bladeRF, your next software defined radio

SDR

By now you might have a bit weary of your small and inexpensive TV tuner dongle software defined radio. Yes, using a USB TV dongle is a great introduction to SDR, but it has limited bandwidth, limited frequency range, and can’t transmit. Enter the bladeRF, the SDR that makes up for all the shortcomings of a USB dongle, and also serves as a great wireless development platform.

The bladeRF is able to receive and transmit on any frequency between 300 MHz and 3.8 GHz. This, along with a powerful FPGA, ARM CPU, and very good ADCs and DACs makes it possible to build your own software defined WiFi adapter, Bluetooth module, ZigBee radio, GPS receiver, or GSM and 4G LTE modem.

It’s an impressive bit of kit, but it doesn’t exactly come cheap; the bladeRF is available on the Kickstarter for $400. The folks behind the bladeRF seem to be doing things right, though, and are using their Kickstarter windfall for all the right things like a USB vendor ID.

There’s a video of two bladeRFs being used as a full duplex modem. You can check that out after the break.

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Guitar Hero controller built from toy guitar and keyboard

frets-on-fire-custom-controller

[Heinrich Laue] was kind of a latecomer to the fake guitar playing video game phenomenon. He played Frets on Fire — an open source clone of the game — on PC and eventually bought a copy of Guitar Hero World Tour. But playing on the keyboard was a drag. Instead of buying a controller he built his own hacked Guitar Hero controller from a scrapped keyboard and a toy guitar.

The plastic toy he started with was screwed together. This is a really nice since it’s almost impossible to open toys that have been welded together. There was plenty of room inside for all his components and even some space to run the wires.

He started the electronic portion of the build by tracing out the keyboard matrix to figure out which solder pads he could tap into. The strum bar uses a door hinge with buttons on either side of it. When you move it back and forth it hits the buttons, with the spring mechanism in each returning it back to center. The fret buttons are keys from the keyboard, but the switches uses were pulled from a few computer mice. But the real innovation comes into play when he added the Star Power tilt sensor and whammy bar. Follow the link above to find out how he did it.

Easy web interface with GPIO access runs on Raspberry Pi

rpi-web-interface-using-mysql-php

Here’s a Raspberry Pi hack that adds web control using PHP and MySQL. As you can see in the image, it serves up a webpage (using the Apache2 server) which allows you to change the state of the GPIO pins. It’s not super-complicated, but it is nice to see a step-by-step guide for installing and configuring the package.

Web interface GPIO control is one of the features we loved about the Adafruit Web IDE. But this offering is loaded completely from the RPi (the Adafruit package uses cloud based code) and utilizes the tools most Linux network admins will be used to. A MySQL database manages the connection between GUI commands and GPIO modification. The webpage is served up by a PHP script which takes care of polling and changing database values. Configuration requires a new database, plus the username and password which has access to it.

Music challenge has you flapping your wrist to make sounds

glove-based-music-challenge

This glove controller let you play a musical game. The challenge is to perform the correct wrist motions at the right tempo to play the intro to the song Where is my Mind by the Pixies. This is demonstrated in the video clip after the break.

We often see flex sensors used on the fingers of glove projects, but this one does it all with an accelerometer. That module, along with the Piezo buzzer used for playback are affixed to the small breadboard on the back side of his hand. Rubber bands connect the Arduino to his third and forth fingers. The tempo and rhythm are pre-programmed but the tone generated is based on the gravity reading at the start of each note. If you don’t have your hand positioned correctly the wrong tone will be played.

The code was published in link at the top. It would be fun to see this altered as a hacked Simon Says game.

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Glowing Super Bowl helmets

glowing-football-helmets-adafruit

These geeky Superbowl decorations glow thanks to the EL panel hack which [Becky Stern] created. It’s almost impossible to make out in this image, but the EL panels have been applied to the surface of the helmet. On the San Francisco helmet you can just make out the black connector and cord at the bottom of the F.

El panels are a lot like EL wire (but they’re flat) in that the phosphors are excited when connected to a high voltage AC supply. You can cut the panels into shapes without a problem. The technique used here is to create a black vinyl mask to go over the top of the panel. This makes cutting the panel a lot easier.

The mask sticker is made on a vinyl cutter. [Becky] is a master at using the vector tool as you can see in the video after the break. She outlined each team logo with paths to create a file which the cutter can use. From there it took several tries to get the sticker just right as the curve of the helmet distorts the logos just a bit. Once it was dialed in she stuck the vinyl on the El panel and cut around the perimeter.

The Adafruit team sure loves to use electroluminescent accents.

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