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2.5D Printing?

พุธ, 10/11/2017 - 15:00

Casio — the company famous for calculators, watches, and calculator watches — is touting a 2.5D printer. We aren’t sure we are impressed with the marketing hype name, but it is an interesting innovation for people prototyping new designs. The printer can create material that appears to be leather, fabric, and other materials. With some additional work, the printer can even mimic hard materials like stone or wood. You can see a video about the machine below.

The Mofrel printer uses special “digital sheets” that appear to be thick paper or PET plastic, but are really a sandwich of different materials. When you heat an area of the sheet, particles inside the sandwich expand allowing the printer to apply a texture.

To heat the material, the Mofrel prints a pattern on the sheet’s back surface using carbon. The front of the sheet gets color print via a conventional ink jet process. Infrared light then causes the areas with the carbon to expand up to 1.7mm — Casio calls this “foaming”. Apparently, future versions could allow expansion up to 2.5mm. The process varies a little if you use two-sided paper and there’s software to manage the entire process including automatically producing realistic irregularities.

Of course, the materials that come out of the printer are still just made of thin sheets of paper or plastic. It might look like leather or some fabric, but you won’t be able to use it as a replacement. But for making a model or a visual mock-up, it could be just the ticket. Supposedly, coatings can make the resulting material more durable and shiny, if desired.

You can’t buy one yet, but when they are available, it looks like the printer will run about $45,000 — a bit much for your average hackerspace. The sheets are not cheap, either, running about $10 a piece. There is a rumor that a consumer version could appear in the next year or two.

Perhaps the time is coming when you could print a wallet. Meanwhile, inkjet printing on actual fabric, by the way, is nothing new.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Addition on the Strangest Vacuum Tube

พุธ, 10/11/2017 - 12:00

[Uniservo] made a video of a tube he’s been trying to acquire for a long time: a Rogers 6047 additron. Never heard of an additron? We hadn’t either. But it was a full binary adder in a single vacuum tube made in Canada around 1950. You can see the video below.

The unique tubes were made for the University of Toronto Electronic Computer (UTEC). A normal tube-based computer would require several tubes to perform an addition, but the additron was a single tube that used beam switching to perform the addition in a single package. [Uniservo] points out how the tube could have revolutionized tube computing, but before it could really appear in real designs, transistors — and later, integrated circuits — would take over.

The tube did see use in 1950 in a tic-tac-toe machine, but that appears to be the only practical use on record. The datasheet is actually online. However, if you really want to see how it worked, read the patent instead.

This tube was a big improvement over relay adders. If you want to compare a more modern take on an adder, here’s one in Verilog on an FPGA.

Filed under: computer hacks

Cleaning up a Low-Cost Buck-Boost Supply

พุธ, 10/11/2017 - 09:00

Cheap DC-DC converters have been a boon on the hobbyist bench for a while now, but they can wreak havoc with sensitive circuits if you’re not careful. The problem: noise generated by the switch-mode supply buried within them. Is there anything you can do about the noise?

As it turns out, yes there is, and [Shahriar] at The Signal Path walks us through a basic circuit to reduce noise from DC-DC converters. The module under the knife is a popular buck-boost converter with a wide input range, 0-32 VDC output at up to 5 amps, and a fancy controller with an LCD display. But putting the stock $32 supply on a scope reveals tons of harmonics across a 1 MHz band and overall ripple of about 66 mV. But a simple voltage follower built from a power op-amp and a Zener diode does a great job of reducing the spikes and halving the ripple. The circuit is just a prototype and is meant more as a proof of principle and launching point for further development, and as such it’s far from perfect. The main downside is the four-volt offset from the input voltage; there’s also a broad smear of noise at the high end of the spectrum that persists even with the circuit in place. Centered around 900 MHz as it is, we suspect a cell signal of some sort is getting in.

If you haven’t checked out the videos at The Signal Path, you really should. [Shahriar] really has a knack for explaining advanced topics in RF engineering, and has a bench to die for. We’ve covered quite a few of his projects before, from salvaging a $2700 spectrum analyzer to multiplexing fiber optic transmissions.

Filed under: misc hacks

Build Your Own Wave Tank

พุธ, 10/11/2017 - 06:00

Wave tanks are cool, but it’s likely you don’t have one sitting on your coffee table at home. They’re more likely something you’ve seen in a documentary about oil tankers or icebergs. That need no longer be the case – you can build yourself a wave generator at home!

This build comes to use from [TVMiller] who started by creating a small tank out of acrylic sheet. Servo-actuated paddles are then placed in the tank to generate the periodic motion in the water. Two servos are controlled by an Arduino, allowing a variety of simple and more complex waves to be created in the tank. [TVMiller] has graciously provided the code for the project on Hackaday.io. We’d love to see more detail behind the tank build itself, too – like how the edges were sealed, and how the paddles are hinged.

A wave machine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when doing science at home, but with today’s hardware, it’s remarkable how simple it is to create one. Bonus points if you scale this up to the pool in your backyard – make sure to hit the tip line when you do.

