J1: a small, fast, CPU core for FPGA

[James Bowman] of the Willow Garage published a paper on his J1 CPU core for field-programmable gate arrays. This was originally developed and used for the Ethernet cameras on the PR2 (you know, that incredibly expensive beer delivery system?) robot. It uses a 16-bit von Neumann architecture and lacks several processor features you’d expect a CPU to have such as interrupts, multiply and divide, a condition register, and a carry flag. None-the-less, its compact at just 200 lines of Verilog and it can run at 80 MHz. [James] compares the J1 to three different FPGA CPU Cores commonly used and discusses how the system is built in his 4-page paper that has the details you’re interested in but won’t take all day to dig through.

You know that they say about guys with big lenses?

[Tony Lovell] and [dkpeterborough] built a sizable camera lens using optics from a flight simulator projector. What they ended up with is a 900mm lens that can make a beautiful photo of the moon, or capture distant landscapes in great detail. The body of the lens was designed in CAD and sent off for fabrication out of aluminum, as seen above. The concentric baffles help to prevent lens flare but it can’t be used in its bare-aluminum condition. The internals were coated using a stippling finish that leaves a sandy texture. That was covered with matte black barbecue paint, doing a great job of preventing optical interference, and the outside received a glossy white coat. Finished weight: 59 pounds, but once you see the pictures you’ll agree it’s worth lugging the bulky instrument around to grab that killer shot.

[via Make]

Developing an animatronics platform

This Predator costume has an animatronic element in the shoulder cannon. It tracks the movement of the mask, aiming wherever the Predator gazes. [Jerome Kelty] was asked by a friend to help develop the costume and he ended up with an animatronics platform which can be adapted for many different uses.

Starting with an Arduino Pro Mini [Jerome] designed a host board which would breakout the pins of the Arduino and make it easy to connect and drive multiple servo motors. The board is powered by a 3.3v Lithium Polymer battery with charging handled by a MAX1555 that was included in the design. Check out the video after the break which shows off the Predator suit. Looks like [Jerome] got it right, and he’s also put the platform to use with an Ironman suit that has an arm-mounted missle feature.

Need some inspiration for you next costume build? Take a look at this animatronic collection to get you started.

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Fake Christmas tree makes it fake snow

Let it snow inside your house this Christmas by building your own snow making tree. [Trey] was inspired by a snowing lamp-post he came across in a story. He looked around the house and came up with all the stuff necessary to make this happen with a Christmas tree. The snow is loose Styrofoam like you’d find in a bean bag chair. At the bottom of the tree there’s an inverted umbrella to collect the snowfall and funnel it into a blower salvaged from an inflatable Halloween yard ornament. The blower shoots the Styrofoam up through a PVC pipe, which also serves as the trunk of the fake tree, and it erupts from the top bringing Christmas cheer to an otherwise quiet room. See for yourself.

Hacked LED Christmas Lights

[Robert] wanted more out of his GE Color Effects G-35 LED Christmas lights. He reverse engineered and then hacked the protocol the lights use to communicate so that he can control each bulb. A 26-bit frame contains a 6-bit address, an 8-bit brightness value, and a 12-bit color value. The daisy chain topology of the data bus allows for modular bulbs with addresses enumerated during the startup of the string of lights. With this information, a 5 volt capable microcontroller is able to control a whole string of these lights with a refresh rate of up to 24Hz. In this case, [Robert] used an ATtiny13A microcontroller to control the string of lights. You can see a video of them in action after the break.

Also taken apart and analyzed, were the wireless transmitter and receiver that came with the lights, revealing a cheap ISM band receiver and transmitter module pair. Perhaps they will be useful for another project. We look forward to seeing people put these hacked lights to use throughout the year.

[via Make]

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