Getting your stuff built: how to shop, conduct business, stay alive, and eat your way through Shenzhen

This is [Bob Baddeley]. He’s an EE with an idea that started as a fun project until someone said “hey, that’s cool”. He started thinking about what it would take to launch it commercially and before he knew it he was involved in a startup accelerator to help him assemble what he needs to make his idea into a business. He spent several weeks in China learning about manufacturing and posted copiously about it.

We’ve seen other engineering trips to Asia, but [Bob’s] experience living there provides a different perspective than a quick trip would. He posted about the thing’s you’d expect, like touring a short-run prototyping facility. But he also talks about the rigors of being a pedestrian in a place where legged transport is marginalized by the gas and pedal powered vehicles that are crammed into every square-inch of the city. In the image above he’s walking on the highway (for some inexplicable reason; deathwish?).

He also got to do a lot of fun stuff. He met a ton of folks, like [Bunnie Huang], [Ian Lesnet], and the team over at Seeed Studios. He even took his protoype to the local Maker Faire. It’s a scoreboard which can be controlled from your smart phone. [Bob] tells us that he didn’t get much interest showing the face of the device as seen in that post. But when he turned it around to show off the point-to-point wire porn he was mobbed by interested hackers. Guts!

Putting every chiptune ever in an FPGA

Finally one device combines the power of the Commodore 64 SID, Atari ST YM2149, and Amiga MOD audio into one awesome box. It’s called the RetroCade Synth, and there’s a Kickstarter that is perfect for starting your chiptune composing journey.

[Jack]’s RetroCade synth is connects directly to the Papilio One 500k FPGA. All the classic chiptune ICs can be emulated in this FPGA including the Commodore 64 SID chip, and an Amiga MOD player. Being a follow-up to [Jack]’s previous FPGA YM2149 project, he also threw that chip into the project for good measure. While the RetroCade doesn’t ship with every old chiptune IC – there isn’t support for NES, Atari, GameBoy, or SN76489-based chiptunes yet – that is something [Jack] will add once the Kickstarter is completed.

After the break you can see [Jack] jamming out on his RetroCade project playing a YM2149, SID, and Amiga MOD sounds simultaneously. For $100, it’s comparable to the venerable MIDIbox SID, but also allows anyone to play whatever genre of chiptunes they desire.

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Laser cutting in 3D

Everyone in the world suffers from some degree of functional fixedness, a proclivity to use tools only how they were meant to be use. A laser cutter, for example, is usually used to make flat, two-dimensional parts. [Seeker] broke out of this cognitive lock when he decided to create an illuminated 3D object with a laser cutter and a dozen acrylic sheets.

[Seeker]’s project is inspired by acrylic edge-lit LED signs. In these signs, a pattern is engraved on an acrylic sheet and a LED illuminates the panel from the side. When the light from the LED hits the engraving, it’s refracted and produces a wonderful colorful pattern.

To make a 3D version of an edge lit display, [Seeker] subtracted a 3D model of a virus from a cube in Sketchup. This resulted in a hollow cavity that would refract light. After slicing up the model of the 3D cube, [Seeker] sent the files over to the laser cutter to produce a few dozen custom panels. [Seeker] glued them together, put the entire assemblage in front of a LED light, and admired the beauty of his new laser cut 3D virus.

Controlling a mouse with your voice

It’s entirely possible to use a computer without the aid of a mouse or trackpad. Shift and arrow keys will get you very far, but that is entirely too taxing. [Stephen] came up with a really neat way to control a mouse with your voice, a project that is sure to find its way onto the desktops of those with mobility issues very quickly

The voice controlled mouse works in conjunction with the voice recognition built into OS X, a little AppleScript, and a touch of Python. When the user says, ‘show grid’ a 10 by 10 grid numbered 1 to 100 is displayed on the screen. By saying ‘thirty five,’ the cursor moves to the 35th cell in the grid. From there, the mouse can be controlled by speaking cardinal directions such as South and Northwest.

[Stephen] put up a very clever demo of his Voice Mouse project available after the break. Even though he did have a little difficulty with his mac recognizing a few of his spoken commands its light years ahead of trying to navigate the web with just shift and arrow keys.

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Update: Androcade 2.0

[Chris] has been going about his business, letting his interest guide him as it will. But always in the back of his mind is his Androcade project, and he’s spent the last year making improvements. It’s an arcade controller for playing games on an Android tablet. It connects to the device via Bluetooth, and includes a built-in stand.

His original version was featured here last year. It was made from wood (with a nice Android green finish) and included three buttons and a joystick. This time around he moved to some black laser-cut acrylic for the case, and has doubled up on the buttons. It also now enumerates as an HID Bluetooth device, whereas before it was pushing serial data over the BT connection.

He’s had enough interest from his friends to also create an iPad version all in white. It connects and works just the same as the Android flavor. Check out a bit of Donkey Kong gameplay after the break.

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