Filed under: classic hacks

Neural Network Gimbal Is Always Watching

พุธ, 10/11/2017 - 03:00

[Gabriel] picked up a GoPro to document his adventures on the slopes and trails of Montreal, but quickly found he was better in front of the camera than behind it. Turns out he’s even better seated behind his workbench, as the completely custom auto-tracking gimbal he came up with is nothing short of a work of art.

There’s quite a bit going on here, and as you might expect, it took several iterations before [Gabriel] got all the parts working together. The rather GLaDOS-looking body of the gimbal is entirely 3D printed, and holds the motors, camera, and a collection of ultrasonic receivers. The Nvidia Jetson TX1 that does the computational heavy lifting is riding shotgun in its own swanky looking 3D printed enclosure, but [Gabriel] notes a future revision of the hardware should be able to reunite them.

In the current version of the system, the target wears an ultrasonic emitter that is picked up by the sensors in the gimbal. The rough position information provided by the ultrasonics is then refined by the neural network running on the Jetson TX1 so that the camera is always focused on the moving object. Right now the Jetson TX1 gets the video feed from the camera over WiFi, and commands the gimbal hardware over Bluetooth. Once the Jetson is inside the gimbal however, some of the hardware can likely be directly connected, and [Gabriel] says the ultrasonics may be deleted from the design completely in favor of tracking purely in software. He plans on open sourcing the project, but says he’s got some internal house keeping to do before he takes the wraps off it.

From bare bones to cushy luxury, scratch-built camera gimbals have become something of a right of passage for the photography hacker. But with this project, it looks like the bar got set just a bit higher.

Filed under: video hacks, wearable hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: UAProsthetics, a Powered Hand

พุธ, 10/11/2017 - 01:30

One of the great successes of desktop 3D printers is custom prosthetics and orthotics. For a fraction of the price of a prosthetic arm, you can buy a machine capable of producing hundreds of completely customizable prosthetics. [Taran Ravindran]’s project in the running for the 2017 Hackaday Prize follows the long tradition of building customized prosthetics. His prosthetic hand designed to be simpler and cheaper than conventional artificial limbs while still giving us some innovation in how this hand will move.

The digits on [Taran]’s hand are controlled by linear servos pulling on a series of Bowden cables. One servo actuates the index finger, with a double differential to close the three less important figures — the middle, ring, and pinky fingers don’t need the articulation of the forefinger and thumb. Those three are actuated together, saving cost and complexity — they basically operate to support the index and thumb rather than being controllable independently. The thumb has 2 DOF by itself to give it the maximum amount of utility.

Another area of importance [Taran]’s focusing on is the matter of ease of use. If the prosthesis is too complicated, difficult, or unpleasant to use, it won’t get used regardless of its awesome features. Knowing this, he focused on making the hand as simplified as possible. Right now, the project has been modeled in CAD, and [Taran] is just waiting for the SLS parts to arrive before assembling the whole thing. It’s a great project, and a great entry for this year’s Hackaday Prize.

The HackadayPrize2017 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

The Bane of Aftermarket Car Alarms

พุธ, 10/11/2017 - 00:01

The humble car alarm has been around almost as long as the car itself, first being developed by an unknown prisoner in Denver, circa 1913. To the security-conscious motorist, they make a lot of sense. The noise of a car alarm draws attention which is the last thing a would-be thief wants, and the in-built immobilizers generally stop the car being moved at all without a time-consuming workaround. Both are a great deterrent to theft.

It may then surprise you to know that I, dear readers, consider the aftermarket car alarm to be one of the most heinous devices ever fitted to the modern automobile. Combining the unholy trifecta of being poorly designed, cheaply made, and fitted by only the most untalented or uncaring people to wield a soldering iron, they are a blight that I myself refuse to accept.

It was my very own Mazda that suffered at the hands of a car alarm system. Two days after purchasing the car, the keyfob died, and thus the car would no longer start. My other car was already out of action due to bent valves, and I needed to get to work, so I figured as a competent hacker, I’d be able to quickly disable it.

In the short term, I was able to find some new keyfobs and get the system back up and running, but in that moment, I knew I wanted it gone forever. Thankfully, this is readily achievable for the average hacker. This guide isn’t intended to help facilitate would-be thieves — the method described is one that takes time and patience, not something that’ll have your car Gone In Sixty Seconds. I primarily write this for the thousands of budding car enthusiasts out there who have bought the second-hand car of their dreams, only to find their beautiful stock wiring has been hacked to pieces by well-meaning fools.

A Tale of Relay Interlocks

The vast majority of car alarms and immobilizers prevent the engine from starting in a very simple way. There are various wires that, when cut, will make running the car impossible. For example, if you cut the wire that runs the fuel pump, the engine won’t get fuel and can’t run. Cut the wire running from the ignition switch to the rest of the car’s electrical system, and the whole car loses power.

Diagrams indicating typical alarm operation in both the armed and unlocked states.

