LEGO Strain Wave Gear is Easy on the Eyes

We are continually amazed by the things people do with LEGO and Technics, especially those that require incredible engineering skill. There’s an entire community based around building Great Ball Contraptions, which are LEGO Rube Goldberg machines that move tiny basketballs and soccer balls from one place to another. Except for a few rules about the input and output, the GBC horizons are boundless.

Famed GBC creator [Akiyuki] recently built a GBC module that’s designed to show the movement of strain wave gear systems. These types of gear systems are used in industrial applications where precision is vital. Strain wave gears are capable of reducing gear ratios in a small footprint.

Continue reading “LEGO Strain Wave Gear is Easy on the Eyes”

Arduino Laser Pinball is On Target

Have you ever wanted to roll your own pinball machine? It’s one of those kinds of builds where it’s easy to go off the deep end. But if you’re just getting your feet wet and want to mess around with different playfield configurations, start with something like [joesinstructables]’ Arduino Laser Pinball.

It’s made from meccano pieces attached with standoffs, so the targets are easy to rearrange on the playfield. [joesinstructables] wanted to use rollover switches in the targets, but found that ping pong balls are much too light to actuate them. Instead, each of the targets uses a tripwire made from a laser pointing at a photocell. When the ping pong ball enters the target, it breaks the beam. This triggers a solenoid to eject the ball and put it back into play. It also triggers an off-field solenoid to ring a standard front-desk-type bell one to three times depending on the target’s difficulty setting.

The flippers use solenoids to pull the outside ends of levers made from meccano, which causes the inside ends to push the ball up and away from the drain. Once in a while a flipper will get stuck, which you can see in the demo video after the break. An earlier version featured an LCD screen to show the score, but [joesinstructables] can’t get it to work for this version. Can you help? And do you think a bouncy ball would actuate a rollover switch?

This isn’t the first pinball machine we’ve covered. It’s not even the first one we’ve covered that’s made out of meccano. Here’s an entire Hacklet devoted to ’em. And remember when an Arduino made an old table great again?

Continue reading “Arduino Laser Pinball is On Target”

Controlling This Smartwatch is All in the Wrist

Smartwatches are pretty great. In theory, you’ll never miss a notification or a phone call. Plus, they can do all kinds of bio-metric tracking since they’re strapped to one of your body’s pulse points. But there are downsides. One of the major ones is that you end up needing two hands to do things that are easily one-handed on a phone. Now, you could use the tip of your nose like I do in the winter when I have mittens on, but that’s not good for your eyes. It seems that the future of smartwatch input is not in available appendages, but in gesture detection.

Enter WristWhirl, the brain-child of Dartmouth and University of Manitoba students [Jun Gong], [Xing-Dong Yang], and [Pourang Irani]. They have built a prototype smartwatch that uses continuous wrist movements detected by IR proximity sensors to control popular off-the-shelf applications. Twelve pairs of dirt-cheap IR sensors connected to an Arduino Due detect any of eight simple gestures made by the wearer to do tasks like opening the calendar, controlling a music player, panning and zooming a map, and playing games like Tetris and Fruit Ninja. In order to save battery, a piezo senses pinch between the user’s thumb and forefinger and uses this input to decide when to start and stop gesture detection.

According to their paper (PDF warning), the gesture detection is 93.8% accurate. To get this data, the team had their test subjects perform each of the eight gestures under different conditions such as walking vs. standing and doing either with the wrist in watch-viewing position or hanging down at their side. Why not gesture your way past the break to watch a demo?

If you’re stuck on the idea of playing Tetris with gestures, there are other ways.

Continue reading “Controlling This Smartwatch is All in the Wrist”

Rotating Frame Will Change Your View of Vertical Images

[Tim] was tired of compromising his portrait-oriented digital photos by shoehorning them into landscape-only frames. Unable to find a commercial solution, he built his own rotating digital photo frame from a 27″ LCD TV.

It uses a Raspi 3 to find [Tim]’s pictures on a giant SD card. He originally wanted to have the Pi pull pictures from Google Photos and display them randomly, but the API doesn’t work in that direction. Instead, a Python script looks at the pictures on the SD card and determines whether each is landscape or portrait-oriented. If a picture was taken in portrait-mode, the display will rotate 90 degrees. Rotation is handled with an Arduino, a stepper motor, and some 3D-printed herringbone gears. The first version was a bit noisy, so [Tim] re-printed the motor mount and the pinion gear out of flexible filament.

