive materials can be imaged too, which is of particular importance in biological application. Dan has begun to work on cheap methods for exploiting this technique using affordable and effective methodology.

A Home Built Interferometer

Another measurement technique which sidesteps the optical limit is laser interferometry. In this method a laser is split and reflected off two mirrors then recombined. By moving one mirror and measuring the interference between the two beams, distances can be measured. The measurement resolution of a basic interferometer will still be limited by the wavelength of visible light. However more advanced techniques (such as looping the beam back and reflecting it twice) even allow nanoscale distances to be measured. Interferometers have also been developed by hackers on a budget using BluRay laser parts and cheap laser diodes. Among other things, interferometric measurements can help calibrate, or provide feedback to Piezo actuators.

Now, with nanoscale imaging and measurement techniques in hand, what are we going to look at?

Atomically Flat, Regular Surfaces Carbon (HOPG) Atoms Imaged by Dan’s STM

Another limitation of the scanning microscopes we’ve described is that they only work on flat surfaces. Turns out that nature has done our work for us here. Two popular materials are HOPG (Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite) and Mica. Both materials are planar. An atomically flat surface can be cleaved off easily, most commonly pulled off using scotch tape! HOPG is conductive and regular. As such STMs produce great looking HOPG images. While this is interesting it its own right, we can also use these materials as a substrate. Molecules of interest can be laid out on the flat surface and imaged against a known background.

Atomically Thin Films Ben Krasnow’s Sputtering machine at work

Sputtering machines can be used to apply a thin layer of material to a substrate. The technique is used extensively in the semiconductor industry to build up the layers of materials required to construct and integrated circuit. But we’ve also seen hackers experimenting with this technique. Like Ben Krasnow’s sputtering of ITO on glass to create transparent conductive coatings. Sputtering machines require a vacuum, but this is not particularly difficult to achieve, and there’s an endless variety of coatings to experiment with.

As you’ve seen, the past few years have laid a solid foundation in cheap techniques for nanoscale measurement and fabrication. These solutions, for the most part, have all been developed by a series of industrious hackers. We hope this inspires you to further build on their work and peer into the atomic realm! We’d like to hear from you in the comments, what kind of projects do you think will be built from this framework in the coming years?

Filed under: classic hacks, Featured

SMA Robot Jumps 7 Times Its Height, Weighs Nothing

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 18:01

This is some seriously cool research. Scientists at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) have made tiny, tiny, tiny robots using shape memory alloys, or SMA’s for short. They weigh less than 4 grams and move like an inchworm!

Unlike regular robots that feature rigid structures and electric actuators, the researchers opted to take more of an origami like approach — so much so, they call it robogami. Their very first attempt was years ago, and was rather large. Since then they’ve shrunk it down to about the size of a compact flash card. The way it works is quite simple. SMA’s shrink when heated (either externally heated or by an internal current) and in doing so, produce extremely high forces.

So by patterning these in a shape (like that of an inchworm) the researchers are able to trigger each “limb” separately to induce movement. They can also jump seven times their height thanks to the super high power-density of SMA’s.

SMA’s are available to the public, but sadly we haven’t seen many hacks that make use of them.

[Thanks Steve!]

Filed under: robots hacks

Concrete With a Drinking Problem Could Reduce Flooding

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 15:01

Concrete – it’s all around you. You probably walk on it, drive on it, and maybe even sit on it! From a civil engineering standpoint, concrete really is a miracle material. But, it does have its downsides, especially in heavily developed urban areas. One of the most glaring of those downsides is the tendency for water to pool and flood on concrete. However, a new concrete formula could dramatically improve that by allowing water to drain quickly through the concrete itself.

While all unsealed concrete technically absorbs water, it does so very inefficiently and quickly becomes saturated. Once that happens, water will pool on the surface. This causes obvious problems for cars, as they become susceptible to hydroplaning. It also creates the potential for flooding in heavily paved areas.

This new concrete formula, called Topmix Permeable, is designed to reduce pooling by letting the water flow through at the rate of 600 liters per minute per square meter! It does this by using larger gravel pieces in the mix, which leaves bigger gaps for the water to drain down into. From there, it can be absorbed by the underlying soil, or routed safely away from roadways and parking lots.

Of course, this formula isn’t perfect. Its ability to pass through water also makes it likely to crack and quickly deteriorate in cold climates, as the water freezing and thawing inside the concrete will easily damage it. But, in warmer climates that receive a lot of rainfall in bursts, it could significantly improve safety.