When installing a car alarm, these vital wires are cut. Each end is then connected to a relay, controlled by the car alarm. When the car alarm detects the proper keyfob or other signal, it closes the relay and allows the car to start. If the car alarm instead detects someone trying to start the car without first disarming the system, it will open the relay, no longer allowing current to flow. In the case of my car, with the relays connected to both the ignition switch and the fuel pump relay, the whole car just goes completely dead, save for the now-blinking alarm. Oh, and usually a siren will go off, and your neighbours will hate you.

So, how do we go about removing a car alarm? It’s as simple in most cases as identifying the wires that have been cut, removing the relay, and splicing the cut wires back together. This sounds easy in theory, but the shoddy nature of most installs and the absolute wire spaghetti that results can make it very difficult. Expect to face off against bare wires twisted together with tape, solder joints that are entirely uninsulated, or the dreaded Scotchlok (TM) connector.

This relay was used to cut power to the fuel pump. The green wires were spliced inline with the fuel pump’s 12 V line. The red and yellow wires are the relay’s coil wires, controlled by the car alarm. RTFM (If You Can) — Then Clip the Wires

I started my job with a Google search. Your results will vary since “security” companies selling aftermarket alarms likely don’t want to details of the systems to be easy to find. I got lucky and turned up a manual for a similar alarm made by the same company, which suggested the alarm would cut the fuel pump power supply and the 12V line from the ON position of the ignition switch. After a bit of digging around, I found exactly these two relays. I disconnected the battery for safety and got down to work.

The relay which cut the fuel pump was buried in the driver’s side kick panel, making an unsightly lump under the carpet. The relay had two fat green leads that were spliced into the blue wire supplying the fuel pump. I took the liberty of cutting the relay out, and twisting the two ends of the blue wire back together.

This nasty fella was tucked up under the steering column, spliced into the circuit coming from the ignition switch in the ON position.

Next, I tackled the second relay, buried under the steering column. Spliced into the ignition switch’s ON wire, it completely shut down the car’s electronics when triggered by the alarm. Again, I cut out the relay and twisted the original wire back together. I was careful to make sure the bare wire wasn’t shorting on anything before I tested my work.

A quick turn of the key, and the car sprang to life! I’d successfully managed to remove the immobilizer part of the car alarm. All that was left to do was to solder the wires back together.

I no longer had to worry about my car being disabled by a failing keyfob or an oversensitive alarm. I decided to leave the rest of the alarm in place for now, sans the control box which went straight in the bin. The next few weeks will see me gently peeling out the rest of the alarm hardware, which interfaces with tilt sensors, brake switches and door locks.

The wires were twisted back together for testing, before being soldered in a linesman splice and covered with heatshrink.

Tackling this job got my car back on the road, and it’s great knowing that my car is no longer at the mercy of a temperamental piece of electronic junk. Check out the video below for more of the gritty details on my own alarm removal. Naturally, we’d also love to hear your stories of auto-electrical nightmares in the comments! Happy hacking.

Filed under: car hacks, Hackaday Columns, Skills

3D Printed Lamp Even Prints the Nuts and Bolts

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 22:30

The first print to come off a shiny new 3D printer is usually a toy widget of some sort that will forever sit at your desk without purpose. The alternative is a practical project that is custom and personal like this 3D Printed Articulating Lamp. [IgorF2] shares his design for this wall mounted device which was created using Fusion 360.

The complete design consists of eight parts which includes the arms, nuts, and bolts, as well as the wall mount, each of which can be printed individually. These come together to form a structure that can be attached to a wall or your work bench. Though [IgorF2] has provided arm pieces of length 100 mm, 140 mm and 200 mm, you can mix and match to create a much larger project. The files are available for download from Thingiverse for your making pleasure.

We think this can be a great basic structure for someone looking at custom wall mounted projects. The lamp mount can be easily supplemented by a Raspberry Pi and Camera holder if you feel like live streaming your bench. Alternatively, it may be customized to become a motion detecting lamp just for fun. We hope to see some good use come of it in the future.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, misc hacks

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 21:25

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate and encourage women in the fields of science and technology. The day is named after Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, born Byron. (You can see why we just call her Ada Lovelace.) She was a brilliant mathematician, and the writer of what’s probably the first real computer program — it computed the Bernoulli series. At least according Charles Babbage, in correspondence to Michael Faraday, she was an “enchanted math fairy”. Not only a proto-coder, she wrote almost all of the existing documentation about Babbage’s computation engine. She’s a stellar example of a brilliant and unique individual. If you were looking for a superhero to represent women in science and tech, Ada’s a good pick.

In our minds, she gets stiff competition from Marie Curie. Curie did fundamental research on radioactivity, is one of two people with Nobel Prizes in two different sciences, and got to name the two elements that she discovered. 2011 was the Year of Marie Curie in France and Poland. She has her own year in addition to her own unit. Even Spiderman doesn’t have those radioactive super powers!

Don’t Need Another Hero?

But on a day dedicated to getting more women into the technical arts, it’s also a little bit daunting to pick Lovelace or Curie as a symbol. Are you ever going to have something that equals “first computer program” or “two Nobel Prizes” on your résumé? We aren’t. It’s great to have heroes, but maybe we need more than just heroes — we also need mentors.

