Mobile Hackerspace Status Indicator

HACKERSPACE LIGHT

Cruising around town, not sure what to do — oh hey look, someone is at the hackerspace! Introducing the Mobile Spacestate Indicator!

During our Hackerspacing in Europe tour, we had the pleasure of visiting ACKspace in Heerlen, the Netherlands. And like many hackerspaces, they have an online status indicator letting members and non-members alike know if the space is open. [Vicarious], the gentleman who kindly picked us up from the train station, has just finished off an awesome modification to his car. Using an Arduino Uno and a Raspberry Pi, he has created a mobile indicator of his hackerspace’s status.

The Raspberry Pi automatically tethers to his phone and checks the status of the hackerspace online. It then sends the data to the Arduino Uno which controls a small strip of RGB LEDs. He’s cleverly hidden all of this inside his center console, and it looks awesome!

To see more of ACKspace’s cool projects, check out their wiki!

A Simple Posture Sensor

ChairPosture

If you are on the computer for a large part of the day, posture becomes a serious issue that can negatively impact your health. [Wingman] saw this problem, and created a hack to help solve it. His simple posture sensor will monitor the position of your head relative to the chair, and reminds you to sit up straight.

The posture sensor is built around the HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor, an Attiny85, and a piezo speaker. We’ve seen this distance sensor used in the past for a few projects. Rather than going down the wearable route, which has its own drawbacks, [Wingman] decided to attach his sensor on the back of his chair. The best part is that the sensor is not mounted directly on the chair, but rather on a piece of fabric allowing it to be easily moved when needed.

Given how low-cost and small the sensor is, the project can be easily expanded by adding multiple sensors in different locations. This would allow the angle of the back and possibly the neck to be determined, giving a more accurate indicator of poor posture. There are very few hacks out there that address bad posture. Do you have a project that helps address bad posture? Have you used video processing or a wearable device to monitor your posture? Let us know in the comments an don’t forget to send post links about them to our tips line.

Arduino Gets Fowl with Flappy Bit

flappy-bit

We have to swallow our pride and hand it to [Dan200]. He may have finally found an application that everyone can agree is a perfect fit for Arduino. Flappy Bit is [Dan's] Arduino Uno based Flappy Bird clone. [Dan] is a software guy at heart, but he’s taken a peck at electronics of late. Flappy Bit was just a fun side project for him to learn how to program the Arduino. The hardware consists of an 8×8 LED matrix, current limiting resistors, and a single button.

[Dan's] implementation isn’t 100% faithful to the iOS/Android original. Rather than simply parrot Flappy Bird, he changed it up a bit. The user presses and holds the button to climb, and releases it to descend. This seems to make the game a bit more forgiving. We also won’t be missing all the lovely sound effects from Flappy Bird.  While there is less flapping in Flappy Bit, it does make us more nostalgic for those  tabletop LCD/LED games we played in the 80’s and can’t stop crowing about today.

[Dan] has released the full source code to the project (Pastebin link), and there is more information available on his reddit thread. Give flappy bit a try. You won’t egret it!

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Retrotechtacular: Restoring A 19th Century Automaton

eyes

Made sometime in the 1790s or 1800s London, the Maillardet Automaton has a long and storied history. It was exhibited around England for several decades, brought over the Atlantic by [P.T. Barnum], nearly destroyed in a fire, and donated to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in the 1920s. From there, this amazingly complex amalgam of cogs, cams, and linkages eventually became the inspiration for the book – and movie – Hugo. Time hasn’t exactly been kind to this marvel of the clockmaker’s art; it has been repaired four times before receiving a complete overhaul in 2007 by [Andrew Baron].

[Fran], one of Hackaday’s sources for awesome projects, recently visited the Franklin Institute and posted a series of videos on the reverse engineering of the Maillardet Automaton. Being nearly destroyed and repaired so many times didn’t make this an easy job; it’s extremely possible no one alive has ever seen the eyes of the Automaton move as originally designed.

