Vibrating gloves help bring back finger sensation after injury

This glove is something of a medical breakthrough. It’s used in conjunction with a musical keyboard to teach the wearer how to play simple songs. The thing is, instrumental proficiency isn’t the end goal. This is aimed at returning sensation to patients who have had a spinal cord injury. Many of the test subjects — all of which had the injuries more than a year before participating — experienced increased sensation in their hands and that is quite rare under these circumstances.

There’s not a ton of information available on the hardware itself, but this image lets us make a  pretty good guess. The glove is a typical fingerless cycling glove. There are two conductors worth of ribbon cable going to each digit. On the ring finger you can make out the bulging hardware which appears to be a vibrating cellphone motor. The white enclosure houses the microcontroller which receives wireless commands from a PC. When it is time for a finger to move, the appropriate motor vibrates. This is best explained in the clip after the break.

Apparently the combination of sensory feedback and the need to react to it provides the therapeutic impetus which achieves the promising results seen in the study.

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Power Pwn’s price tag is as dangerous as it’s black-hat uses

This rather normal-looking power strip hides a secret inside. It’s called the Power Pwn, and it conceals hardware which facilitates remote penetration testing of a network. It really is the ultimate in drop hardware as you can quickly swap it with existing power strip. Who’s going to question it?

It’s got almost all the bells and whistles. There’s dual Ethernet ports, Bluetooth with 1000′ range, and WiFi with a high gain antenna. The SoC inside comes with Debian 6 and all the exploit tools you might want pre-loaded. There’s even a 3G adapter, but it’s external and not pictured above. The thing is, for a pre-order price-tag of  $1,295 we think that 3G should have been internalized and come with a lifetime unlimited data plan! That could be a bit overboard… our heads are still spinning from the sticker shock.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen hardware from this company. Their Pwn Plug was used in this project. We just didn’t catch the $595 price tag for that device until now.

[via Reddit via Zdnet]

Driving your home appliances with hybrid power

This system of hybridizing your home’s electric appliances is an interesting take on solar energy. It focuses on seamlessly switching appliances from the grid to stored solar energy as frequently as possible. There’s a promo video after the break that explains the setup, but here’s the gist of it.

Follow along on the pictograph above. We start on the left with solar panel. This feeds to a charger that tops off a 12V battery. When that battery is full, the charger feeds to the inverter which converts the 12V DC to 110V AC power. This is fed to a pass-through which is in between the appliance (in this a case a lamp) and the wall outlet. The pass-through will switch between mains power coming from the outlet, and the 110 coming from the inverter. The homeowner won’t know, or care, which power source is being used. But sunny months should result in lower energy bills. The real question is how long it takes to cover the cost of the system in saved electricity.

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Measuring how components react to extremely cold temperatures

[Shahriar Shahramian] is playing with some liquid nitrogen in order to see how various components react to extremely low temperatures. After the break you will find forty-one minutes of video in which he conducts and explains each experiment. This does have practical applications. If you’re designing hardware for use in space you definitely need to know how the hardware will be affected. We’ve actually seen test rigs built for this very purpose.

During the presentation he doesn’t water down the concepts observed, including the equations governing each reaction to temperature change. If you’re in the mood for a little bit lighter faire you should check out some of the liquid nitrogen cooking hacks like this super-cold cocktail pops project.


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Task scheduler for Arduino

For their recent high altitude balloon project LVL1 member [Brad] programmed a pretty complicated brain based on an Arduino. It was responsible for collecting data from all of the sensors, and reporting back in a few different ways. One of the things he did to simplify the project was develop a task scheduler for the Arduino board. It lets you add functions to a queue of jobs, along with data about when they should be run.

The task scheduler does make coding a bit easier, but where it really shines is in situations like this where you don’t have access to the hardware if there’s a problem. In his description of the scheduler [Brad] mentions the possibility that one of the sensors could fail as the cold of the upper atmosphere takes its toll. This could leave the whole system stuck in a subroutine, and therefore it will stop sending reports back to the team on the ground. Since he was using the task scheduler it was a snap to add watchdog timer servicing to the mix. Now if program execution gets stuck the watchdog will reset the chip and all is not lost.

[Thanks  JAC_101]

Reverse engineering a Stylophone

The Stylophone – a musical toy from the 60s – is a surprisingly simple piece of engineering. With a simple metallic keyboard played with a stylus and just a handful of transistors, the Stylophone was able to produce a few marvelous for their time sounds, and is the equivalent of a pre-[Stradivarius] violin for the electronic music scene. [Simon] tore apart an original Stylophone, and did a complete teardown of the circuit, going over the ins and outs of why this ancient noise box is so cool.

There have been quite a few DIY Stylophone clones, but all of them suffered from the same raspy sound made by a 555 timer chip slightly misguided makers used instead of the relaxation oscillator (in the pic seen above) used in the original. Aside from the oscillator connect to the RC circuit of the metallic keyboard, [Simon] also looked into the vibrato circuit. This is just a simple oscillator producing an 8 Hz sine-ish wave. The keyboard, of course, is connected to the circuit with an array of resistors which [Simon] happily provided the values for.

[Simon] put up a schematic of his reverse engineered Stylophone, allowing you to clone this ancient electronic instrument. If you can source the transistors, that is.

Editing your FPGA source

[Dave] noted that in a recent poll of FPGA developers, emacs was far and away the most popular VHDL and Verilog editor. There are a few reasons for this – namely, emacs comes with packages for editing your HDL of choice. For those of us not wanting to install (and learn) the emacs operating system, [Dave] got Notepad++ to work with these packages.

Notepad++ already has VHDL and Verilog highlighting along with other advanced text editor features, but [Dave] wanted templates, automated declarations and beautification. To do this, he used the FingerText to store code as snippets and call them up at the wave of a finger.

As [Dave] writes his code, the component declarations constantly need to be updated, and with the help of a Perl script [Dave] can update them with the click of a hotkey. Beautification is a harder nut to crack, as Notepad++ doesn’t even have a VHDL or Verilog beautifier plugin. This was accomplished by installing emacs and running the beautification process as a batch script. Nobody can have it all, but we’re thinking [Dave]‘s method of getting away from emacs is pretty neat.