Tell Time and Blink an LED on Your Wrist with WatchDuino

Watchduino Open Source Watch

Is your hipster wrist having a hard time waiting for the debut of the iWatch? There’s a new open hardware/software project out that could help calm your nerves. The WatchDuino is exactly what it sounds like, an Arduino-based wrist watch.

The component list is short and inexpensive. The meat and potatoes consist of an ATMega328, crystal, Nokia LCD screen and LiPo battery. The USB-rechargeable battery lasts about a week before needing to be such. Besides presenting the Time and Date in both analog or digital formats (as you would expect) there is an alarm and timer. Additionally, there are 2 games, Pong and Snake. Any lack of features is made up for the fact that the software is open and can be modified and added to by the community. We’re sure the development of this watch will be quick and significant.

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Hands-on With the FlexyDualie 3D Printer Extruder

Flexydualie Extruder

Ever heard of the FlexyDualie extruder? It’s a new opensource dual extruder from Aleph Objects (makers of the Lulzbot and TAZ), specifically designed for printing in a hard material — and a flexible one!

[James Bruton] of XRobots just got his hands on one and a new TAZ printer, and he’s shared his thoughts. He’s using ABS plastic and Ninjaflex rubber filament to test it out. Sure you can sometimes print with Ninjaflex using a regular extruder… but get ready for headaches as it jams in your extruder guide. The FlexyDualie is specifically designed for extruding flexible filaments which results in a lot less headaches, and a lot more productivity!

In the following demonstration video, [James] shows us the awesome possibilities of printing parts in both a hard and soft material. He even goes into detail on how to setup Slic3r for multi-material STL files.

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Dual Port RAM Teaches an Old NES New Tricks

nesDPR

[Andrew] is developing a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Emulators are great for this, but [Andy] loves running on the real iron. To help, he’s created a dual port RAM interface for his NES. As the name implies, a dual port RAM is a memory with two separate data and address buses. The Cypress Semiconductor CY7C136 [Andy] used also includes arbitration logic to ensure that both ports don’t attempt to access the same memory cell and cause data corruption. In [Andy's] case the NES was on one side, oblivious to the new hardware. On the other side of the dual port RAM, [Andy] installed an ATmega164 running his own custom firmware.

The new hardware gives [Andy] a live view of what’s going on in the NES’s memory. He added a live memory view/edit screen similar to the FCEUX emulator. The window runs on a PC while the game itself is running on an NES. [Andy] was even able to add rudimentary break and step features by connecting his circuit to the Non Maskable Interrupt (NMI) line of the NES. By holding the NMI asserted, the ATmega can essentially freeze the game in progress.

[Andy] has even used his circuit to teach the NES some new tricks. By reading the timer and score memory locations on Ice Hockey, he was able to create a scoreboard and goal light. Similar techniques were used to give Contra a muzzle flash light which puts Ambilight systems to shame.

We don’t know what [Andy] is planning next, but we hope it’s a source release so we can start hacking some some games ourselves!

Click past the break to see a couple of [Andy's] Vine videos.

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Circular Saw Cuts Balls… Wooden Balls, Don’t Worry

Wood Sphere made with circular saw

Ever wonder how wood spheres are made? Normally they are made on a wood lathe with some fancy jigs and fixtures. [Izzy Swan] set out to bring wood sphere manufacturing to the masses by designing an inexpensive machine that uses a standard circular saw to carve a block of wood into a sphere.

Here’s how it works: a piece of wood is held in a wood fixture and spun using a hand drill. The fixture and drill are mounted to a wooden ring that rotates about a perpendicular axis. The user manually moves the entire assembly back and forth about that second axis while spinning the drill. Meanwhile, a circular saw is moved closer and closer to the soon-to-be-sphere, nibbling away little by little. After most of the material has been cut from the block of wood, it is removed from the fixture and spun 90 degrees to cut the two remaining nubs. The end result is a pretty nice looking sphere.

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Retrotechtacular: ROTOPARK is a Futuristic Parking Structure from 40 Years Ago

retrotechtacular-rotopark

Pictured above is a functioning model of an automated underground parking structure which was built and used, but obviously it never caught on widely. That makes us a bit sad, as it removes the need to find an empty parking spot every time you use the garage; and having a robot park your car for you seems very future-y.

The gist of the ROTOPARK system is a carousel and elevator system for parking cars. just drive into a single-stall garage at ground level, take your ticket, and walk out the people-hole. The garage stall floor is a sled which moves down an elevator (shown as blue stalls on the left half of the image) to be stored away in the rotating carousels of cars.

Obviously mechanical failure is a huge issue here. What if the elevator breaks? Also, at times of high traffic we think getting your vehicle back out of the system would be quite a bit slower than the “static” parking garages we’re used to. Oh well, maybe some day. Check out the classic marketing video after the break which shows off the concept, construction, and use of the system.

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The Neurogrid – What It Is and What It Is Not

Neurogrid circuit board that replicates functions of the human brain.

What it is:

Some would argue that replicating the human brain in silicon is impossible. However, the folks over at Brains in Silicon of Stanford University might disagree. They’ve created a circuit board capable of simulating one million neurons and up to 6 billion synapses in real-time. Yes, that’s billion with a “B”. They call their new type of computer The Neurogrid.

The Neurogrid board boasts 16 of their Neurocore chips, with each one holding 256 x 256 “neurons”. It attempts to function like a brain by using analog signals for computations and digital signals for communication. “Soft-wires” can run between the silicon neurons, mimicking the brain’s synapses.

Be sure to stick around after the break, where we discuss the limitations of the Neurogrid, along with a video from its creators.

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A Webcam Based Posture Sensor

Webcam based posture sensor

Even for hobby projects, iteration is very important. It allows us to improve upon and fine-tune our existing designs making them even better. [Max] wrote in to tell us about his latest posture sensor, this time, built around a webcam.

We covered [Max's] first posture sensor back in February, which utilized an ultrasonic distance sensor to determine if you had correct posture (or not). Having spent time with this sensor and having received lots of feedback, he decided to scrap the idea of using an ultrasonic distance sensor altogether. It simply had too many issues: issues with mounting the sensor on different chairs, constantly hearing the clicking of the sensor, and more.  After being inspired by a very similar blog post to his original that mounted the sensor on a computer monitor, [Max] was back to work. This time, rather than using an ultrasonic distance sensor, he decided to use a webcam. Armed with Processing and OpenCV, he greatly improved upon the first version of his posture sensor. All of his code is provided on his website, be sure to check it out and give it a whirl!

Iteration leads to many improvements and it is an integral part of both hacking and engineering. What projects have you redesigned or rebuild? Let us know!