Scribble and the Failings of Tech Journalism

Pen

The Scribble Pen, you may remember, is a project by bay area startup Scribble Technology that puts a color sensor and multiple ink reservoirs in a pen. We’ve talked about it before, right after they cancelled their Kickstarter campaign after netting 366% of their original goal.

Yes, they cancelled their campaign after being successfully funded. To Kickstarter’s credit, the Scribble team was asked to provide a better video of the pen demonstrating its capabilities. The team pulled the plug on the campaign, saying they’ll be back soon.

Here is the new campaign. The attentive reader will notice the new campaign is not a Kickstarter project; instead, it is a Tilt campaign. What is Tilt? It’s a platform that allows for crowdfunding, fundraising, pooling, and other ‘many wallets into one’ Internet-based projects. It’s actually not a bad idea if you’re raising funds for a charity or the Jamaican bobsled team. For crowdfunded product development, caveat emptor doesn’t quite cover it.

With more than $200,000 in the bank, you would think the questions asked in many comments on the old Kickstarter would be answered. They were. Scribble put up a new video showing the pen drawing different colors of ink on a piece of paper. This video was faked. [Ch00f] at Drop Kicker took apart the new video frame by frame and found these – ahem – scribbles were inserted in post production. The video has since been replaced on the Tilt campaign page, but evidence of Scribble deleting comments questioning this exists.

Any idea of the Scribble pen being real has been put to bed. Kickstarter threatened to remove the campaign if a better video could not be produced within 24 hours. The Scribble team cancelled their campaign to regroup and put together a better video. In two weeks, the team was only able to produce a faked video. The Scribble pen does not exist.

Case closed, you might think. Digging into videos frame by frame will tell you a lot, but it won’t give you the full picture. We know what happened with the Scribble pen, but very little about the who, why, and how this huge, glaringly obvious fraud occurred. Before we get to that, hold on to your hats – it only gets shadier from here on out.

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Extrinsic Motivation: An Open, Modular Effects Pedal

PedulMicrocontrollers and Arduinos are cool and all, but dealing only in the digital domain does have its limitations. In fact, most of your electron heroes didn’t begin their electronics career by blinking pins on digital outputs; they were solely in the analog domain with their radios and, yes, guitar effects pedals.

[Josh]‘s entry for The Hackaday Prize was by far the most analog project of the entire contest. It’s an open source effects pedal that takes advantage of the modular design of the most popular pedals in history.

A good number of the famous circuits for turning an electric guitar into an aural experimentation are based on small circuit modules, packaged and repackaged again until the desired tone is achieved. [Josh] wants to pack these modules separately on different boards, specifically shields, although no Arduino is used, so any sound can be created.

Already [Josh] has done some research to determine what circuits and circuit modules to clone. The list should be fairly familiar to anyone with a pedalboard – Tube Screamers, Fuzz Faces, Big Muffs, and Phase 90s are at the top of the list. He may not get to the complicated digital effects like pitch shifters and digital delays, but it’s still a great project for experimentation.

You can see [Josh]‘s project video below.


SpaceWrencherThis project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.

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THP Semifinalist: The Moteino

mote

One of the apparent unofficial themes of The Hackaday Prize is the Internet of Things and home automation. While there were plenty of projects that looked at new and interesting ways to turn on a light switch from the Internet, very few took a good, hard look at the hardware required to do that. [Felix]‘s Moteino is one of those projects.

The Moteino is based on the Arduino, and adds a low-cost radio module to talk to the rest of the world. The module is the HopeRF RFM12B or RFM69. Both of these radios operate in the ISM band at 434, 868, or 915 MHz. Being pretty much the same as an Arduino with a radio module strapped to the back, programming is easy and it should be able to do anything that has been done with an ATMega328.

[Felix] has been offering the Moteino for a while now, and already there are a few great projects using this platform. In fact, a few other Hackaday Prize entries incorporated a Moteino into their design; Plant Friends used it in a sensor node, and this project is using it for texting and remote control with a cell phone.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Extrinsic Motivation: BASIC For Bluetooth

BASIC

There’s a lot more to those fancy radio modules you use with your Arduino projects than meets the eye. Many of them are systems on a chip, complete with their own microcontroller and memory that can control your entire blinking LEDs project. Developing for these radio modules is a bit of a challenge, as the IDEs and compilers cost several thousand dollars. [Tim]‘s entry for the Hackaday Prize looks at one of these Bluetooth LE modules – Texas Instrument’s CC2540 and CC2541 – and puts an embedded BASIC interpreter right on the chip.

[Tim]‘s inspiration for this project came from looking at a few popular devices using the CC254X chip. Many of these included a microcontroller and the added costs, complexity, and power requirements that come along with an additional chip. This radio module could easily run any code an ATMega could, and adding another chip to a product seemed like a terrible waste, and certainly not in the spirit of open hardware and software.

