Forgot About Valentine’s Day? A Quick IoT Valentine

Did you forget about Valentine’s Day? Do you need a quick project to get ready for Valentine’s Day? [Becky Stern] has you covered. She’s whipped up a neat Internet-enabled Valentine project which should be pretty quick to put together.

At its heart (pun intended) is an ESP8266 microcontroller, in this case an Adafruit Feather Huzzah. Several layers of tissue paper heart are stitched together and cut out into a heart shape and then attached to a spring. A vibrating pager motor is used to shake the it when a signal comes in. Two buttons are used to send the message and a red LED is used to light the heart up. The whole thing is enclosed in a shadow box. [Becky] also put together another controller with a similar setup in a plastic enclosure. When the buttons are pressed on either controller, the other gets a signal and the heart shakes and lights up.

These projects send and receive Valentines, but they could be programmed to send whatever information you’d like. If you’re looking for a quick Valentine’s Day project, this is a great one, and you might have all you need already in your component drawer. Break out the soldering iron and send your Valentine a message! If you’re still looking for a quick Valentine’s Day project, check out this animated heart or this PCB Valentine.

Continue reading “Forgot About Valentine’s Day? A Quick IoT Valentine”

Wood and Rubber Band Pinball

As pinball has evolved, it has gone from a simple gravity based game to an electromechanical one.  As the 20th century came to a close, pinball games added digital elements as well, matrix displays replaced electromechanical scoreboards, and LEDs replaced incandescent bulbs. While the game got more creative as new technologies became available, the basics of the pinball never changed – keep the ball alive using your skill with the flippers (and the occasional nudge.) [Garagem Fab Lab] has taken the basics of the pinball machine and, with some wood and elastic bands, has created a very nice desktop pinball machine.

The plans for the game require getting the wood cut by a CNC mill, but they could probably be easily created using a jigsaw. Instead of electrical buttons and solenoids, pieces of wood push the flippers out and elastics reset them when released. The bumpers, too, are simple dowels with rubber bands wrapped around them. The launching mechanism is a bit of bungee cord tied onto a piece of wood and used like a flipper to speed the ball into the play area.

The build is a throwback to the earliest pinball machines. Sure, there’s no reaction from the bumpers when they’re hit, they’re just passive, but the game looks fun. It would be a great base to add in some sensors, a microcontroller, and a display to keep track of scores if one was so inclined. Other DIY pinball machines we’ve seen are this pinball game built with Meccano and lasers, as well as this completely 3D-printed machine.

Build Your Own P-Brain

I don’t think we’ll call virtual assistants done until we can say, “Make me a sandwich” (without adding “sudo”) and have a sandwich made and delivered to us while sitting in front of our televisions. However, they are not completely without use as they are currently – they can let you know the time, weather and traffic, schedule or remind you of meetings and they can also be used to order things from Amazon. [Pat AI] was interested in building an open source, extensible, virtual assistant, so he built P-Brain.

Think of P-Brain as the base for a more complex virtual assistant. It is designed from the beginning to have more skills added on in order to grow its complexity, the number of things it can do. P-Brain is written in Node.js and using a Node package called Natural, P-Brain parses your request and matches it to a ‘skill.’ At the moment, P-Brain can get the time, date and weather, it can get facts from the internet, find and play music and can flip a virtual coin for you. Currently, P-Brain only runs in Chrome, but [Pat AI] has plans to remove that as a dependency. After the break, [Pat AI] goes into some detail about P-Brain and shows off its capabilities. In an upcoming video, [Pat AI]’s going to go over more details about how to add new skills. Continue reading “Build Your Own P-Brain”

Taking Control Of Your Furby

Furbys have been around for a while and they are an interesting (if annoying) toy that will teach the kids to be okay with their eventual robotic overlords. In the meantime, the latest version of the robotic companion/toy/annoyance uses Bluetooth LE to communicate with the owner and [Jeija] has been listening in on the Bluetooth communication, trying to reverse engineer the protocol in order to run code on Furby.

[Jeija] has made a lot of progress and can already control the Furby’s actions, antenna and backlight color, and change the Furby’s emotional state by changing the values of the Furby’s hungriness, tiredness, etc. [Jeija] has created a program that runs on top of Node.js and can communicate with the Furby and change its properties. [Jeija] has also discovered, and can bring up, a secret debug menu that displays in the Furby’s eyes. Yet to be discovered is how to run your own code on the Furby, however, [Jeija] is able to add custom audio to the official DLC files and upload them into the Furby.

