Color changing coaster has a built-in drink detector

[Robert] put together his own illuminated coasters that know when they hold a drink. They look fantastic, thanks to professionally produced PCBs and a layered, laser-cut acrylic case. They’re much like the pagers given to restaurant-goes who are waiting for tables, but this version is much fancier (and doesn’t include the vibrating/paging feature).

The RGB-LED board is a previous project which was developed using eight surface mount RGB LED modules around a circular board. It uses an ATmega168 paired with an MBI5168 constant-current LED sink driver. The coaster enclosure gave him room for a few more items, like the pair of AA batteries which work in conjunction with a boost converter to power the device. It also houses an IR reflectance sensor which is used to detect the presence of a drink on the coaster. This is important since an on-occupied coaster looks like it would be blindingly bright if there wasn’t a glass to diffuse the intensity of the LEDs.

He mentions that incandescent light bulbs mess with the IR reflectance sensor. But there must be some way to account for ambient conditions with the code, right?

Hybrid roller coaster concept

prius_based_roller_coaster

Toyota recently ran an ad campaign touting “Ideas for Good” in which the actors speculated uses for Toyota Synergy Drive hybrid systems in non-automotive related applications. One idea that was floated involved using the car’s regenerative braking system at an amusement park, in an effort to reclaim and use some of a roller coaster’s kinetic energy.

Toyota sent a Prius to the team over at Deeplocal, who deconstructed it and found that the car could generate 60 amps of current when braking. That’s not an insignificant number, so they decided to create a cool demonstration showing how powerful the technology is. They built a coaster car from the Prius’ guts, and positioned it at the top of an elevated platform, which was connected to a 70 foot track. In the video embedded below they push the car from the platform and down the track, using the regenerative braking system to illuminate a large display of amusement park lights.

While the video is little more than a well-produced advertisement for Toyota, we can’t help but think that it’s pretty cool. It’s doubtful that we will suddenly see an inrush of hybrid-based roller coasters any time soon, but the concept is interesting nonetheless.

[via Notcot]

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Entrust you kid’s life to a homemade roller coaster?

So you fancy yourself as an amateur engineer? Been working on those welding skills for a while? The real test is to trust your children’s lives on a roller coaster you’ve designed and built (translated).

Now we’re not talking some tired old carnival ride like the teacups. This is a full-blown roller coaster, complete with an upside-down loop. The ride starts off with a chain-lift to the top of the garage/barn roof. From there it’s off and away on the single-rider train. We’d recommend keeping your hands and feet inside the car… if there was a car. The ride utilizes an automobile seat, but you’ll have to settle for a lap-belt as there’s no shoulder restraint here. We’re a bit wary of the track footings – we’d bet they’re not well anchored in the ground – but the fact that the entire length of track has been painted makes us think that [John Ivers] might have known at least a little bit about what he was doing. Don’t forget to catch the video below the fold.

Update: Much better video now embedded after the break thanks to [Tom 101’s] link in the comments.

Update: Source link changes to the original thanks to [Mike’s] comment.

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Coaster Controlled HTPC

RFID

These days, HTPCs are becoming more and more common, however controlling the content elegantly can be a painfully annoying problem. Roteno Labs have come up with a wonderful solution they call the RFiDJ. Similar to the RFID phone we covered earlier, they used a set of picture frame coasters and mounted descriptive pictures as well as unique RFID tags in each one. When a coaster is placed in the sensor area the server begins streaming that particular selection, including local news, This Week in Tech podcast, and other specific albums. Roteno Labs even managed to include a “shuffle” tag which would play content randomly out of a library. The end result is very well put together, excellently documented, and there is even a working video after the break.

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Mike Szczys Ends 8-Bit vs 32-Bit Holy War!

If you’ve read through the comments on Hackaday, you’ve doubtless felt the fires of one of our classic flame-wars. Any project done with a 32-bit chip could have been done on something smaller and cheaper, if only the developer weren’t so lazy. And any project that’s squeezes the last cycles of performance out of an 8-bit processor could have been done faster and more appropriately with a 32-bit chip.

bits_argument

Of course, the reality for any given project is between these two comic-book extremes. There’s a range of capabilities in both camps. (And of course, there are 16-bit chips…) The 32-bit chips tend to have richer peripherals and run at higher speeds — anything you can do with an 8-bitter can be done with its fancier cousin. Conversely, comparatively few microcontroller applications outgrow even the cheapest 8-bitters out there. So, which to choose, and when?

