External text display for Nexus One

Nexus One External Display

[follower] prototyped a 2-line external display for his Nexus One using an Arduino with a USB Host Shield, and the Android Open Accessory Protocol. There are two basic software pieces at work: an Arduino sketch that handles displaying data sent from the phone, and a lightweight android app to detect the presence of the external screen and send data to it. As shown here, it diplays the time and the beginning of the most recently received SMS message.

This project coalesced from several other things [follower] had been working on with regards to USB accessories, background services, interfacing with the Arduino and handling SMS messages, so it’s modular and open-source.  If you’re interested in mashing up microcontroller projects and your android phone, there’s plenty of stuff in this project to help you get off the ground.

As hacks go, this is very much a “because you can” sort of deal that’s designed to tie a bunch of cool things together. You’re unlikely to catch us carrying an LCD and breadboard around in our pockets any time soon, but it paves the way for some potentially fun phone accessories.

Thumper The T-Shirt Launcher

Thumper The T-Shirt Launcher

[joe] and [ryan] built Thumper for their high school FIRST robotics team. The cannon itself is a solenoid-fired compressed air launcher that gets its juice from three large PVC tanks stored in the box below the turret, and the cannon is able to be fired nine times between visits to the air compressor. It was intentionally designed to resemble an M2 Browning 50 Caliber heavy machine gun, with the two vertical handles and boxy body.  They finished construction in about a week with a budget of only $300. When they saw that a lot of their friends had also built cannons, they scrounged for parts from their garages to re-use to build the mobile platform simply for one-upmanship sake. The motor and drive-train propelling this behemoth came out of a 1980s-era mobile X-Ray machine that had been discarded by a local hospital. The rear wheels were specially modified to fit the drivetrain, and the front end is a chopped, hacked, and welded axle and steering mechanism from an old lawn tractor. Sections of unistrut form the rest of the frame.

[joe] and [ryan] were even asked to bring Thumper to their high school prom as a unique way to hand out T-Shirts for the evening. Unfortunately, there’s no website for this build.

See video of Thumper in action with a Nerf Football after the break. Hack A Day even got to take it for a spin around the Power Wheels Racing Series track at Maker Faire KC!

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Sony Ericsson promotes Android bootloader unlocking

Sony Ericsson recently added a new section to their developer world portal called Unlocking the boot loader. They provide all the information and tools needed to root some of their newer Android phones.

Of course, this information comes from Sony Ericsson dripping with warnings, disclaimers and warranty-voiding rhetoric. Once you’ve waded through all of that, you’ll have to enter your phone’s IMEI number, your name and email address in order to get your phone’s unique bootloader unlock key. Here’s hoping they don’t use the form information to instantly void warranties.

Unlocking doesn’t come without consequences, but from UI tweaks and performance improvements to custom apps and tethering, there are probably more reasons to unlock your Android device than there are reasons to leave it alone. In an age where people are making a fuss about companies adding stumbling blocks for would-be jailbreakers, it’s good to see that at least one of them is doing what they can to help hackers take the plunge. Anyone want to clear up why Sony Ericsson feels like supporting hackers but Sony sues people for doing similar things on the ps3?

Thanks to [flip] | remixed image credit (cc by-sa 2.0): [taka@p.p.r.s]

Real-time GPS tracker with mobile phone uplink

[jayesh] wasn’t actually trying to solve any clever problems when we built his homebrew GPS tracker. He just had the hacker mentality and wanted to build something fun and useful while geeking out with electronics and software.

On the hardware side, he started with an Arduino, then added a GPS module for location detection and a GMS/GPRS module for the data uplink to his server over AT&T’s network. The Arduino uses several libraries and plenty of custom code. On the server, he worked up some wizardry with open-source packages and the Google Maps API. All of the source code and hardware details are well-documented. Put together, it’s a GPS tracker that can update a map in real-time. Sure, there are commercial products that do roughly the same thing, but where’s the fun in that? The principles here can also be put to good use in other microcontroller-based projects.

ASync-Firefly

[dev_dsp] wanted to try his hand at creating a purely analog implementation of multiple synchronizing fireflies powered by a single battery and built from off-the shelf, through-hole components on inexpensive protoboard. In theory, even your local Radio Shack should still carry all of this stuff. He was obviously inspired by [alex]‘s fireflies that we’ve covered in the past, but he wanted to see how far it could be taken without the use of a microprocessor.

In the end, [dev_dsp] relied on one crucial piece of digital ware, the ever-popular 555 timer IC, but he’s using analog discrete components to do the grunt work of adjusting the phase of each firefly by feeding a little extra current to the trigger capacitor whenever the flash of a nearby firefly is detected. After the jump, you’ll find schematics and a video demo of three ASync-Firefly modules in various stages of assembly playing with one another while [dev_dsp] discusses their operation.

Zigbee-powered wireless scale

[joe] wanted to make it easy to record his weight every day, and added a few bits to decode the weight and send it to his computer. The end result is a ZigBee-powered wireless scale. Additionally, his scale can track more than one person’s data simply by knowing whose previous weight the new measurement is closest to. Now [joe] and his family can spend more time working out, and less time messing with spreadsheets and data entry.

[joe]‘s build is not only elegant, but well-documented, too. He walks through the reasons he chose this specific floor scale, reverse engineering it to decode the weight, then provides links to his schematics, source code, and pretty much everything else you would need to play along at home.

Racking up miles on a bicycle odometer

[jonh] religiously tracks the miles he rides on his bicycle. When his odometer’s battery started getting low, he wanted a way to run the miles up to where they were before, since replacing the battery resets everything to zero. [jonh] used an Atmel microcontroller to run up the miles on his bike computer so he could pick right back up where he left off. There is definitely a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off joke in here somewhere.

The bike computer itself is designed to plug into a base that connects to a magnet-triggered reed relay. It uses a wheel-mounted magnet to count the number of revolutions made and thus the distance traveled. [jonh] hooked up a simple microcontroller-driven circuit to these connectors to trick the bike computer into thinking it was moving, and moving fast! Since he knew the number of miles he wanted to sandbag onto the odometer, he was able to program it to run up the proper amount of miles and then stop. There’s no source code listing for the project, but this shouldn’t be too hard to reproduce. He provides a pencil-drawn schematic for the connection to the cyclometer from the microcontroller. At the end, there’s also some sage advice for those of you who are interested in building a decent hardware hacking lab on the cheap.

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