[Tim] designed the mount and frame himself and laser-cut the pieces out of birch plywood. We like that he accounted for the front-heaviness and that he covered the high voltage circuitry with acrylic to mitigate the risk of shock. All the code and design files are available on his project page. Make the jump to see a brief demonstration followed by a walk-through and stay for the six-minute slide show.

Continue reading “Rotating Frame Will Change Your View of Vertical Images”

Homemade E-Drums Hit All The Right Notes

In our eyes, there isn’t a much higher calling for Arduinos than using them to make musical instruments. [victorh88] has elevated them to rock star status with his homemade electronic drum kit.

The kit uses an Arduino Mega because of the number of inputs [victorh88] included. It’s not quite Neil Peart-level, but it does have a kick drum, a pair of rack toms, a floor tom, a snare, a crash, a ride, and a hi-hat. With the exception of the hi-hat, all the pieces in the kit use a piezo element to detect the hit and play the appropriate sample based on [Evan Kale]’s code, which was built to turn a Rock Band controller into a MIDI drum kit. The hi-hat uses an LDR embedded in a flip-flop to properly mimic the range of an actual acoustic hi-hat. This is a good idea that we have seen before.

[victorh88] made all the drums and pads out of MDF with four layers of pet screen sandwiched in between. In theory, this kit should be able to take anything he can throw at it, including YYZ. The crash and ride cymbals are MDF with a layer of EVA foam on top. This serves two purposes: it absorbs the shock from the sticks and mutes the sound of wood against wood. After that, it was just a matter of attaching everything to a standard e-drum frame using the existing interfaces. Watch [victorh88] beat a tattoo after the break.

If you hate Arduinos but are still reading for some reason, here’s a kit made with a Pi.

Continue reading “Homemade E-Drums Hit All The Right Notes”

Slide Viewer Upgrade is a Bright Idea

[cunningfellow] has been putting LEDs in everything lately. That’s understandable. Most recently, he used them to drastically upgrade his father’s super-cool mid-century slide viewer.slide-viewer-comparison

The slide viewer used to use a flashlight bulb, but it didn’t light evenly at all. Not only that, it produced a dim, orange-ish light. [cunningfellow] happened to have an old Nokia N93 lying around and decided to cannibalize that strange, beautiful, swiveling flip phone for its backlight circuitry. Unfortunately, the 4 LEDs aren’t going to run on a pair of C cells like the flashlight bulb did. [cunningfellow] needed some kind of boost converter.

He found one in the form of a Nokia E73 LCD driver board created by [Andy Brown]. The LEDs are way brighter than that old incandescent bulb, and they draw about 10mA less to boot. We think [cunningfellow]’s father will be happy with the result.

If you have an old slide viewer and no slides, try using it as a project case. If this post makes you miss your View-Master (also understandable), you can always turn your phone into a stereopticon.

Galaga Cabinet is Out of This World

Like many of us, [Alex] spent a large part of his childhood feeding coin after coin into one arcade game or another. Galaga is one of his all-time favorites, and he has wanted to build a Galaga cabinet for a long time. Once his workshop was ready for the job, it was time to cross it off the list.

The cabinet is built to 4/5 scale. This is a great size because he gets the stability and feel of a full-size machine, but it’s much easier to move it around. As you might expect, there’s Pi in the cabinet.  The display is an old TV that [Alex] found in a Dumpster. And although it works great, it would go into standby instead of powering off along with everything else. To get around this, [Alex] built an automatic remote control with an IR LED and an Arduino Diecimila. After a five-second wait, it sends the power-on code to the TV and switches the input. The TV is supposed to be in portrait mode for Galaga, but this proved to be a challenge. Changing the orientation at the Pi level resulted in poor performance and choppy sound, so he changed it at the game execution level.

We are continually impressed by the diversity of [Alex]’s builds and the care that goes into them. Who could forget his beautiful sidewalk graffiti machine or the time he showed us how to photograph stuff that’s not there? Make the jump to see a brief demonstration followed by a two-part build video.

Continue reading “Galaga Cabinet is Out of This World”