Yes, the pun was ripped off the article that got our attention . It was just too good not to share. A team of researchers in Japan created an artificial honeybee, a small drone that is meant to cross-pollinate flowers. The (still) manually controlled drone is 4 centimetres wide and weighs only 15 grams. At the bottom side of the drone, a mix of a special sticky gel and horse hair resides. The purpose of this gel is to collect the pollen particles as it bumps into the flowers and exchange it as it goes hopping around from plant to plant. In experiments, the drone was able to cross-pollinate Japanese lilies (Lilium japonicum) without damaging the plant, stamens or pistils when the drone flew into the flowers.

The gel used for the artificial pollinators was the result of a failed experiment back in 2007. While researching electrical conduction liquids, Eijiro Miyako, a chemist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) Nanomaterial Research Institute, produced a sticky gel with no useful electrical characteristics and stored it away in a cabinet. After 8 years, when cleaning the cabinet, he found the gel still sitting there, unspoiled.

“This project is the result of serendipity. We were surprised that after 8 years, the ionic gel didn’t degrade and was still so viscous. Conventional gels are mainly made of water and can’t be used for a long time, so we decided to use this material for research.”

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PiMiniMint — Altoids RPi Zero Computer

We’ve seen our fair share of Altoids mint tin projects and it seems the tin… can always house another interesting project. This time [MWAGNER] managed to make his long time idea of having a computer inside an Altoids tin. He had the idea in 2012, after the original raspberry pi came out, but the size constraints kept the project from going forward. The RPi Zero is much smaller and its launch made the project possible.

[MWAGNER] made two versions, the first version of the PiMiniMint includes a screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, 32GB of storage, an infrared camera, and a full size USB port. All of this fit inside the Altoids tin. The second version has a battery — 2000mAh reportedly lasting for 6-8hrs. But there is only so much space to perform small miracles so in this version the camera had to go. This makes it a wireless standalone computer as you can control it with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse while connecting to the outside world over WiFi.

Back in 2015, in Hacklet 29, we covered a bunch of Altoids based projects, from AM/FM transmitters to OTP generators and now we have a fully working laptop PC on a tin, screen and all. The project blog has all the instructions you need to try it yourself. If you do, let us know how it went and how long did that battery lasted.

That is, if you can get your hands on a Zero…


[thanks Itay]

PVC Submersible ROV

[mark.brubaker.1] and his crew decided to make a submersible for a school project using PVC pipes as a frame. It has two motors on the back to provide forward thrust and steering as well as a horizontal mounted motor in the middle of the PVC chassis to provide up and down thrust. They used regular motors which they waterproofed by inserting them inside a case full of plumbers wax. We’re not sure how long this will hold at the bottom of the ocean, but it works fine for a school project in the pool. Here’s the instructions on how to make one.

The build is completely analog, the controller is a board with three switches which individually control the different motors. So if you want to turn left, you fired up the right motor. For right you do the opposite and fire up the left motor. Up and down, well, you get the picture. If you have a swimming pool, lake or some water body nearby and you’re looking for a weekend project with your kids, this is a great tip. It’s not an Arduino controlled robot fish, but it’s a first step in that direction; you can later on use the frame to improve on the design and add some electronics.

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Laser Scanning Microscope

Remember that feeling when you first looked down on a microscope? Now you can re-live it but in slightly different way. [Venkes] came up with a way to make a Laser Scanning Microscope (LSM) with mostly off the shelf components that you probably have sitting around, collecting dust in your garage. He did it using some modified DVD pick-ups, an Arduino Uno, a laser and a LDR.

EPROM die shot

To be honest, there’s some more stuff involved in the making of the LSM but [Venkes] did a detailed Instructable explaining how everything fits together. You will need a fair dose of patience, it’s not very easy to get the focus right and it’s quite slow, an image takes about half an hour to complete, but it can do 1300x amplification at 65k pixels (256×256). From reading the instructions it seems that you will need a steady hand to assemble it together, some steps look kind of tricky. On the software side, the LSM uses Arduino and Processing. The Arduino part is responsible for the steering of the lens and taking the LDR readings. This information is then sent to Processing which takes care of interpreting the data and translate it to an image.

The build difficulty level should be between the DIY Smartphone Microscope and the Laser Sequencer Super Microscope. In the end, if everything goes right, you will end up with some cool images:

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TOBE: Tangible Out-of-Body Experience with Biosignals

TOBE is a toolkit that enables the user to create Tangible Out-of-Body Experiences, created by [Renaud Gervais] and others and presented at the TEI ’16: Tenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction. The goal is to expose the inner states of users using physiological signals such as heart rate or brain activity. The toolkit is a proposal that covers the creation of a 3D printed avatar where visual representations of physiological sensors (ECG, EDA, EEG, EOG and breathing monitor) are displayed, the creation and use of these sensors based on open hardware platforms such as Bitalino or OpenBCI, and signal processing software using OpenViBE.

In their research paper, the team identified the signals and mental states which they have organized in three different types:

  • States perceived by self and others, e.g. eye blinks. Even if those signals may sometimes appear redundant as one may directly look at the person in order to see them, they are crucial in associating a feedback to a user.
  • States perceived only by self, e.g. heart rate or breathing. Mirroring these signals provides presence towards the feedback.
  • States hidden to both self and others, e.g. mental states such as cognitive workload. This type of metrics holds the most
    promising applications since they are mostly unexplored.

By visualising their own inner states and with the ability to share them, users can develop a better understating of their own selves as well others. Analysing their avatar in different contexts allows a user to see how they react in different scenarios such as stress, working or playing. When you join several users they can see how each other responds the same stimuli, for example. Continue reading “TOBE: Tangible Out-of-Body Experience with Biosignals”

I’m BatBot

How would you like a bat bot for your next pet drone? Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Coordinated Science Laboratory and from the California Institute of Technology, created a bat drone. This is not your regular drone; it’s not a styrofoam, bat-shaped, four-propeller kind of drone. It’s a drone that mimics not only the shape but the movement of the bats wings to achieve flight.

The biomimetic robotic platform, dubbed Bat Bot B2, is an autonomous flying robot. The wing mechanics are controlled by a brushless DC motor for the wing flapping along with four wings actuators to provide linear motion that allows the wings to further change shape in flight. The wings are made of a 56-micron, silicone-based membrane (thinner than an average condom), which for sure helps with their elasticity as well as reducing overall weight, which is only 93 grams.

The bat has only made twenty flights so far, ranging up to 30 meters with some rough landings. It’s not much yet, but the prototype looks pretty slick. We covered another bat bot back in 2012 but the original information is no longer available, and we don’t know what happened to that project. There was also no video. In contrast, you can watch Bat Bot B2 glide.

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Hacking the Aether: How Data Crosses the Air-Gap

It is incredibly interesting how many parts of a computer system are capable of leaking data in ways that is hard to imagine. Part of securing highly sensitive locations involves securing the computers and networks used in those facilities in order to prevent this. These IT security policies and practices have been evolving and tightening through the years, as malicious actors increasingly target vital infrastructure.

Sometimes, when implementing strong security measures on a vital computer system, a technique called air-gapping is used. Air-gapping is a measure or set of measures to ensure a secure computer is physically isolated from unsecured networks, such as the public Internet or an unsecured local area network. Sometimes it’s just ensuring the computer is off the Internet. But it may mean completely isolating for the computer: removing WiFi cards, cameras, microphones, speakers, CD-ROM drives, USB ports, or whatever can be used to exchange data. In this article I will dive into air-gapped computers, air-gap covert channels, and how attackers might be able to exfiltrate information from such isolated systems.

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