You Probably Don’t Want To Find This Toilet In Your Washroom

Ok, this one is a bit bizarre, but in perfect keeping with the subject matter: a talking toilet ripped from the pages of the Captain Underpants children’s books. user [hamblin.joe]’s county fair has a toilet decorating contest and at the suggestion of their neighbour’s son, [hamblin.joe] hatched a plan to automate the toilet using an Arduino in the fashion of the hero’s foes.

Two Arduinos make up this toilet’s brains, an Adafruit Wave Shield imbues it with sound capabilities, and a sonic wave sensor will trigger the toilet’s performance routine when someone approaches. A windshield wiper motor actuates the toilet bowl lid via a piece of flat iron bar connected to a punched angle bracket. Installing the motor’s mount was a little tricky, since it had to be precisely cut so it wouldn’t shift while in the toilet bowl. A similar setup opens the toilet tank’s lid, but to get it working properly was slightly more involved. Once that was taken care of there was enough room left over for a pair of 12V batteries and a speaker. Oh, and a pair of spooky eyes and some vicious looking teeth.

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I’m Sorry Dave, I Only Say 28 Phrases

A few years ago, you could buy an IRIS 9000 Bluetooth speaker. Its claim to fame was that it looked like the “eye” from the HAL 9000 computer on 2001: A Space Oddessy. There’s something seductive about the idea of having a HAL eye answer your queries to Google Now or Siri. The problem is, it still sounds like Google or Siri, not like HAL.

[Badjer1] had the same problem so he decided to build his own eye. His goal wasn’t to interface with his smartphone’s virtual assistant, though. He settled on making it just be an extension cord with USB ports. As you can see in the video below, the build has HAL-style memory units, a key, and can speak phrases from the movie (well, 28 of them, at least). The key is like the one Dave used to deactivate HAL in the movie.

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Hacklet 49 – Weather Display Projects

Everyone wants to know what the weather is, and what it is going to be. Today’s internet enabled forecasts give us continuous streams of current weather data and predictions from any of several computer models. Couple that with data from an on-site station, and you’ve got a lot of information to display! It makes sense that weather display projects would be popular with hackers, makers and engineers. What do you do after you build the worlds most awesome clock? Build the worlds most awesome weather display (and then incorporate a clock in there as well!).

Last week on The Hacklet I mentioned that there are two basic types  of weather projects on Sensing and Display projects. There was a bit of foreshadowing there, as this week’s Hacklet covers some of the best weather display projects on!

geoWe start with [Ashley Hennefer] and G.E.O, a project which is out of this world – literally. Geological Environment Observer, or G.E.O was created for NASA’s Space Apps Challenge. G.E.O’s mission is to keep astronauts on long-distance space flight missions connected with their home city (and planet). An astronaut programs the device with their home city and G.E.O takes it from there. Inside a glass globe, G.E.O creates weather patterns mirroring the programmed city. It does this with Adafruit NeoPixel LEDs, a water pump, a mist generator, and a wave shield. An Intel Edison controls the system. For now, weather data and programming are completed using a web interface. Once G.E.O launches though, data will be streamed via NASA’s deep space network.

flaps[Sephen DeVos] keeps track of the weather with a glance at his Internet Split Flap Weather Clock. Lots of weather apps use simple icons to display the current conditions. [Sephen] placed those icons on a mechanical split flap display which lets him know the conditions outside. The project’s case came from a donor clock given to [Sephen] by his parents. He then 3D printed an entire split flap mechanism, including the gears! Each 50 mm x 100 mm flap forms half an image.  A small stepper drives the flaps, while an IR detector lets the system know when it has reached a home position. Control is handled by an Arduino Nano and companion Ethernet shield. The Arduino checks the weather every 30 minutes. If conditions have changed, it flips to the right icon. Genius!

