Using Tetris Like MS Paint

Check out Samus looking boss in this pixelated image. Who would have thought of using Tetris as a canvas for these types of graphics? Coming up with the original idea of strategically clearing and leaving Tetris pieces to end up with what is shown above is hard enough. But how in the heck do you implement the algorithm that generated this programmatically?

First off, two thing should not be surprising about this. It wasn’t manually generated during normal gameplay. That would be beyond savant level. The other thing to note is that the order in which pieces occurred was not random, but strategically calculated by the algorithm. The challenge is not only to occupy and clear the correct pixels, but to make sure the correctly colored pieces remain.

You need to see the fast-motion video embedded after the break to fully appreciate the coding masterpiece at work. We’re not going to try to paraphrase how the algorithms functions, but get comfy with the link above which walks through all of the theory (in addition to supplying the code so you can try it yourself).

Continue reading “Using Tetris Like MS Paint”

Medical Tricorder Mark I

A handheld tricorder is as good a reason as any to start a project. The science-fiction-derived form factor provides an opportunity to work on a lot of different areas of hardware development like portable power, charging, communications between sensor and microcontroller. And of course you need a user interface so that the values being returned will have some meaning for the user.

[Marcus B] has done a great job with all of this in his first version of a medical tricorder. The current design hosts two sensors, one measures skin temperature using infrared, the other is a pulse sensor.

For us it’s not the number of sensors that makes something a “tricorder” but the ability of the device to use those sensors to make a diagnosis (or to give the user enough hints to come to their own conclusion). [Marcus] shares similar views and with that in mind has designed in a real-time clock and an SD card slot. These can be used to log sensor data over time which may then be able to suggest ailments based on a known set of common diagnosis parameters.

Looking at the image above you may be wondering which chip is the microcontroller. This build is actually a shield for an Arduino hiding underneath.

There’s a demonstration video after the break. And if you find this impressive you won’t want to miss the Open Source Science Tricorder which is one of the finalists for the 2014 Hackaday Prize.

Continue reading “Medical Tricorder Mark I”

Hackaday’s Most Excellent Munich Adventure

Bags are packed… it’s insane the amount of random electronics I carry with me on a trip. But who doesn’t want to do some prototyping on the plane?

In case you haven’t heard, the Hackaday Crew is headed to Munich. The coming week is Electronica. We’ll be prowling “the world’s leading trade show for electronic components” looking for the jewels of interest to the hacking community. Watch our Twitter feed for updates on those adventures.

But of course, Thursday the 13th is all about Hackaday Munich. The place will be packed! During the afternoon we feature hands-on hacking of embedded systems. The hardware we’re supplying is already spoken for. But you should bring along your own dev boards to hack on, or just come to watch the fun.

Get a ticket to The Hackaday Prize party. This includes a talk by [Sprite_TM], the announcement of the Grand Prize winner for the 2014 Hackaday Prize, followed by a party with music by [DJ Muallen]. Nobody should miss this event so please help get the word out. See you there!

Which Way Are We Going? Concepts Behind Rotary Encoders

[Pete] needed a rotary encoder for one of his project so he set out to build his own. As the name implies, a rotary encoder measures rotation by encoding “steps” into electrical signals which can be measured by a microcontroller (or used in numerous other ways). Knowing the degrees of movement for each step will allow you to calculate precise distance traveled in applications like robot wheels. Or you can simply use the rotating shaft as an input device which navigates menus or settings.

This concept is a good one to understand. We had originally planned to build rotary encoders for the multi-person Duck Hunt at Hackaday’s 10th Anniversary but the build-off crew had difficulty getting the system to work. In [Pete’s] case he’s using photointerrupters (apparently the IR beam is easily detected through the white paper but usually these parts would be cut out of the disk). We were using reflectance sensors. Either way there’s a trick to detecting which direction a rotary encoder is turning. We’ll explain that for you after the break.