If you’re seriously interested in getting more women in science and technology, this is one of the most thoughtful essays on the subject that we’ve read. The basic thesis is that while men overestimate their abilities, women often underestimate them. Women tend to do better with positive reinforcement, and can feel inadequate when comparing themselves against impossible ideals like becoming the next Marie Curie.

Hamilton, with the code that put us on the moon, had great mentors.

These are broad conclusions, to be sure, but they also fit stories that we’ve been told by female friends both in and out of academia. And if that argument holds water more generally, then the best advice for people in a position of mentoring promising students of any gender is to reassure them that it doesn’t actually take Curie’s single-minded genius to make a contribution to the body of scientific knowledge.

99.9% of scientists do the best they can with what they’ve got, and build up the sum total of human knowledge brick by brick. Nobody should be discouraged by the almost impossibility of becoming the next Einstein or Curie. If you’ve got a scientifically minded female student or daughter, point out what she’s good at, and let her know that that’s enough. And then see where it leads.

Lady Byron

Ada Lovelace’s father was Lord Byron, a romantic poet who had a melancholy streak a mile wide. When her father died, her mother noticed that Ada had talents in science and math and encouraged them vigorously — some say to counterbalance her father’s madness.

The point is, the young Ada Lovelace had talent and it was very actively fostered and encouraged by her mother, and then later Charles Babbage. She had good mentors to go along with her genius. That kind of support and encouragement ensured that Ada’s genius didn’t wither on the vine. Without the support of good mentors, who knows if Ada would have turned her attentions elsewhere, and the world would be a poorer place.

Mentoring the next generation in science, math, hacking, or whatever is one of the highest callings. Emphasizing the importance of mentorship in Ada Lovelace’s life shouldn’t detract from her superhero status at all, and doubling down on our efforts to bring up the next generation of superheroes is a fitting ideal on the day named after her. Who knows, that nerdy young woman you encourage today might just turn into the next Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton, Emmy Noether, Chien-Shiung Wu, or Rachel Carson. Or Ada Lovelace.

Filed under: Featured, Interest, news, slider

Soon You’ll Sit Inside a Robot’s Head at Work

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 18:01

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, CSAIL, has created a process of teleoperating a Baxter humanoid robot with an Oculus Rift VR headset. This project is partially aimed towards making manufacturing jobs a hell of a lot of fun telecommutable. It could even be a way to supervise robot workers from a distance.

In a nutshell, the user controls the robot remotely in a virtual reality environment. The user does this specifically in a VR environment modeled like a control room with multiple sensor displays, making it feel like they are sitting inside the robot’s head. By using hand controllers, users can match their movements to the robot’s to complete various tasks. If you’ve seen Pacific Rim, you are probably envisioning a Jaegar right about now — minus the psychic linking.

The whitepaper (PDF) walks through the choices the team made in developing this system. In the past, teleoperation was usually approached with a direct model or a cyper-physcial model.

In a “direct” model, the user’s vision is directly coupled to the robot’s state but a delayed signal could lead to nausea and headaches because of a lack of vestibular stimulation with visual representation of motion. In a “cyber-physical” model, the user is separate from the robot and interacts with a virtual copy of the robot and the environment. While this method was better for the driver it required much more data and specialized spaces.

Like any successful hodgepodge, the CSAIL team’s system has combined the two previous methods into something a bit more advanced. It solves the delay problem as the user is constantly receiving visual feedback from the virtual world. It additionally solves the cyber-physical issue of feeling distinct from the robot: once a user puts on the headset and logs into the system, it will seem as if they are inside Baxter’s head. The brilliance of this system is that it mimics the “homunculus model of mind” — the idea that there is a tiny human inhabiting our brains, controlling our actions, viewing the images we see, and understanding them for us.

Unsurprisingly, users with gaming experience had much more ease with the system as well. Much like the military shows an interest in skilled FPS players, we might soon see a wave of recruitment for video gamers in the manufacturing industry. Maybe all of those hours poured into the claw machine was worth it after all.

[Thanks Adam]

Filed under: robots hacks, Virtual Reality


อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 15:00

[Stephen Edwards] had some time one Christmas. So he took a DE2 FPGA board and using VHDL built a pretty faithful reproduction of an Apple II+ computer. He took advantage of VHDL modules for the 6502 CPU and PS/2 keyboard, and focused more on the video hardware and disk emulation.

According to [Stephen], you can think of the Apple II as a video display that happens to have a computer in it. The master clock is a multiple of the color burst frequency, and the timing was all geared around video generation. [Stephen’s] implementation mimics the timing, although using more modern FPGA-appropriate methods.

The FPGA also has a read-only disk emulator. The image resides on an SD card and an SPI interface loads it into memory as required.

The DE2 board isn’t the cheapest around, although if you are a student you can get a break (in the neighbourhood of $200 instead of $400). They are so frequently used in schools though, that you can often pick one up for a good bit less on the used market. Also, there are plenty of cheaper boards with the same Altera FPGA that should be fairly straightforward enough to use.

