Office prank: death from above

Unsuspecting office workers beware. You may already be in the cross-hairs of a ping-pong ball launching robot. This covert robot hangs out on the other side of a suspended ceiling, waiting for its operator to unleash the fury. When put into action a hatch in a ceiling tile is raised and balls are launched at a cowering cube-dweller.

It looks like the balls are launched at a reasonable speed and won’t hurt anyone. The next generation of this bot should do a better job of integrating the trap door and be quieter. This would be a lot more fun if the victim couldn’t figure out where the heck that ball just came from.

[via BotJunkie]

Does your phone have a GOOG-411 button?

While visiting family we noticed that their telephone had a dedicated GOOG-411 button. We’ve been using Google’s free 411 service for what seems like years but seeing this show up in the form of an auto-dial button is astonishing.

The question that pops to mind: how is this not an antitrust suit waiting to happen? Directory assistance is BIG MONEY that Google undercut when launching its free service. By shipping phones that have the number pre-programmed doesn’t that limit choice and competition in the same way that shipping Windows with Internet Explorer does? Perhaps the difference is that Microsoft has a near monopoly on the PC OS market while GE can’t say the same about cordless phones.

We’re not antitrust lawyers, and neither are you, but we’d still like to hear your opinions about this in the comments.

Ultrasonically controlled instrument

[Rui] is working on a sequencer to control his robotic gamelan. The software maps out the controllers that operate the musical robot, which play the traditional Indonesian instruments.

The controls use ultrasonic distance sensors that detect the proximity of the musician’s hands. This data is collected by an Arduino and sent to a computer for use with the sequencer. The controller body is an upside down salad bowl from Ikea; cheap, available, and creative!

[via @littlebirdceo]

VFD clock (ends the world)

We honestly thought [Jason’s] VFD clock was some form of new terrorist attack when we came across the RSS. Thank goodness our relations with Russia aren’t as MAD as they used to be.

The main components are an IV-18 VFD with a MAX6921 driver, which to an untrained ear do sound surprisingly threatening. However an Arduino settles our hearts down and assures us this only has as much potential as blinking a VFD. While the main code, schematics, and CAD aren’t available (open source coming to a theater near you soon) at the moment – you can check out [Jason’s] inspiration, the Ice Tube Clock, which runs many of the same components.

Enjoy a video of it in action after the break. We love the ‘countdown’ feature the most.

[via Make] Continue reading “VFD clock (ends the world)”

Replacement refrigerator controller

[Michael] got his hands on a refrigerator that he intended to store beer in but found that it ran constantly. Instead of buying a new thermostat he and his friend [Doug] set out to build an Arduino-based controller for the fridge.

The finished project will switch 240v so they’ve used a transformer to power the logic circuitry and a solid state relay to handle the load switching, with a Dallas 1820 for temperature data. Because the Arduino offers more capabilities than the average thermostat hack they also decided to tap into its potential by adding an Ethernet shield. We see the Arduino as a prototyping device and so do these folks. Once the bugs in their first PCB prototype are worked out the circuit will use the ATmega328 and do away with the Arduino.

[via @littlebirdceo]

RFID control concept

That’s not a smoke detector, it’s an RFID detecting puck. [Eric] and [Brent] have been working on this concept to produce a virtual knob. When the device detects an RFID tag it vibrates, then the puck can be turned like a virtual knob, an accelerometer picking up the motion data. The build is rounded out with a XBee module for connectivity and housed in a printed case.

The video after the break shows the device controlling colored lights. There is a different tag for each color and when the reader is over one of them the puck can be rotated to turn brightness up or down. We foresee a lot of great uses for this. Turn it into a thermostat for public places by adding a character display to the mix. A tag can be affixed to a wall, when you want to change the thermostat setting just hold the puck over the tag and turn until the screen displays the desired temperature.

Continue reading “RFID control concept”

Hacking the OnStar GPS v2

[Andy] has provided us with his new guide to hacking the OnStar GPS. Previously, we have covered a way to grab the GPS data from an unused OnStar system, however in recent years GM has added much more complex systems, which make it harder than swapping out a serial line. For the new version, [Andy] has figured out GM’s Controller Area Network (CAN), which they call GMLAN. He has also done most of the software snooping and sleuthing, and has mostly solved GMLAN’s method of announcing GPS data. There is sample code available to convert this information into generic latitude and longitude.

Unfortunately for the project, (and very fortunately for [Andy]), he has a child on the way and new job responsibilities, so he is offering up his results to the HaD community to finish up, double check, and provide a good how-to for everyone else. To anyone who decides to pick up this project and run with it, let us know!