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Hacking the Oculus Rift: the Oculight

Our Oculus Rift finally arrived in the mail. I’ll spare you my thoughts on the item itself other than to say it is amazing. There are tons of videos to choose from that show people’s thoughts and reactions, and Ifixit has their usual detailed teardown as well.

The mod I decided to tackle first was the horizontal peripheral vision lights. The shape of the Oculus means that it feels like you are wearing a skii mask, or diving mask. There are big black borders at the far edges of the sides. It would seem that a simple mod would be to add some RGB LEDs and run a simple ambilight clone.

I downloaded the Adalight code and plugged in an RGB LED strip I had sitting around. The rift has some mesh areas at the 4 corners to allow air to move around in there. I took advantage of this so I didn’t even have to cut into the rift… yet. I simply strapped the strip to the rift with the proper LEDs shining through the holes.

The result was decent. Since the LEDs are further back in your peripheral vision than the edge of the screen, it looks like maybe a little light from the surroundings is just “leaking” into the headset. It gives the impression of seeing things that are far beyond the edge of the screen.  A better installation, allowing lights all the way up the left and right sides instead of just the corners might yield even better results.

Automating a mechanical typewriter

typewriter-driven-by-automotive-door-lock-motors

Check out all the work going on in the cabinet below this typewriter. The hack which automates a mechanical typewriter  is for an art installation, but wouldn’t it be fun to build one of these to use as a résumé printer? It really makes us wish we had an old typewriter sitting around.

It would have been much easier to patch into an electric typewriter, but we have seen the string trick used on those as well. In this case a loop of string attaches to the the bar under each key, allowing a pull from below to type the character. An automotive door lock actuator ([Harvey Moon] tells us they’re not solenoids) connects to the other end of the string for every key. But then you’ve got to have a way to drive the actuators and that’s where the protoboard full of forty relays seen to the right comes into play. That image, which was taken from the demo video after the break, shows the board being testing. We’d guess more wires are added later to multiplex the array as we can’t figure out how the Arduino manages to drive all forty of them as shown. One thing we are sure about, the completed project looks and sounds amazing!

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Top 10 best hacking scenes in movies

Geeking out and complaining about inaccuracies is fun. But it is like junk food. Too much is bad for your health. We’ve done the Top 10 worst portrayals of hacking in movies/TV as well as a Part 2 due to high demand. Now it is time for the good stuff. Take it in and feel those healthy positive portrayals revitalizing your brain.

Here are the Top 10 best portrayals of hacking, based off your comments and feedback. Be sure to let us know what we missed, because there are probably some good ones that got left out.

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Guitar EQ levels trigger the stage lights

guitar-eq-strobe-control

Even if your band hasn’t made it big yet it’s still a lot of fun to put on a great show. This hack will help you add lighting effects to performances without having to shell out for a lighting technician. [Phil] put together a hack that lets you trigger the lights by setting a volume threshold with a pedal switch.

After reading about the hack that adds an EQ display for a pedal board he got the idea to convert the concept as control hardware instead of just for feedback. Just like the visualization project he uses an MSGEQ7 chip which takes care of the audio analysis. He’s using this for electric guitar so he only monitors three or four of the outputs using an Arduino. He built the hardware into a foot pedal by mounting a momentary push button on the lid of the enclosure. Stepping on the button causes the Arduino to save the the current audio level. Whenever it reaches that threshold again it will switch on a mains relay to drive an outlet. In this case a strobe light turns on when he starts to rock out, which explains the bizarre image above. You can get a better feel for the theatrics by watching the clip after the break.

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Snowboard propulsion system motors you through the flats

snowboard-propulsion-system

One advantage that skiers have always had over snowboarders is the ability to move through flat sections with ease. [Matt Gardner] built this prototype to help even the playing field. When he would normally need to kick, hop, or remove the board and walk he can now engage his snowboard battery propulsion system.

The rig works much like a paddle boat. The two wheels sticking out to either side of the board push against the slow to move the board forward. The drive train is built from an RC plane speed controller and battery, a motor and gearbox from an 18V drill from Harbor Freight, and a couple of 3D printed gears and mounting brackets. He used a 3D printer to make one drive wheel, then used that to make a silicone mold to cast the wheels used above. The entire assembly is attached to the board with a door hinge. This way the rig can be rotated out of the way (and we assume strapped to his boot) when he’s shredding down the mountain. When paired with an in-goggle HUD this will take snowboarding to the next level!

Unfortunately since it’s already April there’s no snow left to test it on, which means no demo video. But he does tell us that a test run on both grass and carpet went well.