Hackerspace Introduction: 7hills makerspace in Rome Georgia

This place served as a very strong reminder that not all hackerspaces are the same. Housed in a masonic temple, 7hills makerspace is quite different. They are fairly new, having just built out the location in January. I didn’t have a visit planned, and just happened to get lucky enough to catch [John Grout] there doing some screen printing. He agreed to give us a tour on the spot, and I think he did a fantastic job.

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OpenCV knows where you’re looking with eye tracking

[John] has been working on a video-based eye tracking solution using OpenCV, and we’re loving the progress. [John]‘s pupil tracking software can tell anyone exactly where you’re looking and allows for free head movement.

The basic idea behind this build is simple; when looking straight ahead a pupil is perfectly circular. When an eye looks off to one side, a pupil looks more and more like an ellipse to a screen-mounted video camera. By measuring the dimensions of this ellipse, [John]‘s software can make a very good guess where the eye is looking. If you want the extremely technical breakdown, here’s an ACM paper going over the technique.

Like the EyeWriter project this build was based on, [John]‘s build uses IR LEDs around the edge of a monitor to increase the contrast between the pupil and the iris.

After the break are two videos showing the eyetracker in action. Watching [John]‘s project at work is a little creepy, but the good news is a proper eye tracking setup doesn’t require the user to stare at their eye.

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GPU programming for easy & fast image processing

If you ever need to manipulate images really fast, or just want to make some pretty fractals, [Reuben] has just what you need. He developed a neat command line tool to send code to a graphics card and generate images using pixel shaders. Opposed to making these images with a CPU, a GPU processes every pixel in parallel, making image processing much faster.

All the GPU coding is done by writing a bit of code in GLSL. [Reuben]‘s command line utility takes that code, sends it to the graphics card, and returns the image calculated by the GPU. It’s very simple for to make pretty Mandebrolt set images and sine wave interference this way, but [Reuben]‘s project can do much more than that. By sending an image to the GPU and performing a few operations, [Reuben] can do very fast edge detection and other algorithmic processing on pre-existing images.

So far, [Reuben] has tested his software with a few NVIDIA graphics cards under Windows and Linux, although it should work with any graphics card with pixel shaders.

Although [Reuben] is sending code to his GPU, it’s not quite on the level of the NVIDIA CUDA parallel computing platform; [Reuben] is only working with images. Cleverly written software could get around that, though. Still, even if [Reuben]‘s project is only used for image processing, it’s still much faster than any CPU-bound method.

You can grab a copy of [Reuben]‘s work over on GitHub.

Brewing beer with LEGO

[Matt] sent in a set of YouTube videos walking us through his LEGO Mindstorms controlled brewery.

[Matt] is using a RIMS brewing setup that recirculates and heats the mash to extract more starch from the grain. This results in a Maillard reaction in the mash and creates a richer, maltier flavor.

To control his RIMS setup, [Matt] is using a LEGO Mindstorms brick with a few LEGO temperature sensors attached to his plumbing. The LEGO provides all the temperature and pump control for a proper RIMS setup, perfect for the homebrewer who doesn’t want to bother with an Arduino or other microcontroller board.

As a small aside, the astute Hackaday reader will note our beer hacks category is woefully underpopulated. It’s nearly summer now and the perfect time to start brewing. If you’ve got a beer hack, be sure to send it in.

After the break you can see all of [Matt]‘s RIMS/LEGO brewery videos, or you can check out his YouTube channel.

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Edwardian laptop from a steampunk master

After receiving a Marconi from [Admiral Aaron Ravensdale] informing us of the completion of an exquisite steampunk laptop, we were simply delighted. [The Admiral]‘s computational device, or Uhlian Calculator as is the preferred nomenclature, is a remarkable combination of design and function suitable for any remarkable gentleman bent on the domination of the fast approaching electrical frontier.

[Ravensdale]‘s new steampunk laptop is built off his first laptop, an old Toshiba Satellite 1100. Not a speed demon by any means, but the quality of this build is phenomenal. The hinged keyboard tilts up into an ergonomic position when the laptop is opened, reveling a set of six LED jewels for the power, battery, and hard drive lights. To the left and right of the screen, a pair of miniature brass horns contain a set of stereo speakers.

The keyboard is an awesome modification of the stock keyboard very reminiscent of [Admiral Ravensdale]‘s previous keyboard steampunkification.

[The Admiral] put up an Instructable going through the many hours he put into this fine piece of craftsmanship. There’s also a video showing the keyboard lifting mechanism and skeleton key power switch available after the break.

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[Ian Lesnet]‘s guide to the Bay Area Maker Faire

It may be a week after the fact, but former Hackaday alum and inventor of the Bus Pirate [Ian Lesnet] made a great guide to the Bay Area Maker Faire.

The San Francisco-area Maker Faire attracts 100,000 makers, tinkerers, hackers, and general geeks to a bazaar of DIY and generally cool stuff. All the regulars were there, including [Jeri Ellsworth] and her Commodore 64 bass keytar along with a huge assortment of cosplayers including a steampunk Boba Fett and a couple space marines. Outside the building there was a 40-foot steamship and the amazing DeLorean hovercraft of [Matthew Riese].

During his interviews with fellow makers, [Ian]‘s most received advice is, “take it slow.” There are thousands of builders in the bay area during Maker Faire, and it’s very easy to get very overwhelmed.

In case you’re wondering, [Ian] also picked up a ton of awesome schwag from all the vendors at the Maker Faire. Radio Shack had a box filled with random components,and [Kenneth] from Texas Instruments gave [Ian] a TI Launchpad, a capacitive test booster pack, and the king of all freebies, a Chronos watch.

After the break you can check out a few of the video project interviews [Ian] put up. Very awesome work from literally thousands of makers.

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3d printing ice sculptures

[Jared Kotoff] asked an interesting question on Facebook. He asked if we had ever seen 3d printing in ice before. Though we couldn’t find anything in our archives, he managed to find a project that makes 3d printed ice sculptures. To do this, they actually print two materials inside a chamber that is -8 degrees Fahrenheit. The first material is Shortening Methyl Esther (SME) that is used as a scaffold or mold. The second material is just water, but the tip is heated to 68 degrees to keep it from freezing in the nozzle. They do two passes of water for every layer of SME, and scan with a laser and perform corrections after every five layers.

Once the print is completed, the sculpture has to be scraped clean of SME and then soaked in kerosine to remove the last of it.  There are several pictures at the linked article, but sadly no video.