[Stephen] notes that the FPGA version takes less power than a real Apple II+ and much less than a PC emulating one, although — as he notes — that’s hardly fair since the PC has a lot of overhead that has nothing to do with the emulation.

Of course, you can emulate the same type of machine on smaller hardware. We’ve even seen one based on an AVR processor.

Filed under: classic hacks, FPGA

One Man’s Tale Of EMC Compliance Testing

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 12:00

If you turn over almost any electronic device, you should find all those compliance logos: CE, FCC, UL, TÜV, and friends. They mean that the device meets required standards set by a particular region or testing organisation, and is safe for you, the consumer.

Among those standards are those concerning EMC, or ElectroMagnetic Compatibility. These ensure that the device neither emits RF radiation such that it might interfere with anything in its surroundings, nor is it unusually susceptible to radiation from those surroundings. Achieving a pass in those tests is something of a black art, and it’s one that [Pero] has detailed his exposure to in the process of seeing a large 3-phase power supply through them. It’s a lengthy, and fascinating post.

He takes us through a basic though slightly redacted look at the device itself, before describing the testing process, and the EMC lab. These are fascinating places with expert staff who can really help, though they are extremely expensive to book time in. Since the test involves a mains power supply he describes the Line Impedance Stabilisation Network, or LISN, whose job is to safely filter away the RF component on the mains cable, and present a uniform impedance to the device.

In the end his device failed its test, and he was only able to achieve a pass with a bit of that black magic involving the RF compliance engineer’s secret weapons: copper tape and ferrite rings. [Pero] and his colleagues are going to have to redesign their shielding.

We’ve covered our visits to the EMC test lab here before.

Filed under: radio hacks

A Converter You Won’t Have: PS/2 Mouse To Serial Mouse

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 09:00

When did you last buy a mouse? Did it have a little adapter in the box? There was a time when if you bought a USB mouse, in the box was also an adapter to allow it to be used with the older PS/2 interface. And if you were to go back a few more years into the past, you’d have found when you bought a mouse with a PS/2 connector fitted, it may well have come with an adapter for a 9-pin RS232 serial port. Those mice from a decade or more ago would have contained the software to recognise the interface into which they were plugged, and emulate it accordingly. It is unlikely then that you could take a modern USB-only device and an unholy chain of USB-to-PS/2-to-serial adapters, and have it work as a serial mouse. Want to run Windows 3.1 on a 386DX? You need a serial mouse.

Happily, [matze525] has come along with a solution for those of you with a need to drive an ancient PC with a serial mouse. He’s created a PS/2 to RS232 mouse converter, and it takes the form of a little PCB with an AT90S2313P microcontroller to do the translation and an RS232 level converter chip.

It might sound like a rather unexpected device to produce, but we can see it fills an important niche. In the early 1990s mice were not the reliable optical devices we have today, instead they had nasty mechanical connections inside, or if you were extremely lucky, optical encoder wheels. The supply of still-reliable RS232 mice must therefore be dwindling, and if you have a Windows 3.1 PC to keep alive then we can see the ability to use a more modern pointing device has a lot going for it.

If you have one of those machines from that era that came with proprietary interfaces, maybe you can make use of a USB to quadrature converter.

Filed under: classic hacks

Typhoon-proof Wind Turbine

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 06:00

While wind energy is rapidly increasing its market share across the world, wind turbines are not able to be constructed everywhere that they might be needed. A perfect example of this is Japan, where a traditional wind turbine would get damaged by typhoons. After the Fukushima disaster, though, one Japanese engineer committed himself to building a turbine specifically for Japan that can operate just fine within hurricane-force winds. (YouTube, embedded below.)

The “typhoon turbine” as it is known works via the Magnus effect, where a spinning object directs air around it faster on one side than on the other. This turbine uses three Magnus effect-driven cylinders with a blade on each one, which allows the turbine to harvest energy no matter how high the wind speeds are. The problem with hurricanes and typhoons isn’t just the wind, but also what the wind blows around. While there is no mention of its impact resistance it certainly looks like it has been built as robustly as possible.

Hopefully this turbine is able to catch on in Japan so they can reduce their reliance on other types of energy. Wind energy has been getting incredibly popular lately, including among hikers who carry a portable wind generator, and even among people with just a few pieces of scrap material.

Filed under: green hacks


อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 03:00

Screwdriving! It’s like wardriving but instead of discovering WiFi networks, the aim is to discover Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)  devices of a special kind: adult toys. Yes, everything’s going to be connected, even vibrators. Welcome to the 21st century.

Security researcher [Alex Lomas] recently found that a lot of BLE-enabled adult toys are completely vulnerable to malicious attacks. In fact, they are basically wide open to anyone by design.

“Adult toys lend themselves to being great testbeds for IoT research: they’re BLE, they’re relatively cheap, they’re accessible and have companion apps for the full spectrum of testing.”