Eight Bits are Great Bits

The case that [Mike] makes for an 8-bit microcontroller is that it’s masterable because it’s a limited playground. It’s a lot easier to get through the whole toolchain because it’s a lot shorter. In terms of debugging, there’s (often) a lot less that can go wrong, letting you learn the easy debugging lessons first before moving on to the truly devilish. You can understand the hardware peripherals because they’re limited.

And then there’s the datasheets. The datasheet for a chip like the Atmel ATMega168 is not something you’d want to print out, at around 660 pages long. But it’s complete. [Mike] contrasts with the STM32F405 which has a datasheet that’s only 200 pages long, but that’s just going over the functions in principle. To actually get down to the registers, you need to look at the programming manual, which is 1,731 pages long. (And that doesn’t even cover the various support libraries that you might want to use, which add even more to the documentation burden.) The point is, simpler is simpler. And if you’re getting started, simpler is better.

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Running a Hackerspace is Hard: Egypt Edition

It’s no secret that it’s difficult to run a hackerspace. Different personalities, different material requirements, and often constrained spaces can require continual negotiation. But if you think that having the metalworking types getting their shavings on your electronics bench is a problem, try having your entire hackerspace demolished on short notice.

The situation in Cairo is far from normal at the moment. The building that Cairo Hackerspace had recently moved to was raided, closed for two months, and then re-opened under strict surveillance in February.

All was well until a part of the building unexpectedly collapsed. Then they got a demolition order, followed by postponement, followed by armed police entering anyway and breaking stuff, followed by a further declaration of the building as safe, and now a heritage site. And all of this over a week’s time. While some of the art studios in the Townhouse were saved, the Cairo Hackerspace’s space is gone.

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The good news? Nobody got hurt in all of this, and the Cairo Hackerspace crew were able to get their gear out after the initial demolition notice. They’ve been working on a mobile hackerspace-in-a-van approach lately, so hopefully they’ll be able to keep on hacking.

So when you’re bickering over who didn’t clean up the hackspace’s coffee machine, or the proper location of your favorite soldering iron, think kindly about the Cairo crew and get back to doing what you do best — projects.

How about you? What hackerspace tales do you have? Contact us through the tips line — we’d love to hear.

Hyperloops and Robot Cars, A Glimpse into The Future

His mobile blooped at him with one of those noises a company spent money to get. A timer started on the screen as he rushed to put his shoes on. He finished and pushed open his door, running down the stairs two to a bound. By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs he had his backpack slung over both shoulders, which he mentally cursed himself for since he’d just have to take the dang thing off again.

It was morning on January first, and he was due at his parent’s house for a new year’s dinner fifteen hundred miles away. He should have booked a plane weeks ago, but now the Loop was his only option. The Loop didn’t really have peak rates, and while the plane would be a little faster, more direct, and cheaper IF he had remembered to book it in time, the Loop would take him the same distance today. Plus, the seats were comfier. They reclined nicely, and he intended to nap on the way. Hopefully, by the time he got there, the bleariness from last night’s celebration would be undetectable by parental senses.

He locked the door to his apartment complex, a reassuringly square assembly from the seventies, and walked to the sidewalk where a friendly light blue car waited for him. When he got close, his mobile vibrated and made another distressingly cheery noise. The doors of the car swung open opposite of each other to expose the space inside. The car displayed two rows of inward facing bench seats, a panoramic row of windows around the entire perimeter of the vehicle, and… yes, his nose was telling him before his eyes fixed on it, a very unsettling amount of vomit in the center of the floor.

He turned around, a bit squeamish, and took out his mobile. He navigated through the controls. Where is the menu option? What year is it now? Why is this still hard? Three awkward menus deep and he finally found and selected the option to let the dispatch know the car had an issue which made it uninhabitable. The car immediately began to chirp warnings and the doors soon started to close. In a moment, a human somewhere in the city would be looking at a video of the inside of the car, determining him a liar or not. As expected, a few seconds later, the little car began to drive off. The lights on the rear of the car turned from bright red to the yellow amber of headlights as it decided its front would be its back. It drove off to the dispatch center for cleaning and repair. Someone would be eating a 100 dollar cleaning bill today. He didn’t feel sorry for them.

His phone began to vibrate. He picked it up to answer a call from a bored customer service representative who was trying hard to sound earnest. “Sorry for the trouble sir, the ride today will be free. We have another car on its way”

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