Real-time depth smoothing for the Kinect

[Karl] set out to improve the depth image that the Kinect camera is able to feed into a computer. He’s come up with a pre-processing package which smooths the depth data in real-time.

There are a few problems here, one is that the Kinect has a fairly low resolution, it is also depth limited to a range of about 8 meters from the device (an issue we hadn’t considered when looking at Kinect-based mapping solutions). But the drawbacks of those shortcomings can be mitigated by improving the data that it does collect. [Karl's] approach is twofold: pixel filtering, and averaging of movement.

The pixel filtering works with the depth data to help clarify the outlines of objects. Weighted moving average is used to help reduce the amount of flickering areas rendered from frame to frame. [Karl] included a nice GUI with the code which lets you tweak the filter settings until they’re just right. See a demo of that interface in the clip after the break and let us know what you might use this for by leaving a comment.

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Rotary phone-light-amp could be filed under bizarre

[Samimy's] latest project is a little strange, but one man’s weird is another man’s wonderful so we’re not about to start criticizing his work. Nope, we’re here to praise the fact that his rotary phone turned reading light and audio amp is very well constructed.

He started by removing the phone housing. Those old enough to have used one of these devices will remember their bulk, and there’s a lot of unused space in both the handset and body housing. [Samimy] started by removing the speaker and microphone from the handset, and drilling a ring of holes to receive white LEDs. The circuit was wired so that lifting the handset turns on the lights.

But he didn’t stop there. A set of speakers and the audio amplifier circuitry from an old tape deck are also hiding inside the base of the phone. If you look closely in the image above you can see that he’s connected his cellphone and is listening to some tunes through the antique hardware. Take a gander at the video after the break to see construction and use of the project.

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Very accurate clock can’t be read accurately

[Martijn] is showing off his new clock which he calls a Light Spectrum Clock. We like to look of it, using RGB LEDs in five squares that remind us of some of those LED coffee table builds. From left to right this shows the week, day, hour, minute, and second. Simple, right?

We had to smile a little bit when looking through his write up. He chose an Arduino nano as a controller, using a TLC5940 chip to drive the LEDs. But it is the inclusion of a DS1307 real-time clock that we find amusing. It will keep quite accurate time (not quite as well as the DS3232 but still respectable) but the fuzzy display technique makes telling the time accurately an impossibility. But like other color-based clocks, that’s part of the fun. The real reason for using an RTC chip is that they usually include battery-backed operation so that you can shut off the LEDs when you’re not around and the clock will continue to tick.

You can watch the seconds pass by as fading colors in the clip after the break.

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Modular controllers you can’t wait to show off to your friends

Let’s get this straight, [Alex] is going to show us how to make controllers like this one? Where do we sign up? Even without seeing it in action we want one, but the urge to build is even greater after he shows it off (check the clip after the break). He’s a design student who made an open source project aimed at making it easier to build hardware controllers that pair with just about any software application.

The need for external controllers is on the rise, starting with music-based applications like DJ tools, and Midi controllers for musicians (we’re thinking Monome clones). But anything that can take input from a USB HID can be controlled with something like this. That’s because [Alex] is using the Teensy controller board as an interface. Just select the input types you want – sliders, potentiometers, buttons, switches – then wire them up to the microcontroller pins. If you start to run out of inputs he also discusses some add-on chips to use as port expanders.

Of course there’s a lot to be said for the physical appearance as well. Even though he used point-to-point connections for all of the controls, that wiring is hidden behind the aesthetically pleasing laser-cut dashboard. Follow his advice for layout and find a friend with access to a sweet laser cutter and you’re in business. [Read more...]

Tutorial: Build a manifold clock for $10

Every once in a while, the Hack a Day tip line gets a submission that is cool, but screams to be built in a few hours, possibly while consuming adult beverages. When [Shay] and [Ben] sent in their Manifold Clock Kickstarter, I knew what I had to do. To make a long story short, there’s a manifold clock hanging on my wall right now. Check out my manifold clock how-to guide after the break.

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Control Android with a projector and Kinect

If you’re going to build a giant touch screen, why not use an OS that is designed for touch interfaces, like Android? [Colin] had the same idea, so he connected his phone to a projector and a Kinect.

Video is carried from [Colin]‘s Galaxy Nexus to the projector via an MHL connection. Getting the Kinect to work was a little more challenging, though. The Kinect is connected to a PC running Simple Kinect Touch. The PC converts the data from the Kinect into TUIO commands that are received using TUIO for Android.

In order for the TUIO commands to be recognized as user input, [Colin] had to compile his own version of Android. It was a lot of work, but using an OS designed for touch interface seems much better than all the other touch screen hacks that start from the ground up.

You can check out [Colin]‘s demo after the break. Sadly, there are no Angry Birds.

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Challenge: Figure out how this logic-based chaser works

[Andrea] built this LED chaser using one logic chip. It illuminates all but one of the six LEDs, with the dim bit moving back and forth along the row in a chase sequence. This is something like an inverse Larson Scanner without the fading tail. But doing it with a logic chip instead of a microcontroller is a fun challenge.

Which brings us to the point of this feature. [Andrea] didn’t really post an explanation of how the circuit works. Usually missing details mean that we archive the tip and move on to the next one, but we think this provides a fun activity. Can you figure out how the circuit works? We already know that it’s using a CD4017 decade counter/divider chip. This gets its clock signal from a 555 timer circuit. [Andrea's] schematic is a bit hard to read, but grab a copy, blow it up a bit (or use your browser zoom) and study the CD4017 datasheet (PDF) if you need to.

Want proof that it does actually work? It’s embedded after the break.

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