Open Source makes this USB arcade controller build a breeze

[Jamie] built his own USB connected arcade controller. We’ve been seeing a lot of these lately, and they usually involve soldering buttons to a keyboard PCB. But [Jamie] decided to go a different route and use his own microcontroller. This method always gets a bit hairy when it comes to deciding how to connect it to a computer. Dealing with the USB stack used to be quite tricky, but the LUFA project is slowly taking the pain out of the process.

The Lightweight USB Framework for AVRs is an open source project that handles the hard work associated with USB capable AVR microcontrollers. [Jamie] knew that they already had a sample implementation of a hardware joystick. He’s not using one of the supported boards and so wasn’t able to just compile and go. But porting the code to work with his minimus board was simple enough. With the code in place, the physical build was quite simple. The buttons and joystick were mounted on the surface of an overturned drawer. Each is connected to one pin of the controller board and to ground. LUFA makes sure that the device enumerates as a joystick, and [Jamie] was gaming in no time.

Tetris on a building

Around a year ago, a bunch of blinkenlights were installed in the HCI-Building of ETH Zürich. These LED spots weren’t interactive and only showed hardcoded patterns. Of course a bunch of LEDs demand interactivity, so for the first-semester party this year a giant game of Tetris was built on the side of a building.

There’s no official build log, but from what we’ve learned, the LEDs are connected to a DMX controller that is in turn plugged into a computer and the University’s ethernet. For the command and control of the Tetris game, a USB joystick was connected to an old Dell that was pulled out of the junk pile.

The software for the project, LED side of the project was written in Visual C++ reusing old Tetris routines and example code from the DMX controller. For the controller portion, everything was written in C. The controller simply dumps chars into a TCP port on the second computer. While the Tetris board was only 3 pixels wide, there was a fairly massive queue of people wanting to play.

Student built robot chassis has something you can learn from

This is a four-wheeled robot chassis built by high school students over the summer. They were participating in workshops put on by xbot robotics in Seattle, Washington. The goal is to get them participating in events like FIRST Robotics and LEGO league, and eventually into science related careers.

At first glance we thought: oh, that’s a nice chassis build… on to the next tip. But then the difference in front and rear wheel types caught our eye. The problem with four-wheeled designs is that you need differential steering to overcome the skidding issue when turning. This usually means two independently powered rear wheels and one unpowered front wheel that can swivel. One way to overcome this is to use three omniwheels, each with their own motor. And more recently we have seen four-wheelers that use mechanum wheels to get around the issue… but that takes four motors.

The design seen above uses just two motors, each with a chain to drive both wheels on one side. The rear wheels have rubber grippers which give them great traction. The front wheels are omni-wheels which allow them to move side to side easily during turns while aiding in forward progress when not turning. This gives the robot enough grip to push object around, like you can see in the video after the break.

[Read more...]

Portable light box for photographers on-the-go

Looking to make a quality light box more portable, [Hharry] designed a collapsible version complete with adjustable side lighting.

Light tents are used by photographers as a stage for photographing small items. The use of multiple light sources, and a fabric that will diffuse them, means a reduction in shadows that might otherwise ruin a picture. This design starts with an MDF base in the form of a shallow box with a few baffles running left to right. Drawer slides connect the lamp poles to these baffles, making it easy to pull each of the four light sources out when setting up the tent.

The white fabric that makes up the stage has pockets sewn into the edges to accept dowel rods. These are not anchored permanently. They pull against the fabric when wedged in place to keep the tent taut, but easily fold down for storage in the cavities of the base. Finally, the top of the carrying case folds down and a drawer pull serves as the carrying handle.

A light tent isn’t the only way to battle shadows in your pictures. Check out this method that uses mirrors to adjust lighting conditions.

[Thanks David]

iPhone controlled Daft Punk helmet replica a dazzling build

This Daft Punk helmet replica is beautiful to look at, but the deeper we delve into the build process, the more we begin to think that the entire project is a piece of artwork. [Harrison Krix] has been working on it for months, and just posted his three-part build log in September. Check out the video and the links to all three parts after the break.

Now [Harrison] isn’t new to prop replica scene. He’s the guy responsible for the other fantastic Daft Punk helmet we saw last year. He’s tapped the same fabrication skills to churn out an equally impressive chromed helmet, complete with addressable flashing LEDs. He built his own mold to create the body of the helmet, reminding us of the Storm Trooper helmet replicas we saw in July. While this was off being coated in chrome, he got down to business with the electronics.

The visor of the helmet has a red LED marquee. This, along with the multicolored visor sides and ear pucks, is controlled by an Arduino yellow jacket. The lights can be controlled by an iPhone app that connects to the helmet via WiFi, letting a user push custom messages to the display, and alter the light patterns. The build shines on the inside as well as the outside with an incredibly clean LED matrix build, and clever control placement for switching each part on or off.

[Read more...]

Quick and easy DIY PIC development board

diy_pic_dev_board

A few months back, [Phil] was looking to get into PIC development, but he couldn’t seem to find a simple development board for the PIC16F883 microcontroller he wanted to use. Since no retail offering had exactly what he was looking for, he decided to put together a dev board of his own.

He spent a couple hours in Eagle, putting together a simple board layout. [Phil] then busted out the iron and copper clad, making his dev board a reality using the tried and true toner transfer method.

He says that the board itself is quite simple, consisting of little more than the PIC, an LM1117 linear voltage regulator, and all the pin headers you could possibly need. While very basic and not necessarily a hack, we do like seeing people make their own tools when the market doesn’t provide what they want.

If you have been looking around for a simple PIC development solution, be sure to swing by [Phil’s] site – all of the schematics and layout files are free for the taking.

Adalight: Ladyada’s ambilight

The latest and greatest ambilight clone, the Adalight, comes from the fruitful mind and cluttered workbench of the sometimes Hack A Day contributor [Phil Burgess].

We’ve seen a few clones of the Philips ambilight tech, but [Phil] knocked this one out of the park. The hardware is a string of 12mm RGB LEDs connected to the Arduino of your choosing. After attaching the LEDs to the rear of the TV using anything from, “laser-cut acrylic to nothing more than a pizza box,” it’s on to the software.

The Processing sketch performs a series of screen captures and averages the pixels around the perimeter of the screen. Reportedly, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos looks fantastic with the Adalight but there might be a better option.

[Phil] used 25 LEDs on his Adalight, more than the usual 6-10 we see on other Ambilight clones. Check out the video after the break to see the Adalight in action.

[Read more...]

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