Yes… great test beds… Erm, anyway, [Alex Lomas] found that there is no PIN nor password protection, or the PIN is static and generic (0000 / 1234) on every Bluetooth adult toy analysed. Manufacturers don’t want to go through the hassle, presumably because sex toys lack displays that would enable a classic Bluetooth pairing, with random PIN and so on. While this might be a valid point, almost all electronic appliances have an “ON/OFF” button for input and some LED (or even vibration in these cases) that allow some form of output. It could be done, and it’s not like vibrators are the only minimalistic appliances out there in the IoT world.

Although BLE security is crippled by design (PDF), it is possible to add security on top of flawed protocols. The average web-browser does it all the time. The communications don’t have to be clear-text where you can literally see “Vibrate:10” flying around in packets. Encryption could be implemented on top of the BLE link between the app and the device, for instance. Understandably, security in some devices is not absolutely critical. That being said, the security bar doesn’t have to be lowered to zero — it’s not safe for work or play.

[via Arstechnica]

Filed under: news, security hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: Digital White Cane

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 01:30

If you are blind or your vision is impaired, moving around in a new space can be a harrowing experience. A cane helps, but only samples one point at a time, and can’t help that much above a certain height. The Digital White Cane is a haptic feedback device that uses Time of Flight components to detect surrounding objects.

The Digital White Cane uses a type of LIDAR known as Time of Flight (ToF) sensing. Rather than a point by point scan by a laser, ToF sensors capture an entire scene with each pulse. These sensors are actually somewhat new and designed for the latest generation of robotics and hand detection for soap dispensers. The good news is that they’re small and cheap, just what you want for a wearable.

The sensors allow detection of objects within 2m (about 6 feet) from all directions. Haptic feedback allows the wearer to determine where the object is around the wearer. Because it’s head-mounted, it detects objects at head height as well as floor height. A Teensy LC is used as the main processor and is connected to the ToF sensors as well as small motor board for the haptic feedback.

This project has a lot of potential to help people with vision impairment and is a great entry into the 2017 Hackaday Prize. Check out the video after the break to see it in action. If you’re looking for some more applications of this small, cheap ToF sensor, check out this cat food dispenser, and here’s a ball-balancing robot  – both pretty cool projects in their own right.

The HackadayPrize2017 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Zenith’s New Watch Oscillator is Making Waves

อังคาร, 10/10/2017 - 00:00

Swiss watchmaker Zenith has created what many mechanical watch fanatics are calling the biggest improvement to mechanical watch accuracy since the invention of the balance spring in 1675. The Caliber ZO 342 is a new type of harmonic oscillator that runs at 15 Hz, which is almost four times the speed of most watches. The coolest part? It’s fabricated out of silicon using Deep Reactive Ion Etching (DRIE), and it single-handedly replaces about 30 components.

Before explaining how Zenith’s oscillator works and why this is such exciting news, it’s important to understand why the balance spring and balance wheel were such a big step forward when they were the newest thing. The system was invented by [Christiaan Huygens], a Dutch mathematician and scientist. [Huygens] had previously invented the pendulum clock, which is widely accepted as the first precision timepiece.

Nice, simple, public domain harmonic motion. Disturbing Forces

Both the pendulum clock and its portable cousin the mechanical pocket watch employ harmonic oscillators. These rely on a disturbing force to begin the oscillation and a restoring force to keep the oscillation in proportion to the equilibrium point.

If your physics knowledge is rusty, think back to recess instead. The swing hangs there on the playground, vertical and still. This is its equilibrium point. When you sit down and start it in motion, you provide the disturbing force. As soon as you hit the peak of your arc, the restoring force of gravity kicks in and your swing moves back through equilibrium to the other end of the sinusoidal period.

GIF via Magnus Bosse

A clock pendulum works the same way. And the balance spring and balance wheel in a mechanical watch do too, though it is a bit harder to visualize.

Winding a mechanical watch torques up the main spring and stores the power that drives the gears. This power is meted out by teamwork between the balance spring, wheel, and escapement.

Until now, mechanical watch movements have been made mostly of metal. Because of this, many factors can and do affect their precision. Magnetism, temperature, and even a watch movement’s position throughout the day can all have a detrimental effect on accuracy.

Zenith has tackled all of that in one go by replacing the most sensitive and susceptible components with a single silicon wafer. The new oscillator is a flat, one-piece unit that replaces the balance spring, balance wheel, and escapement lever. If you were to count up all the jewels and bits and bobs that go along with those components, the Caliber ZO 342 replaces about 30 pieces total.

Disturbing Silicon

So, how does this abstract, flat-pack oscillator work? Well, the nitty-gritty details are a bit vague. Searching leads to terms like ‘topological oscillation’ and ‘conformational oscillation of (the silicon wafer’s) topology’. It sounds to us like marketing speak for silicon springs.

In the diagram above, there are two tiny teeth circled in dark blue. These teeth ratchet against the escape wheel, providing the disturbing force. There are three whisper-thin blades of silicon highlighted in yellow that act as springs and provide the restorative force.

