LED Magic Staff Just in Time for Halloween!

LED staff

[Dave’s] been working pretty hard on his Arduino driven, LED-lit, magical staff for the past few months, and now it’s finally coming together.

He’s using 6 LED strips that contain 55 LEDs each — at full brightness the staff can suck up an impressive 20A @ 5V! To power it, he’s equipped the staff with 8 NiMH C size batteries (5000mAh @ 1.5V). This works out to about 15-20 minutes of runtime at full power (255, 255, 255, LED values) — to counter this he usually runs a sparkly LED algorithm that lasts much longer. Besides, at full power it’s really quite blinding.

The staff is controlled by an Arduino Uno and currently only has two different modes: random and full brightness. Not to worry though, he’s planning on adding a sound sensor to turn it into an equalizer, a shock sensor to give it a cool ripple effect while walking, and maybe a few other interesting patterns!

Stick around after the break to see the first test video!

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InfinitEye HMD Brings 210 Degree FOV to the Party

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Head mounted displays are coming in hot and heavy this year. InfinitEye doesn’t have an official web page yet, so we’re linking to a review done by TheRoadToVR. Note that this is the second version of the display. InfinitEye released plans for their V1 HMD back in February. The InfinitEye prototype looks strikingly like the early Oculus Rift prototypes. Gaffers tape and what appears to be the frame from a face shield hold together the optical system. It’s this optical system which is interesting. InfinitEye has decided to go with head mounted LCD screens, similar to the rift, and unlike castAR’s projection system.

The InfinitEye team decided to go with two screens, giving them a whopping 1280×800 resolution per eye. The optics are also simple – fresnel lenses. This is all similar to the first version of the goggles, however the InfinitEye team claims that this new edition provides a 210 degree field of view. What we don’t know is exactly what they changed. We’re curious if the wider field of view will reduce the Sim Sickness some of us have felt with the rift – though to be fair, almost any head mounted display requires some time to adjust. What we are sure of is that the future is bright for virtual (and augmented) reality.

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Compass Guided Kayak Autopilot

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Last July, [Louis] bought a kayak off of Craigslist. It was a pedal-powered device with a hand-operated rudder, and he ended up enjoying his time on the water. [Louis] fishes, though, and it was a bit of a challenge to manage hands free fishing while maintaining a steady course. His solution was an Arduino-powered autopilot that allows him to troll for salmon and Arduino haters with just the push of a button.

In [Louis]’ system, a motor is attached to the steering lever along with a few limit switches. This motor is powered by an Arduino controlled with an LSM303 compass module from Sparkfun.

When the autopilot module is started up, it first checks to see if the compass module is enabled. If not, the system relies on two tact switches to change the position of the rudder. Enabling the compass requires a short calibration of spinning the kayak around in a circle, but after that the steering is dead on.

There are a few things [Louis] would like to add such as a heading display and a bluetooth module for remote control. This setup already landed him a 13 lb salmon, so we’re going to say it’s good enough to catch some dinner.

Retrotechtacular: Automata

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For a moment, suspend your worldview and adopt Descartes’s mechanistic interpretation that living beings are essentially complex machines: a collection of inherently unrelated parts that move and collide. Automata, then, represented the pinnacle of accomplishment in a mechanistic universe, requiring considerable skill to construct. Most of their inventors, such as Pierre Jaquet-Droz, were clockmakers or watchmakers, and automata like the 240-year-old boy writer are packed with moving parts to automate motion.

Jaquet-Droz’s writer is particularly impressive considering all its moving parts—nearly six thousand of them—fit entirely within the boy’s body, and that one can “program” the text that the boy composes. It may sound like a bit of a stretch to claim that these clockwork amusements were precursors to the computer, but they influenced inventors and engineers for centuries.

You’ve likely heard of the other famous automaton: The Turk, (which was actually a hoax, housing an operator inside its base). The Turk, however, managed to inspire Charles Babbage to pursue building a mechanical device capable of performing mathematical functions: the Difference Engine.

Watch some of Jaquet-Droz’s other clockwork masterpieces in a video after the break. Magicians like Robert-Houdin were responsible for building a number of automata, so we recommend you keep the mystical atmosphere flowing by checking out another magician’s performance oddities.

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CAN Hacking: Protocols

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We’ve gone over the basics of CAN and looked into how CAN databases work. Now we will look at a few protocols that are commonly used over CAN.

In the last article we looked at CAN databases, where each bit of a message is mapped to a specific meaning. For example, bit 1 of a CAN message with ID 0x400 might represent whether the engine is currently running or not.

However, for more complex communications we need to use protocols. These can map many meanings to a single CAN ID by agreeing on a structure for sending and receiving data.

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An Overly-Complicated Logic Chip Clock

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When a normal alarm clock just won’t do, the only option is to build your own, entirely out of discrete logic chips. [jvok] built this alarm clock for last year’s 7400 Logic Competition. In a desire to go against the grain a little bit, [jvok] decided to use 4000-series logic chips. It was allowed under the rules, and the result is a wonderful example of what can be done without a microcontroller.

Most clock projects we’ve seen use a single button to increase each digit. [jvok] wanted to do something unique, so he is able to set his clock with a ‘mode’ button that allows him to independently set the hours, minutes, and seconds. He’s only ever seen this method of setting a clock’s time used with microcontroller-based projects, and translating even that simple code into pure circuitry is quite impressive.

This clock also includes an alarm function, set by a bunch of DIP switches in binary coded decimal. It’s a great piece of work, and deserving of much more attention than it received during the Open Logic Competition.

Hackerspacing in Europe: A children’s Hackerspace in Eindhoven!

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De Ontdekfabriek (translated) is best described as a children’s makerspace. This is what society needs everywhere! Public workshops for children to learn about making, fixing, and hacking things — what a society we would live in if every young person was taught how to repair things instead of just replacing them! We really hope to see places like this adopted around the world!

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