[Jeija] points out the all this was done without taking a Furby apart, only by sniffing the Bluetooth communication between the robot and the controlling app (Android/iOS device.) Check out a similar hack on the previous generation of Furbys, as well as a replacement brain for them. We just hope that the designers included a red/green LED so that we will all know when the Furbys switch from good to evil.

Continue reading “Taking Control Of Your Furby”

Innocent TV Imprisoned Behind Mirror

After following along with all the Magic Mirror builds, [Troy Denton] finally caved in and started building one for his girlfriend for Christmas. These popular builds are all pretty much bespoke, and this one is no different.

mirror2His victim TV didn’t have the ability to be switched on and off by the Raspberry Pi using HDMI/CEC, so he came up with an alternative. He got a couple of opto-isolators and soldered one to the on/off button on the TV’s control board. The Pi didn’t know whether it was switching the TV on or off, it just knew it was switching it. To solve this, [Troy Denton] connected another opto-isolator to the TV’s LED, this one the other way around. When the TV is turned on, the Pi now detects it.

The enclosure is fabbed from 2×4 lumber, the mirror is one-way acrylic which runs somewhere in the $75-100 range for this 27-9/16″x15-1/2″ application. The top and bottom rails include lines of holes to encourage airflow to keep things cool. the face plate is picture framing which makes it easy to mount the mirror. An ultrasonic range finder finishes off the build and when someone stands in front of this magic mirror, the Pi senses it and turns the monitor on.

Included in [Troy]’s post are the Python code and shell scripts he wrote as well as a bunch of pictures of the build process. We’ve seen Magic Mirrors builds before, including some small ones. They’re a cool addition to the house and a fairly simple build.

Open Sound Control of Kitchen Lights

Controlling the Internet of Things is all about passing information around. Realistically, it doesn’t matter what is used, be it MQTT, HTTP, serial data, whatever, and it doesn’t really matter what data is sent as long as the sender and receiver agree on what the data means. MIDI could be used to pass information back and forth, for example and while MIDI is good for some things, Open Sound Control is a more modern alternative and one area where OSC excels over MIDI is Internet connectivity. [Matt] used OSC to control the lighting he installed in his kitchen.

kitchen_controller
ESP8622-1 and Buck Converter

[Matt] had moved in to a new house and wanted some under-cupboard lighting for his kitchen. He got a few cheap warm white LED lights from the Internet and went about wiring them together. For the controller, an ESP8266-1 was used as well as a 12 volt constant-current buck converter. The software runs on the Sming framework, rather than the Arduino framework, and listens for incoming OSC messages. When it receives a command on a specific channel, a callback function turns the lights on and off.  [Matt] also added a switch on the outside of the control box to manually turn the lights on and off.

OSC might not be the right choice for this project, and even [Matt] doesn’t know why he used it, but [Matt] got it working and uses an app on his phone to control it. If he wanted to, he could have used Ableton or another controller to control the lights. (He hasn’t wanted to yet.) OSC is an interesting alternative to MIDI and can also be used with an Arduino without an ethernet shield, or with RFID tags.

Adding an IKEA Wireless Charger to a Project

IKEA sometimes seems like a DIY store disguised as a furniture store. We may go there looking for a new sofa or kitchen table, but, to the DIY enthusiast, it’s a shop full of possibilities. While wandering through the local IKEA, [Erich Styger] noticed they had some Qi wireless chargers and receivers for a very reasonable price, so he bought a few and added wireless charging to his Mikroelektronika Hexiwear.

toothpicking-the-coil
Removing the wireless charger

[Erich Styger] didn’t like the clumsiness of the Hexiwear’s USB charging options and, at the price he got the IKEA Vitahult Qi phone case wireless receivers at, he couldn’t resist buying a few for his projects. After carefully separating the circuitry from the phone cases they came in he opening up the Hexiwear. He removed the battery connector and soldered the charger to battery charging circuit. [Erich Styger] then 3D printed a new back to the Hexiwear’s case to fit the new circuitry. A quick test with the IKEA charging pad proved the hack had worked.

IKEA has become something of a DIY enthusiasts go-to shop, with everything from weather stations to a camera slider at a decent price. Walking through the maze inside the store, the DIYer doesn’t see lamps and boxes and shelves, they see light projectors and enclosures and, well, everyone needs shelves.