The shorter pair of blades highlighted in violet create rotational movement to drive the gears. The red blades link together the three lobes of the oscillator. These blades allow for horizontal movement while limiting vertical movement, or amplitude.

The most flamboyant of the Zenith Defy Lab limited series of watches that feature the Caliber ZO 342 oscillator. Image via Hodinkee Flagship Watch Built Like Spaceship

The Caliber ZO 342 made its debut a few weeks ago in a new watch called the Zenith Defy Lab. As if a new kind of oscillator weren’t enough, the Defy Lab’s case is made of a new composite material called Aeronith. Up close, Aeronith kind of resembles old, silvery, pockmarked asphalt. That’s because it is made of open-pore aluminium foam stuffed with a light polymer. This process produces a material that’s lighter than carbon fiber.

Surprisingly enough, the watch starts at a “mere” $30,000. Still not reaching for your wallet? All ten that were made have already been spoken for, anyway. There’s no charge to drool over Zenith’s horologically pornographic teaser video for the Defy Lab after the break.

Main image via Hodinkee

Via r/EngineeringPorn

Filed under: clock hacks

This 3D Printer Enclosure Takes Ventilation Seriously

จันทร์, 10/09/2017 - 22:30

A lot of work has gone into hacking common items (like IKEA Lack tables) into useful and effective 3D printer enclosures, but [Stefan.Lu] has taken a harder look at the whole business. He decided to start with some specific goals that were unmet by current solutions. In particular, he wanted to allow for proper ventilation and exhaust. Not only do some filaments smell bad, but there is ongoing research around UFP (ultra-fine particles) emitted from the 3D printing process. Just in case UFPs turn out to be this generation’s asbestos or something equally terrible, [Stefan.Lu] felt that a bit more work and expense up front would be worth it to meet his goals of a ventilation-friendly enclosure.

In addition to ventilation and exhaust, [Stefan.Lu] wanted to locate the printer at a comfortable working height, and preferred not to build things entirely from scratch. He did it for well under $200 by using a common storage rack shelf as the foundation and acrylic panels for the sides, and a few thoughtful uses of basic hardware. The angled metal supports made for easy attachment points and customization, and a combination of solid shelf plus anchoring to the wall put an end to vibrations. The side panels are secured by magnets, and [Stefan.Lu] points out that if you don’t have access to a laser cutter, cast acrylic withstands drilling and cutting better than extruded acrylic.

The final touch was a fire alarm, which is an excellent precaution. 3D printers are heating elements with multiple moving parts and they often work unattended. It makes sense to have a fire alarm around, or at least not enclose the device in highly flammable material in the first place.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Our Reactions to the Treatment of Robots

จันทร์, 10/09/2017 - 21:01

Most of us have seen employees of Boston Dynamics kicking their robots, and many of us instinctively react with horror. More recently I’ve watched my own robots being petted, applauded for their achievements, and yes, even kicked.

Why do people react the way they do when mechanical creations are treated as if they were people, pets, or worse? There are some very interesting things to learn about ourselves when considering the treatment of robots as subhuman. But it’s equally interesting to consider the ramifications of treating them as human.

The Boston Dynamics Syndrome

Shown here are two snapshots of Boston Dynamics robots taken from their videos about Spot and Atlas. Why do scenes like this create the empathic reactions they do? Two possible reasons come to mind. One is that the we anthropomorphize the human-shaped one, meaning we think of it as human. That’s easy to do since not only is it human-shaped but the video shows it carrying a box using human-like movements. The second snapshot perhaps evokes the strongest reactions in anyone who owns a dog, though its similarity to any four-legged animal will usually do.

Is it wrong for Boston Dynamics, or anyone else, to treat robots in this way? Being an electronic and mechanical wizard, you might have an emotional reaction and then catch yourself with the reminder that these machines aren’t conscious and don’t feel emotional pain. But it may be wrong for one very good reason.

The reason I’d consider it wrong has to do not with the person doing the kicking, but with the people watching. Let me explain that with an example. I was participating in an Arduino-day at a local hackerspace and was showing off my BB-8 droid, having it roll around among the visitors. In case you haven’t seen kids with BB-8, many react to it as if it’s a loved pet or a friend, usually delightedly shouting “BB-8!” on first glance. However, one little girl instead walked up to it, planted a foot on the side of BB-8’s ball and pushed. It looked exactly like the kick to Boston Dynamics’ robot shown above. I strongly suspect I’d be right in saying that she’d learned that behavior from those very videos.

So why is this wrong? After all, it’s just a ball containing a Bluetooth receiver, an Arduino, two H-bridge boards and some old drill motors. The IMU board wasn’t even connected up at the time so there was nothing even remotely akin to pain sensors.

But most any parent would stop the little girl and chastise her for her behavior. Why? Well, for one thing she was kicking someone’s hard work. But more importantly, this behavior could easily be transferred to kicking her pets or classmates too. So children watching adults abusing robots may teach them that it’s okay to do so to living beings, something surely to be discouraged.

Being Nice To Robots

The example of the little girl is the only violent one I’ve experienced with BB-8. However, other reactions have been just as interesting. Take for example this video from before BB-8 had even been painted.