Continue reading “Which Way Are We Going? Concepts Behind Rotary Encoders”

Arietta G25 Has Us Wondering Where ARM Boards are Going

ARIETTA-G25-256

This tidy little ARM board is the Arietta G25. It’s based around an AT91SAM9G25 which is an ARM9 chip running at 400MHz. Paired with the DDR2 RAM (in 128 or 256 meg options) to the left, the board runs Linux and runs it well. After the break you can see the obligatory running of Doom. But in this case it doesn’t just run a demo, but is playable from momentary push buttons on a breadboard (props to the Arietta team for using wire wrap for that setup).

See the vertical row of pads between the processor and the SD card slot? That’s a breakout header designed to accept a WiFi module. In at €20-30 based on your RAM choice and just €7 for the WiFi module this board is certainly a contender for any embedded Linux projects. But it does have us wondering, should be thinking of these as ARM boards, or forget the low-level development and just think of them as a Linux machines with plenty of GPIO available?

The 20×2 pin header breaks out a lot of the SAM9’s features. We really like the interactive pinout posted for this device. For instance, there are three sets of USB host lines available. But you’ll want to click on each to see that one set is in use for the SD card, and another is used by the WiFi module. The documentation that has been posted for the Arietta G25 is one of its strongest point. Nice work there!

Continue reading “Arietta G25 Has Us Wondering Where ARM Boards are Going”

The Platinum Catalyst Use in a Vintage Lighter

[Ben Krasnow] has an inimitable knack for choosing the most interesting concepts for his experiments. We’re sure it’s a combination of base knowledge and epic-curiosity. This time around he’s showing off a vintage cigarette lighter whose quirk is not needing to be “struck” to produce a flame. It’s a catalytic lighter that uses platinum to ignite methanol vapors.

The concept shown in the video below is platinum’s catalyst properties with some types of flammable gasses. The image above shows the cap of the lighter which includes a protective cage around a hunk of fine platinum powder known as platinum black. It is suspended by platinum wire and as the hydrogen passes by the reaction causes the platinum black and wire to glow red-hot.

This simple, quick experiment fills in our own knowledge gaps. We were already familiar with the role that catalytic converters play in automobiles; consuming any unburned hydrocarbons before they exit a vehicle’s exhaust system. We also know the these devices are targets for thieves seeking the platinum (and other metals like palladium and rhodium) found inside. Now we know exactly how catalytic converters work and the integral role that platinum plays in the process. All thanks to [Ben’s] demonstration of how this lighter works.

Now, if you wear a platinum wedding band and your hand passes a jet of hydrogen are you likely to get burned?

Continue reading “The Platinum Catalyst Use in a Vintage Lighter”

Hackaday Munich: DJ Muallem, Workshop Info, and More

DJ Muallem

btn-get_ticketsIf you don’t have your ticket to the Hackaday Prize Party at Hackaday Munich you better scramble for one. We are excited to announce that [muallem] is the DJ for the event. He is the driving force behind the music at the Bob Beaman Club in Munich and is sure to deliver a set to remember. Don’t take our word for it, we’ve been cranking his Soundcloud channel for a couple of days now and it’s hard to wait the two weeks left before the party starts.

Workshop details whether you have a ticket or not

For those able to show up during the afternoon we have started to post details about the workshops. One point of confusion has been the All-day tickets versus the Workshop tickets. Here’s a rundown:

  • Workshop tickets were limited based on the hardware we are able to bring to the event with us.
  • All day tickets are welcome to participate in the workshops if you bring your own hardware to hack. Of course you are also welcome to come and watch, visit, or work on a completely separate hardware hack of your own!

If you have a ticket you’ll want to check out the details about getting a head start (by pre-loading embedded development software and learning a bit about the challenges). If you don’t have a workshop ticket we’re recommending hardware you can bring in order to participate.

So far we’ve posted about the Roboto and Moog workshops but will add details about Reverse Engineering and Computer Vision workshops soon!

The Hackaday Prize: Space Trip or Cash?

There has been a brewing debate about whether the winner of The Hackaday Prize (who will be revealed live at Hackaday Munich) will take the Trip to Space or grab the $196,418 in cash. Tell us which what you would do and why.