Driving game steering wheel controller without the wheel

For some reason this project makes us think of the Light Cycles in Tron. You know, the bike forms around the rider after they grab onto the wand that makes up its controls? Certainly you’re not going to see a car form out of thin air, but this driving controller let you grab onto nothing to control a racing game.

You can see that it uses a Kinect to map the body of the player and convert your movements into motion control. The demo video embedded below the fold shows the calibration step, followed by the available control options. Pushing the steering wheel forward turns on the nitrous, leaning forward or back accelerates and brakes, and a few arm signals let you navigate the game menus.

This works by mapping gestures to keystrokes. [Rajarshi Roy] tells us that there’s a very raw code package available in their repository but the plan is to clean it up this weekend. They will also work on a Wiki, documentation, and a tutorial on teaching the software new gestures.

We just don’t know what we like better, seeing the kinect extended as a gaming controller like this one, or using it in robotics like that quadcopter.

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Playing chess on a microcontroller

[Arthur Benemann] started a little project for his electrical engineering program, and suffered the worst case of feature creep we’ve ever seen. He just posted an instructable of his picChess project that is able to play chess on a VGA monitor with a keyboard, with sound, a clock, temperature sensor. Apparently, [Arthur] was bored one evening and threw in an implementation of Conway’s game of life.

[Arthur] chose a DSPIC33F μC for his project with everything laid out on a bread board. He’s quite proud of his VGA routine, the first time he’s ever used DMA. We’re really impressed by [Arthur]‘s chess engine – his is the first homebrew chess engine we’ve seen on Hack A Day. Although the engine is a brute-force search with Alpha-beta pruning, the engine itself seems fairly advanced that will even supports castling.

Although a few rules aren’t supported and the ELO rating of the engine isn’t known, [Arthur]‘s engine should still be able to beat an amateur player. A fairly impressive feat indeed.

Check out [Arthur]‘s video after the break.

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Moisture control for a DIY greenhouse


[Clover] loves plant biology, and tends a small garden while she is at home during breaks from college. She says that her family is notoriously unreliable when it comes to caring for plants, so she decided to construct a greenhouse to ensure that her garden will still be around the next time she comes home.

With her raised bed garden built and her seeds planted, she started work on the greenhouse itself, which was constructed using PVC pipe and clear plastic sheeting. Satisfied with how the structure came out, she focused on the greenhouse’s watering system and moisture sensors. The watering system uses solenoids that are connected to a pair of Arduino regulated relays. The Arduino uses moisture sensors constructed from nails, triggering the water flow when things get too dry.

The controller along with its LCD status panel was mounted inside a bird house to protect it from the elements while keeping in line with the house’s decor. [Clover] seems pretty happy with the build, but we suspect she will be adding some temperature and regulation at some point, to facilitate longer growing cycles.

Check out the video below for a quick tour of her setup.

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Propeller-based robot with basic object avoidance


The Parallax Propeller is a pretty powerful MCU as [Dino] recently discovered in his latest Hack a Week installment. He wanted to build a simple robotics platform that he could use for testing out various sensors, and he figured he might as well learn about a different type of micro controller in the process.

He pieced together his robot using a pair of old Roomba motors he had sitting around, mounting them on a standard RadioShack project box. A Propeller MSR1 control board runs the show, and a Propeller PING sensor is used to get an idea of what the robot’s surroundings look like. He is an admitted newbie when it comes to using Propeller micro controllers, but [Dino] was able to give his robot some rudimentary object avoidance abilities fairly easily. A few small bugs aside, he had the robot up and running in short order, a testament to how easy it is to work with the Propeller platform.

Stick around to see a brief video covering the robot’s construction we have embedded below.

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MB LED is next generation of LED video block puzzles

Meet MBLed, a set of interactive 8×8 LED tiles. Put them next to each other and they will orient themselves into a video screen which is the sum of the parts. If this sounds familiar it’s because we’ve seen the concept before in the GLiP project. [Guillaume] tells us that MB Led is the new version of GLiP and from what we’ve seen they’ve made a lot of progress.

The hardware is well designed. A PCB hosts the STM32 microcontroller and a pair of pin headers which receive the RGB LED matrix module. A pair of AA battery holders make up the legs for the device. Each has infrared receiver/emitter pairs on each of the four edges and constantly polls for its neighbors.

What really impresses us is the algorithms they’re using for communications. FreeRTOS runs on the ARM processors, and a series of messages was developed which allow the blocks to elect a leader, and follow its commands via the distributed system. Check out more about those algorithms on the page linked above, and join us after the break to see the demo video.

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Your snapshot on a thermal printed receipt, instantly!

What could be better than a low-res black and white photograph printed instantly on paper that will yellow and crumple over time? Wow, we really need to work on our sales pitch. But all kidding aside, we love the idea that [Niklas Roy] came up with in order to build this thermal printing camera.

His Picasa album has two snapshots of the hardware. He’s using an LM1881 for video sync separation just like he did with his PING project. From there an ATmega8 microcontroller grabs each column from the image and prints it using the thermal printer. It looks like everything runs on a 9V battery which is nice for portability (although we still never got our hands on that rechargeable 9V we’ve been meaning to pick up). Perhaps just as impressive is that [Niklas] got this up and running with about 400 lines of code. Nice!

Of course you’ll want to see this in action so we’ve placed a video clip after the break. Just like old-timey cameras it looks like you’re going to need to sit still until the image is done printing.

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Retro-radio: building on another WiFi radio hack

[Jay Collett] likes listening to Internet radio stations and decided to build his own standalone hardware that lets him listen without being at his computer. But he wasn’t starting from square one on this project. [Jay] built on the epic instruction set that [Mighty Ohm] published when he first built his own WiFi radio.

Both of these radios used the same method of getting onto the internet; a hacked router. We kind of like this because it means you should be able to use the radio as a bridge for wired Ethernet devices. But we digress. [Jay] departs from the instructions by using an Arduino and its IDE to interface an LCD screen with a different line/column orientation than the original, and to implement a different control scheme. This makes the project a bit more approachable if you prefer not to roll your own electronics.

Take a look at the video after the break. The router takes quite a while to boot, but once it does it seems that the controls are both intuitive and responsive.

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