Even though the Maillardet Automaton has one of the largest series of cams of any mechanical draftsman, that doesn’t mean it’s simply an enlargement of an earlier machine. The automaton’s pen is like no other writing device on Earth, with a stylus acting as a valve to dispense ink whenever the tip touches paper. The eyes have linkages to follow the pen as it traces a drawing. In 1800, this automaton would have been a singularity in the uncanny valley, and watching it put pen to paper is still a little creepy today.

Below you’ll find a video from [Fran] demonstrating all seven drawings the Maillardet Automaton can reproduce. You can also find a whole bunch of pics of the mechanisms along with the 2007 repair report on [Andrew Baron]‘s site.

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

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Introducing: Hackaday Projects

had-projects

Today Hackaday is launching a new site that furthers our goal of being a Virtual Hackerspace. Now you can host your own hacks and builds in a place truly worthy of what we’re all about. We present to you: Hackaday Projects.

What’s so great about it? It has a dark theme, just like the blog! Actually, the awesome of the new site is a combination of what’s already available and what we have planned. First and foremost, the site has been built from the ground up with open data in mind. This means you own what you create on Hackaday Projects. You can export your work, delete it, and use a public API to extend the usefulness of the data. Secondly, we have a range of different tools which are extremely easy and quick to use, but allow rich styling and presentation when you need it. Want to see what we mean? Go check out the NFC Voting Rig that was at The Gathering.

Where do we go from here? A huge part of that is up to you. We need Hackaday readers to get in there and tell us what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be added. Are you up to the task? Request your alpha testing invite now and guide Hackaday Projects to be the hosting site the Hackaday community has always dreamed about!

Low Budget Omnidirectional Treadmill

Omni-treadmill

Moving around in space is one of the major hurdles in virtual reality. A holodeck wouldn’t be much fun if you kept walking into walls.  [Gamnaught] is working on a simple solution to this complex problem with his budget omnidirectional treadmill. Omnidirectional treadmills have been around in various forms for a number of years. The idea behind them simple: allow a person walk in any direction without actually changing their position. This is a bit different from the unidirectional treadmill models found at the local gym. Some very complex solutions have been used to create omnidirectional treadmills, including multiple motors and computer control systems as can be found in the US Army omnidirectional treadmill.  [Gamnaught] kept it simple. He built a circular 2×4 platform 13-15 degree bowl. The bowl is covered with carpet, and the user wears furniture sliders on their shoes. The low friction of the sliders allows the user to walk, run, and even walk backwards on the platform. Bungie cords provide resistance so the user doesn’t walk off the platform.

The early results look promising. [Gamnaught] says the balance felt a bit weird at times and took some getting used to. Anyone who has spent time with the Oculus Rift or other VR systems will tell you – many aspects of virtual reality take some getting used to. The treadmill is still open loop, however [Gamnaught] hopes to add motion tracking with a Sixense STEM system. We think a OpenCV based system would work as well. We’ve also seen carpet sliders sold as a children’s toy to be strapped over regular sneakers. Going the toy route would avoid needing a dedicated pair of footwear for the treadmill. More build information can be found on [Gamnaught's] Reddit thread on the topic.

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STM32 Nucleo, The Mbed-Enabled, Arduino-Compatable Board

Nucleo

The STM32 line of microcontrollers – usually seen in the form of an ST Discovery dev board – are amazingly powerful and very popular micros seen in projects with some very hefty processing and memory requirements. Now, ST has released a great way to try out the STM32 line with the Nucleo board.

There are two really great features about these new Nucleo boards. First, they’re mbed compatable, making them a great way to get started in the ARM development world. Secondly, they have Arduino pin headers right on the board, giving you access to all your shields right out of the box.

Right now, there are four varieties of the Nucleo board based on the STM32F030, -F103, -F152, and -F401 microcontrollers. The STM32F401 is the high-powered variant, An ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller running at 84 MHz, 512kB of Flash, and enough I/O for just about any project.

If you’d like to get your hands on one of the STM32 Nucleo boards, you can order a voucher to pick one up at Embedded World in Germany next week. Otherwise, you’re stuck ordering from Mouser or Farnell. Bonus: the high-end F401-based board is only $10 USD.

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