Voice Command with No Echo

[Naran] was intrigued with the Amazon Echo’s ability to control home electronics, but decided to roll his own. By using a Raspberry Pi with the beta Prota OS, he managed to control some Phillips Hue bulbs and a homebrew smart outlet.

Prota has a speech application, which made the job simpler. He does point out though, that his project doesn’t replace the Echo’s ability to answer questions by searching the Internet. The advantage, though, is it is easily tailored to your specific application. Also, if you have a Raspberry Pi hanging around, you can’t beat the price. Continue reading “Voice Command with No Echo”

Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: A Better Smart Plug

Walk into any home improvement store, and you’ll find dozens of smart accessories, home automation equipment, and WiFi-connected ephemera. The Belkin WeMo Insight is one of these devices, giving anyone with $60 and a WiFi network the ability to switch lights and appliances on and off over a network. [John] picked up one of these WiFi plugs, but it didn’t work exactly as he would like. Instead of building a smart plug from scratch, [John] replaced the controller board for a WeMo Insight for his Hackaday Prize entry, making it far more useful and a replacement for devices like the Kill-a-Watt.

In its stock form, the WeMo can only be used though the smartphone app provided by Belkin or through a few third-party services like IFFT. All of these solutions have a limited API, and don’t provide advanced power metrics. To solve this problem, [John] replaced the smart controller board inside the Belkin WeMo with one of their own design.

By volume, most of the electronics inside the WeMo are a transformer, caps, and a relay; the smarts of this smart plug are just a daughterboard. By re-engineering this daughterboard with a new microcontroller, an ESP8266, and a microSD card connector, [John] can replicate the functionality of the WeMo while adding some new features. SD card datalogging for up to four years is now possible, a RTC now provides precise time stamps on all data collected, and a few simple calculations on the microcontroller enable power factor, line frequency, and total energy metering. With the ESP, all this data can be sent up to the cloud with a vastly improved API.

It’s a great project, and something that Belkin should seriously consider for their next revision of the WeMo. For anyone stuck with a stock WeMo, [John] has made all his design files and code available, allowing anyone to replicate this build

You can check out [John]’s Hackaday Prize entry video below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Wii MotionPlus Gyro to Microchip PIC

Sometimes the most mundane products have surprisingly sophisticated internals. What’s in a game controller? If it is a Wii remote, you’ll find a lot inside–an IR sensor, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, and EEPROM. It also has a six pin expansion port that allows I2C peripherals connect to the controller.

[DotMusclera] wanted to experiment with a gyroscope and decided to hook up to the Wii MotionPlus to a Microchip PIC. Using information from the WiiBrew wiki, [DotMusclera] connected a PIC18F4550, an LCD, and a handful of components (mostly to do 3.3V level conversion), he set up the hardware on a breadboard. The only odd part you might have to work around is a Wii breakout board that converts from the breadboard to the Wii interface.

The software is easy to follow since it is written in Hi-TECH C and well-commented. The hardware lacks a schematic, but from the parts list and the video, you can probably figure it out. The setup works well and shows roll, pitch, and yaw on the LCD screen.

The project log is very detailed, with a lot of information about gyroscopes and the communication format the gyro uses. The video demo is worth watching as well.

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Shift Register Powered Realistic Candle Flicker

[Kevin Darrah] recently went out to dinner at a restaurant that was using some cheap LED candles (yuck) instead of the real thing. And in the true spirit of a hacker, he started to notice the patterns programmed into the fake flame repeat over and over again. And like any hacker might, his mind started to devise a better way.

Now’s the time where some of us lazy hackers might grab a microcontroller, and copy and paste in some pseudo-random number generating code you found on the Internet, but not [Kevin]. The basics of his hack uses two shift registers tied together that are fed a single clock signal, and also a latch signal that is slightly delayed version of the same signal made by a RC-time circuit.

The randomness of the output is created is by feeding back the outputs of the shift registers to an XOR gate. If you want to learn more about this, the technique it’s called a “linear feedback shift register“. It’s commonly used as a poor-man’s random number generator, although it’s not technically truly random, statistically it does a very good job. You can see the results in the video after the break where [Kevin] describes the circuit.  He wraps up the hack with a battery and solar charging circuit as well to make a completed project.

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CO2 Laser Decapping to Fix Soldering Mistake

[Carsten] messed up. He was soldering an ARM CPU onto a quadcopter board in haste, failed to notice that the soldering iron was turned up to eleven, and pulled some of the traces up off the PCB. In the process of trying to fix that, he broke three pins off of the 100-pin CPU. The situation was going from bad to worse.

Instead of admitting defeat, or maybe reflowing the CPU off of the board, [Carsten] lasered the epoxy case off of the chip down to the lead frame and worked a little magic with some magnet wire. A sweet piece of work, to be sure!

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Basically, It’s an ESP8266

Before the Arduino, there was the Parallax Basic Stamp. It was an easy-to-use PIC chip on a PCB that you programmed in BASIC — a story of those humble beginnings was published earlier this week. Before that, even, legions of small computers from TRS-80s to Commodore 64s and even Altairs were commanded primarily by the BASIC language. BASIC was easy to run on a small machine and very simple to learn. Old fashioned BASICs are difficult to use to write huge systems, but a lot of small computers aren’t going to run very large programs anyway.

The ESP8266 is more than a just a WiFi peripheral for a microcontroller. It is its own little computer in its own right. While it is common to run the “AT” firmware, Lua, or program the device yourself, you can now load the beast with a version of BASIC.

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3D Printed Mini Vectrex

With the more common availability of 3D printers, making miniature models of retro computer and video game gear is one way to nerd out and not fill the house up. [Jason] was looking around and noticed that no one has modeled the Vectrex video game system and stepped right in to fill the void with a working 3d printed miniature model of the unique early 80’s video game system.

For those who don’t live and breathe retro game systems, the Vectrex is a 1982 8 bit game machine unique in the fact that it comes with its own monochrome vector graphics CRT in the console. [Jasons] model features a 2.2 inch LCD with a SPI interface.

Emulation is powered by a VoCore SBC sporting a 360Mhz MIPS CPU and a modest 32 megs of ram, which is more than enough to handle the 8 bit math and wireframe graphics. The emulator used is a port 0f VECX with the display rerouted to the LCD screen instead of using standard SDL interfaces.

The case was modeled in Sketchup, and the whole lot is powered by a 3v3 lipo battery.  Join us after the break for a quick video of the mini model running the introduction to “Mine Storm” which was the onboard game original to the machine.

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