The alternative is writing an interpreter for the CC254X chip. He’s chosen BASIC, but added a little bit of Arduino language syntax to make it even easier to develop on. Having already run through a few successful tests involving SPI, I2C and 1-wire devices, [Tim] has a basic system working, but [Tim] admits it does need a little rework to make it easier to use.

It’s a great project, and personally astonishing that it didn’t make the quarterfinal selection for The Hackaday Prize. [Tim] is still working on his project, though, in a great example of extrinsic motivation; he doesn’t need a trip to space to convince him to build something cool.

You can check out [Tim]‘s two minute concept video below.


SpaceWrencherThis project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.

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THP Semifinalist: Autonomous Recharging For Multirotors

quadEven with visions of quadcopters buzzing around metropolitan areas delivering everything from pizzas to toilet paper fresh in the minds of tech blogospherites, There’s been a comparatively small amount of research into how to support squadrons of quadcopters and other unmanned aerial vehicles. The most likely cause of this is the FAA’s reactionary position towards UAVs. Good thing [Giovanni] is performing all his research for autonomous recharging and docking for multirotors in Australia, then.

The biggest obstacle of autonomous charging of a quadcopter is landing a quad exactly where the charging station is; run of the mill GPS units only have a resolution of about half a meter, and using a GPS solution would require putting GPS on the charging station as well. The solution comes from powerful ARM single board computers – in this case, an Odroid u3 – along with a USB webcam, OpenCV and a Pixhawk autopilot.

Right now [Giovanni] is still working out the kinks on his software system, but he has all the parts and the right tools to get this project up in the air, down, and back up again.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Extrinsic Motivation: P = NP If You Have A Time Machine

NP

Not all of the entries to The Hackaday Prize were serious – at least we hope not – and this one is the most entertaining of the bunch. [Eduardo] wants to put a flux capacitor in a CPU pipeline. Read that last sentence again, grab a cup of coffee, mull it over, and come back. This post will still be here.

Assuming the events portrayed in BTTF could be real in some alternate history or universe, consider the properties of a DeLorean time machine: It requires 1.21 Jiggawatts (we’re assuming this is Gigawatts from now on), has a curb weight of about three thousand pounds with the nuclear reactor and/or hovercar conversion, and is able to travel in time ± 30 years. If the power required to travel time were to scale proportionally with mass, sending a CPU register back in time would only require a Watt or so. Yes, ‘ol [Doc Brown] had it wrong with wanting to send a car back in time – sending information back is much, much easier. Now, what do you do with it?

[Eduardo] is using this to speed up pipelined CPUs. In a CPU pipeline, instructions are executed in parallel, but if one instruction depends on the output of another instruction, bad things happen CPU designers have spent long, sleepless nights figuring out how to prevent this. Basically, a MEMS flux capacitor solves all outstanding problems in CPU design. It’s brilliant, crazy, and we’re glad to see it as an entry to The Hackaday Prize.

[Eduardo], though, isn’t seeing the forest for the trees. If you have a flux capacitor in your CPU, why even bother with optimizing a CPU? Just take a normal CPU, add a flux capacitor register, and have the output of a long and complex calculation write to the time traveling register. All calculations then happen instantly, your Ps and NPs are indistinguishable. All algorithms run in O(1), and the entire endeavor is a light-hearted romp for the entire family.


SpaceWrencherThis project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.

THP Semifinalist: The Medicycle

4029151407876710508Despite a seeming lack of transportation projects for The Hackaday Prize, there are a few that made it through the great culling and into the semifinalist round. [Nick], [XenonJohn], and [DaveW]‘s project is the Medicycle. It’s a vehicle that will turn heads for sure, but the guys have better things in mind than looking cool on the road. He thinks this two-tire unicycle will be useful in dispatching EMTs and other first responders, weaving in and out of traffic to get where they’re needed quickly.

First things first. The one-wheeled motorcycle actually works. It’s basically the same as a self-balancing scooter; the rider leans forward to go forward, leans back to break, and the two tires help with steering. It’s all electronic, powered by a 450W motor. It can dash around alleys, parking lots, and even gravel roadways.

The medi~ part of this cycle comes from a mobile triage unit tucked under the nose of the bike. There are sensors for measuring blood pressure and oxygen, heart rate, and ECG. This data is sent to the Medicycle rider via a monocular display tucked into the helmet and relayed via a 3G module to a physician offsite.

Whether the Medicycle will be useful to medics remains to be seen, but the guys have created an interesting means of transportation that is at least as cool as a jet ski. That’s impressive, and the total build cost of this bike itself is pretty low.

Video of the Medicycle in action below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.
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