usmap[Dan Fein] is keeping track of the temperature across the entire USA with Weather Map. [Dan] works for Weather Underground, so it’s no surprise that he uses their API (accessed via a node.js script) for weather data. The data is fed into a spark core which then drives a string of 100 WS2812 LEDs. Each LED is mapped to a specific point in the continental USA. Color indicates the current temperature at that location. [Dan] does caution that you’ll have to slow down access to Weather Underground  if you’re using a free API key. Even with slower updates, this is still an awesome project!

yaws[Jeff Thomas] went the traditional route with YAWS – (Yet Another Weather Station). YAWS uses a 5 inch TFT LCD to display weather data from a number of sensors. [Jeff] got his display and the driver board from The driver board uses the venerable RA8875 display driver chip. The RA8875 handles all the hard parts of driving an LCD, like video RAM, refresh, and clocks. This allows a relatively slow Arduino to drive all those pixels. [Jeff] created a very handsome interface to display all his data, but he has a small problem – a memory leak causes the system to freeze up every 18 hours! We’re hoping [Jeff] will share his source code so the community can help him find that pesky bug!

If you want to see more projects like these, check the Weather Display Projects list on That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Hacklet 18 – Tick Tock, it’s Time for Clocks


In three words, Hackers love clocks. Not only do we think that digital watches are still a pretty neat idea, we love all manner of timepieces. This episode of The Hacklet focuses on the clock projects we’ve found over on

xkcdHardwareWe start with [rawe] and [tabascoeye], who both put the famous XKCD “now” clock into hardware. [tabascoeye] used a stepper motor in his xkcd world clock. [rawe] didn’t have any steppers handy, so he grabbed a cheap wall clock from Ikea for his clock in hardware. The now clock needs a 24 hour movement. Ikea only sells 12 hour movements, so [rawe] hacked in a 555 and some logic to divide the clock’s crystal by two. He’s currently using an EEVblog uCurrent to verify his modified clockwork consumes about half a milliwatt.

touchscreenclockNext up is [Craig Bonsignore] and his Touchscreen Alarm Clock. [Craig] got sick of store-bought alarm clocks, so he built his own. Then he modified it, added a few features, and kept building! The current incarnation of the clock has a pretty novel interface: a touchscreen over a bicolor LED matrix. The rest of the clock consists of an Arduino, an Adafruit Wave shield, and a Macetech Chronodot. [Craig] is currently mashing up these open source designs and building a single Arduino shield for his clock.

irisledclock[Warren Janssens] took the minimalist route with The Iris Clock. Iris is a ring of WS2812 RGB LEDs. The LEDs are mounted behind a wall colored piece of wood in such a way that you can only see their glow on the clock frame and the wall beyond it. This helps a with the eye searing effect WS2812s can have when viewed directly – even when dimmed with PWM. The code is mainly C with some AVR assembly thrown in to control the LEDs. [Warren] has given Iris 8 different time modes, from hour/minute/second to percentage of day with sunrise and sunset markers. With so many modes, the only hard part is knowing how to read the time Iris is displaying!

stargate[David Hopkins] also built a ring clock. His Stargate LED Clock not only tells time, but is a great replica of the Stargate from the TV series. [David] used four Adafruit WS2812 Neopixel segments to build a full 60 RGB LED ring. The Stargate runs on an Arduino nano with a real-time clock chip to keep accurate time. A photoresistor allows the Stargate to automatically dim at night. With some slick programming [David] added everything from a visual hourly “chime” to a smooth fade from LED to LED.

bendulum[dehne1] gives us something completely different with The Bendulum Clock. A bendulum is [dehne1’s] own creation consisting of an inverted pendulum built without a pivot. The inverted pendulum swings by bending along its length. In [dehne1’s] design, the bendulum is made out of a spring steel strip rescued from a car windshield wiper. The Bendulum doesn’t have a mechanical escapement, but an electromagnet sensed and driven by an Arduino. The amazing part of this project is that  [dehne1] isn’t using a real-time clock chip. The standard 8MHz Arduino resonator is calibrated over various temperatures, then used to calibrate the bendulum itself. The result is a clock that can be accurate within 1 minute each day. [dehne1] mounted his clock inside a custom wood case. We think it looks great, and want one for Hackaday HQ!