At 0:21 you can hear one woman react with surprise at her feelings when she says “Oh my god! That little circle really makes it look human.”

BB-8 is full of circles

One possible reason that BB-8 gets so much positive attention is that it’s full of circles. Studies both without fMRI and with fMRI have shown that objects with curved contours are liked more than objects with sharp contours, and that objects with sharp contours are liked less than objects that have a mix. A baby, for example, has a well-rounded face, whereas knives and claws have sharp shapes. Naturally there are brain mechanisms that can override this behavior — stove top burners tend to be circular, yet we fear touching them, sometimes due to past experiences in doing so.

During the demonstration of BB-8, I’d had a false start, requiring me to open it up and reposition some magnets. For this second run people were therefore rooting for it, which may have added to their enthusiasm on seeing it work. It’s also a three-fifth scale BB-8, around the size of a small child or medium-sized dog. That may also have helped with the elicited reactions.

Speaking as this BB-8’s maker, however, I don’t have quite that reaction with my BB-8. That’s perhaps because when I see it, I’m picturing the workings inside and focusing on puppeting it to give others a good experience. But I see nothing wrong in people’s reactions. I’ve felt the same for other people’s projects. And if we treat pets the way we do, why not go one step further and treat our animate creations in a similar way.

A Human Box Inception object recognizer in a box

I’ve had another very recent similar experience with my object recognizer in a box, which for the event I’d called Obby. If you’re not familiar with it, check out this detailed Hackaday article. The event was a meetup for an Ottawa machine learning group wherein a number of us gave five-minute demos of projects we’d done or were working on.

I introduced it as Obby the object recognizer, perhaps giving everyone an anthropomorphic bias right away by naming it in that manner. During the five minutes, I had it do three recognitions. For each one, I’d point Obby’s camera at an object and pressed a button. Then, with the microphone held up to its speaker it said “I am thinking about what you showed me.”


We’d then all wait for ten seconds while it mulled over what it saw, after which it would correctly say “I saw a water bottle” or “cellphone” or “coffee mug.”


Immediately afterwards I’d hear enthusiastic cheering and applause from the roughly 70 audience members. I accompanied the applause with mock bowing by dipping the box a few times.

To quote Jenny, co-organizer of the event:

I personally cheered every time Obby was successful — it almost felt like Obby was a type of pet… you know how people react to puppies or dogs that have been trained to do cute things. It seemed like that.

Factors that could have contributed to this reaction could be the pet-like name I’d given it and also the ten second wait while the sympathetic audience hoped that it would successfully recognize the object. But mostly Obby may have been humanized by speaking in a human voice and doing a task that until recently had been something only humans did well, namely object recognition.

As the one who’d put Obby together, I was of course delighted with the reaction. It was both interesting and rewarding, if a little unexpected in magnitude.

The Next Robot Eyeball balls

All this has made me second guess some decisions I’d made regarding my next robot. That one will have two moving eyes. Prior to my experience with the Obby demo, I’d planned on making the eyes as human as possible, one inch in diameter. But if people relate so easily to Obby in a box, I’ve gone back to considering using one and a quarter-inch balls or even bigger one and a half-inch ping-pong balls instead, given that they’re easier to work with.

I also fear putting people in the uncanny valley. That’s where people feel an eeriness or revulsion toward a robot which looks almost human but not quite. It does seem to be a real thing judging by your comments following this Hackaday article about a very human looking robot.

Which route do you think I should go: human or non-human? What sort of reactions have you witnessed, whether for humanoids or otherwise? We’re very interested in hearing about them so scroll down to the comments below and share your story.

Filed under: Featured, Interest, robots hacks

Project Loon Will Float LTE to Puerto Rico

จันทร์, 10/09/2017 - 18:00

Some of the biggest names in technology have offered their help in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. The newest name on the list? The X division of Alphabet, who want to help fill the huge communications gap using Project Loon, their high-altitude balloon network. It looks like X is going to get their wish, as they have just been granted license from the FCC to deploy LTE cell coverage to both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

The plan is to launch 30 balloons that will act as a network of floating cell towers to radiate an LTE signal originating from the ground. This coverage would be a great boon to a devastated communications infrastructure, but it won’t be a cakewalk to implement. Some handsets of both major persuasions will require a temporary over-the-air update before they can use Project Loon’s network. For phones that can’t operate on Band 8, it won’t work at all. Even so, it’s a great start.

Now you would think that an emergency communications restoration plan like this would be met by all parties with open arms and a circle of pats on the back, but this solution requires a lot of cooperation. One of the major hurdles was to secure spectrum rights from some if not all of the incumbent wireless carriers. Miraculously, eight of them have agreed to hand over their bandwidth. Another issue is that the FCC license is only good for six months, although they would probably entertain an extension given the circumstances. Finally, the dual ownership of the Virgin Islands makes the situation even more complicated, as X must agree not to infringe upon the wireless coverage footprint of the British Virgin Islands.

Via r/Futurology

Filed under: news