[via Adafruit]

Filed under: slider, transportation hacks

KIM-1 Clock

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 12:01

Over on hackaday.io, [Arduino Enigma] posted the code for his clock that runs on a KIM Uno (the KIM-1 clone we mentioned late last year). Although the KIM Uno has a few demos preloaded (including Microchess and a scientific calculator), all of them take some interaction. The clock makes the KIM Uno a more dynamic desk display since it does something useful without any user interaction (once you set the clock, of course).

The project shows the code stored in ROM, but you can’t directly enter the program into ROM (which is really EEPROM on the host Arduino). The trick is to enter the address (that is press AD and then 0, 4, 0, 0) and then mash down the reset button for about a second. Then you can press DA and enter the hex codes provided (pressing + after each byte). Since the code is in nonvolatile storage, you can start it at any time by setting the time in RAM and executing the code at address 400.

The program is short and sweet, making it is easy to enter and a great opportunity to brush up on understanding your 6502. However, the simplicity means it doesn’t range check your initial time settings, so don’t tell it that it is 32:99 or something like that. The code isn’t commented, but it is pretty simple, once you realize one thing: the first instruction, SED, sets the 6502’s decimal mode so no conversion between hex and decimal is needed.

Each part of the time (hours, minutes, and seconds) is stored in RAM at locations 0024, 0025, and 0026. The NEXTD routine uses the X register to scan through each part of the time, adding 1 or 0 as appropriate (stored in RAM location 0029). If the time part matches the corresponding table entry at CARRYT (that is, 60, 60, or 24 also indexed by the X register), then the code does not take the branch to CONTIN and reloads the increment (location 0029) with zero, so the next digits will not advance. If it does match, the increment stays as 1 and the current part returns to a zero value.

You may notice the time is stored back to locations starting at 0024 and 00F9. That’s because 00F9 is where the KIM-1 ROM looks for data to write to the display when calling the ROM-resident subroutine at 1F1F. The X register ranges from 0 to 2, corresponding to the seconds, minutes, and hours. Once all the time is updated, the loop at L1 displays the time and delays for about one second.

A neat piece of coding and a great example of the power of the 6502’s decimal mode. This would look even better with [Scott’s] enhanced version of the KIM-1 UNO.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, classic hacks, clock hacks

Hack Anything into a Phone

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 09:01

If you’ve spent much time tinkering with electronics, you’ve probably heard of [Seeedstudio] from their development boards, tools, and their PCB fabrication service. Their latest Kickstarter venture is the RePhone, an open source and modular cell phone that will allow hackers to put together a phone by blending GSM modules, batteries, screens, and other stock units, including an Arduino-based processing core, GPS, NFC, and other building blocks.

The funding campaign has already exceeded its goal and delivery is scheduled for next year with a basic kit weighing in at a projected $59, according to [Seeed]. Presumably, the core phone module will have regulatory acceptance, but the other ancillary modules won’t require as rigorous testing and certification.

What would you do with an inexpensive, embeddable cell phone? The modules are tiny, so you could implant them in lots of places. Some of [Seeed’s] more interesting ideas include building a phone into a walking stick, a dog collar, or a kite (although we were thinking quadcopters).

Of course, we’ve seen GSM and cell phone shields for Arduino before. Difficult to imagine sticking those in a dog collar, though, unless you have a fairly large dog. If you are a fan of 1960’s TV, it is easy to imagine a better shoe phone or a working Star Trek communicator.

Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, Crowd Funding

Cardboard Robot Deathmatch

พุธ, 09/30/2015 - 06:00

Fighting robots are even more awesome than regular robots. But it’s hard for us to imagine tossing all that money (not to mention blood, sweat and tears) into a bot and then watching it get shredded. The folks at Columbia Gadget Works, a Columbia, MO hackerspace had the solution: make the robots out of cardboard.

The coolest thing about building your robots out of cardboard and hot glue is that it’s cheap, but if they’re going to be a modest scale, they can still be fairly strong, quick to repair, and you’re probably going to be able to scrounge all the parts out after a brutal defeat. In short, it’s a great idea for a hackerspace event.

If you’re interested in replicating any of this yourself, have a look at their official rules and be sure to watch this full build-log of the winning robot. (It’s fun to watch him repeatedly burning his fingers on the hot glue starting around 5:44 in the video).

Hackerspace member [gamerdonkey] also pointed out that these guys are no strangers to the magic corrugated material — they built an awesome dragon boat out of the stuff and paddled it to first place in a charity boat race.

What are you waiting for? Get out your matte knife and make something cool out of that pizza box!

Filed under: Hackerspaces, robots hacks