Facebook to Buy Oculus VR

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Facebook has agreed to purchase Oculus VR. The press values the deal at about $2 Billion USD in cash and stock. This is great news for Oculus’ investors. The rest of the world has a decidedly different opinion. [Notch], the outspoken creator of Minecraft, was quick to tweet that a possible rift port has now been canceled, as Facebook creeps him out. He followed this up with a blog post.

I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.

Here at Hackaday, we’ve been waiting a long time for affordable virtual reality. We’ve followed Oculus since the early days, all the way up through the recent open source hardware release of their latency tester. Our early opinion on the buyout is not very positive. Facebook isn’t exactly known for contributions to open source software or hardware, nor are they held in high regard for standardization in their games API. Only time will tell what this deal really means for the Rift.

The news isn’t all dark though. While Oculus VR has been a major catalyst for virtual reality displays, there are other players. We’ve got our eggs in the castAR basket. [Jeri, Rick] and the rest of the Technical Illusions crew have been producing some great demos while preparing CastAR for manufacture. Sony is also preparing Project Morpheus. The VR ball is rolling. We just hope it keeps on rolling – right into our living rooms.

Dead Computer Tower? Why Not Make a Tool Box?

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[Michael Gohjs] acquired a bunch of old business computers — the Dell Optiplex GX400, to be precise — and after salvaging any of the useful components out of them he was left with the cases. Not wanting to toss them for recycling, he decided to try upcycling one into a portable tool box.

The cool thing with using a computer tower for a tool box is most of it is already setup for modular storage spaces. [Michael] removed the bracket that holds the power supply in place, and using some cardboard from a calendar stand formed a box attached to it — instant storage space. Even better? The 5.25″ drive bays have sliding rails for easy removal! Again, all [Michael] had to do was build a box in between the slot rails and he had a cleverly utilized drawer.

The rest of the case was built in a similar manner, making use of pre-existing features, and making new cubbies. If you wanted to get fancy, you could use sheet metal to do this to make an even more rugged toolbox.

While you’re at it, why don’t you make an electronics lab in the box to go with your tool box? Or one like this! Or this one…

Now You’re Washing with Gas

[Michiel] likes to wash his clothes in warm water. Like a lot of machines, his draws from the cold water line and  heats it electrically. Gas is much cheaper than electricity in the Netherlands, so he wanted to be able to heat the water with gas instead. Hot-fill machines already exist, but few models are available and they’re all too expensive.  [Michiel] rolled up his sleeves and hacked his brand new washer into a hot-fill machine.

He started out thinking that he’d just connect the hot water line instead, but that proved to be too hot. He found out it needs to be about 35°C (95°F), so he decided to mix input from the hot and cold lines. Since it’s a shiny new machine, [Michiel] wanted an externally mounted system to keep from voiding  the warranty. He got two solenoid valves from the electronic bay and used a PIC16F to make them dance. He wired up a light switch on a two-panel face and used the blank plate for power and status LEDs.

[Michiel]’s design works like a charm. The machine used to draw 2000W to heat the water, and peak usage now is as low as 200W. He noticed that the washer drew a lot of power in standby mode so he added a solid state relay and a bit more code. Now the electricity to the machine is cut after two hours and [Michiel] saves about €97 per year.

Who Wouldn’t Want 3D Printed Candles of Yourself on Your 70th Birthday?

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[Christian Lölkes] needed a unique gift for their CEO’s 70th birthday — We mean really, what do you get someone who probably has everything? Well… you 3D scan him and make candles in his likeness of course!

Since they have both a 3D scanner and 3D printer at work, this was the obvious choice. Instead of printing the mold out, they opted to print a high resolution figurine of their CEO, and then make a reusable silicone mold instead. When you’re designing a figurine for candle casting, it’s important to make a nice wide base, as this will make pouring the hot wax into the mold much easier.

There are lots of different ways to make molds, but to make theirs they decided to use a toilet paper roll for convenience. After taping up the mold with the figurine inside, it’s time to fill it with silicone. Unfortunately bubbles form in silicone so you need a way to force the bubbles to rise to the top and pop — vibrating the mold is a good solution, and setting it on top of a washing machine is an easy way to accomplish it.

Once the silicone is cast, you have to cut the mold in half carefully as to not damage your figurine. Then it’s just a matter of zip-tying the mold back together, inserting a wick and pouring wax in! Cool.

Retrotechtacular: The Magic of Making Cars in the ’30s

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We usually shy away from calling things ‘magic’ in our features because, you know… science. But in the case of this Chevrolet manufacturing reel from 1936 the presentation is nothing short of an industrialized version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Well, not in the sense of mischief, but in that there is almost no explanation and the way the footage is laced together you get the strong feeling that, at the time, this type of industrialization was magic; a modern marvel. The techniques and skills of each worked passed down from a master to an apprentice but virtually unknown to the general public.

The clip, which is also embedded below, starts off in the machine shop where mold makers are getting ready to go into assembly line production. From there it’s off to the foundry for part casting and then into the stamping plant where white-hot (perhaps red-hot, but black and white film) metal is shaped by man-mangling presses. The image above follows the cast, stamped, and machined parts onto the assembly line. We like seeing a room full of pistons being QA checked by hand using a width gauge and micrometer.  The film continues through to the finished vehicle and we think you’ll agree there’s more than enough voyeuristic video here to overcome that lack of narration.

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Vending Machine is Now Cyborg Friendly

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Don’t you hate having to pull out your wallet or cellphone in order to pay for something? What if you could just wave your hand and transfer money that way? Well [David] did, so he decided to do something about it. He made the vending machine in his hackerspace, FamiLAB, cyborg friendly.

The problem was, the vending machine wasn’t technically his to play around with… so he had to do this hack without actually modifying the machine itself — which we admit, actually makes it quite a bit more interesting!

But first, why is [David] even doing this? Is he a cyborg or something? Well, not quite, but he’s quite enthusiastic about bio-tech (is that what we call it now?) — anyway, he has NFC implants in his hand, and magnets in his fingertips to give him a sixth “electro-sense”. Wanting to take the most advantage of these augmented abilities, he put together this clever NFC credit card emulator.

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Open Source Humanoid Robot Is Awesom-o

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Coming from a lab in France is The Poppy Project, an open source humanoid robot that’s at least as cool as ASIMO.

Poppy was designed as an affordable bipedal robot for use in education and art. It’s a small robot at just over 80 cm in height, but it can walk, move its arms, rotate its torso, and interact with bags-of-meat humans with two cameras and an LCD face.

Although Poppy is open source, that doesn’t mean it’s exactly cheap; the current design includes twenty-one Robotis Dynamixels MX-28 robotic actuators, actually servos with magnetic encoders, temperature sensor, and an ARM microcontroller. These actuators sell for about $200, meaning Poppy contains $4000 in motors alone. The estimated cost of the entire robot is €7500-8000, or about $10,000 to $11,000 USD.

Still, there’s an incredible software platform that comes along with Poppy, and being open source any enterprising engineer can take up the project and attempt to bring the costs down. We’d love to take one out for a walk. Just get rid of the hands. That’s too far down the uncanny valley for us. Video below.

 

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