We’ve used enough clock ticks for this episode of The Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Still want more? Check out our Timepiece List!

This Sassy Art Installation is Like The Stanley Parable for the Telephone

Insert Customer Feedback Here

Imagine this. A phone on a nearby desk starts ringing. No one is around to pick it up, so you decide that you will be a good Samaritan and answer the phone. You are greeted by a slightly creepy robotic female voice asking you to complete a simple survey. Having nothing else to do, you go ahead and run through the telephone survey. As you start answering the questions, things start to get a bit… weird. The robot voice doesn’t like your answers. She actually disagrees with you, and she does NOT like being interrupted. Now she’s getting sassy with you! What is going on here?

Most likely you are the latest victim of Insert Customer Feedback Here, [Charles’] art installation. You see, that is no ordinary telephone. [Charles] actually removed the guts of an old telephone and replaced them with an Arduino. The Arduino periodically rings the phone, waiting for someone to answer. Once the phone is off the hook, the Arduino uses a Wave shield to start playing back the scripted audio files. All of the text-to-speech files and the various hold music files are played back with the wave shield. The Arduino is also hooked up to the 1, 2, 3, and # keys of the telephone keypad in order to read back the user’s responses.

From here on out the program acts as a sort of “choose your own adventure” game. The program takes different paths and responds in different ways depending on how the user answers the questions. Generally speaking, it will get more “irritated” towards the user if it doesn’t “like” your answers, otherwise it will get less irritated. The hold music will even change to become more or less aggressive.

It’s easy to draw comparisons to Portal’s GLaDOS due to the robotic female voice and to the narrator from The Stanley Parable for the “choose your own adventure” feeling. In fact, if GLaDOS and The Stanley Parable had offspring, this would surely be it. This project brings that same type of silly sarcastic humor to a different medium and it does it well. Be sure to watch the video of the system in action below. It really starts to get interesting around the 1:15 mark. Continue reading “This Sassy Art Installation is Like The Stanley Parable for the Telephone”

Black Orb Just Wants Someone To Talk With


A team at the Royal College of Art has created Space Replay, a floating black orb that records and plays back conversations from passers-by. Space Replay is a neutrally buoyant helium balloon carrying a small payload. An Arduino, an Adafruit Wave Shield, and a small speaker make up the balloons’ brain. The team used the waverp library to record and play back sounds through their shield. 3 lithium coin cells power the system. A small vacuum formed plastic housing keeps all the internal parts together, as well as acts as a small speaker cone to amplify sounds entering and leaving the orb.

As the video shows, the final result is rather creepy. A slight breeze in a subway station caused the orb to move slowly down the hallway. One would think that space replay would freak a few people out, or at least entice the curious to touch it. Other than one amused elevator rider, the unflappable London public paid no mind to it. Maybe if it had some tea…

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A Speaking Ultrasonic Distance Sensor


[Klaus] wanted some sort of aid for parking his car, and after running across a $4 ultrasonic sensor, decided to build his own speaking distance sensor (.de, Google Translation).

Inside [Klaus]’ device is an Arduino Uno, an HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor, and an Adafruit Wave Shield. Originally, this parking/distance sensor used a small TFT to display the distance to an object, but after a few revisions, [Klaus] redesigned the device to speak the current distance, courtesy of an SD card and a soothing female voice.

Right now, the voice is set up to speak the distance from an object to the sensor from 10 cm to 1 m in 5cm increments. This isn’t the limit of the sensor, though, and the device can be easily reconfigured to sense a distance up to four meters.

The board doesn’t have an amplifier or speaker, but with the addition of a small amplifier, [Klaus]’ device is loud enough to be heard in even the noisiest environments.

Video demo below.

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