Right Hand Loses Job As Head-Mouse Enters Mousing Arena

Moving the cursor around your computer screen is an everyday occurrence that we humans do not give much of a second thought to. But what if you didn’t have to move your hands from the keyboard anymore? Sure there are keyboards with Track Point or even track pads not to far from the keys, which isn’t too bad. What if you could just slightly point your face in the desired direction the mouse would move? The [Sci-Spot] folks wondered that same question and came up with a DIY Head Mouse.

The concept is pretty darn simple; a web cam is mounted to the user’s head and points at the computer screen. Mounted on top of the screen is one IR LED. Our eyes can not see the IR light so it is not annoying or distracting. The camera, however, is filtered to only see IR by placing a couple of layers of camera film negative over the lens. Before you go complaining about strapping a camera to your noggin just think of building it into a hat, which we’ve seen used for adaptive technologies like this PS3 controller.

Custom software was written to move the mouse cursor; see the black window in the above dialog box? That represents the webcam’s field of view and the white spot is the IR LED. When the user’s head moves, the IR LED moves in relation to the camera’s field of view, in turn telling the computer to move the cursor a certain amount. There are a couple of options available like ‘magnification’ which changes how much the cursor moves with a given amount of head movement and ‘deadzone’ that ignores extremely small movements that can result from breathing.

There is no mention of how button clicks are recorded but we think a couple of buttons right below the space bar would be great. The control software is available for download on the Sci-Spot page for those who want to make their own.

DIY Bicycle Roller Helps Cure The Winter Blues

Winter’s a-brewing and that is a downer for the everyday cycling enthusiast. There are certainly ‘bike trainers’ out on the market that will let you ride in your living room but they clamp to (or require replacing the) the rear axle. These bike trainers hold the bike in an upright position so that the rider can’t tip the bike and might feel a little boring for some. There is another indoor biking solution called a bicycle roller which is, just as it sounds, a few rollers on the ground that the bike wheels rest on and is not attached to the bike by any mechanical means. When the rider pedals the bike, the bike wheels spin the rollers. Even with the lack of forward momentum the spinning of the wheels is enough for the rider to stay upright.

[Sky-Monkey] wanted to bike during inclement weather and felt that a bike roller was simple enough for him to try building one. He likes building things and already had all the necessary parts kicking around his shop. The rollers are standard 3″ PVC pipe with plywood discs pressed into each end. The discs are counter-bored to accept standard skate bearings. Off the shelf steel rod make up the axles. The 3 rollers and axle assemblies are mounted in a wood frame made from dimensional lumber. It’s important that the front bike wheel also spins so [Sky-Monkey] made a power transmission belt out of cloth strap that spins the front roller with the rear.

The result is a fully functional bike roller that only cost a few hours of time to make. Video of this puppy in action after the break….

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One Man’s Mini Symphony of Many Strings

If you don’t get along with your orchestra, screw ‘em. [Vladimir Pliassov] proves that you can play each of the virtuosic string instruments yourself, all at the same time (with the exception of the double bass of course).

For the life of me, I can’t imagine how long it took to get situated in this spider’s web of moving parts, but it’s impressive. With the help of this unique mechanical invention all his own, [Vladimir] is able to finger not only the neck of a violin and viola, but also a cello hoisted at an angle below his desk so that he can execute chords with his FEET. To help with the actual sound-making, a complex series of resinous fibers turn on a continuous mill of wooden beams and are tensioned ever so carefully over the bridge of each instrument. [Vladimir] controls which string is making contact with the turning fibers with a pulley wrapped around his thigh that rocks the body of the instrument back and forth.

[Vladimir] gives us an overview of his machine and how it works in the video below. If you’re itching to see it used for the purpose it was created for, well… there’s a video for that too. Even though the quality of the performance suffers a little due to the complicated nature of the setup, [Vladimir] is playing of all things, a piece for the pipe organ by J.S. Bach. Bach being hard mode in any case, let alone the one where you’re playing all the instruments yourself.

Thanks [tinkartank] for pointing out this unique invention. It’s definitely worthy of some awe!

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Brother Builds “Zerg-Berg” Coffee Table Media Server – 38(!) USB Drives

After [Travis]’s media server died a couple months ago, his brother [Nick] secretly plotted to replace it for Christmas. Admitting it to be an “asinine Rube Goldberg” arrangement, [Nick] wanted something custom and remarkable for his sibling. Rather than go the normal SATA route, 38 USB hot-swap laptop drives were clustered together inside a custom leather enclosure with a bronzed glass top.

[Nick] picked up 45 of the 500GB drives for only $350 and designed the project around those. He spent $1000 on matching metal docks for each of them, powered by $800 worth of PCIe quad independent USB controllers – no hubs. A $550 Xeon motherboard with 14 USB ports, 16GB of RAM, a basic video card and a 1000W power supply rounded out the electronics.

Under Windows 8.1 all drives are arranged in a single giant array under Storage Spaces, no raid.

Everything was built into a wood-framed coffee table wrapped in high-end leather that [Nick] spent 65 hours hand stitching himself. Fancy brass corner braces hold the frame square. All the wires were run underneath the table so the visible surfaces are clean and clear. The table structure is lifted up on legs made from half-inch square barstock bent into a hairpin and bolted to the underside.

All together [Travis]’s Zerg-Berg media server cost in the range of $4500. [Nick] intends it to be something that lasts him a very long time.

See the video below for [Nick]’s rationalization explanation of the hardware and methods chosen.

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Arduino Thermostat Includes Vacation Mode

When [William’s] thermostat died, he wanted an upgrade. He found a few off-the-shelf Internet enabled thermostats, but they were all very expensive. He knew he could build his own for a fraction of the cost.

The primary unit synchronizes it’s time using NTP. This automatically keeps things up to date and in sync with daylight savings time. There is also a backup real-time clock chip in case the Internet connection is lost. The unit can be controlled via the physical control panel, or via a web interface. The system includes a nifty “vacation mode” that will set the temperature to a cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit while you are away. It will then automatically adjust the temperature to something more comfortable before you return home.

[William’s] home is split into three heat zones. Each zone has its own control panel including an LCD display and simple controls. The zones can be individually configured from either their own control panel or from the central panel. The panels include a DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor, an LCD display, a keypad, and support electronics. This project was clearly well thought out, and includes a host of other small features to make it easy to use.

Multiplexing Pi Cameras

The Raspberry Pi and its cool camera add-on is a great way to send images and video up to the Intertubes, but what if you want to monitor more than one scene? The IVPort can multiplex up to sixteen of these Raspi camera modules, giving the Pi sixteen different views on the world and a ridiculously high stack of boards connected to the GPIO header.

The Raspberry Pi’s CSI interface uses high-speed data lines from the camera to the CPU to get a lot of image data quickly. Controlling the camera, on the other hand, uses regular old GPIOs, the same kind that are broken out on the header. We’ve seen builds that reuse these GPIOs to blink a LED, but with a breakout board with additional camera connectors, it’s possible to use normal GPIO lines in place of the camera port GPIOs.

The result is a stackable extension board that splits the camera port in twain, allowing four Raspi cameras to be connected. Stack another board on top and you can add four more cameras. A total of four of these boards can be stacked together, multiplexing sixteen Raspberry Pi cameras.

As far as the obvious, ‘why’ question goes, there are a few interesting things you can do with a dozen or so computer controlled cameras. The obvious choice would be a bullet time camera rig, something this board should be capable of, given its time to switch between channels is only 50ns. Videos below.

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TRINKET EDC CONTEST ENTRY: Lazydoro

[Vasilis] has entered Lazydoro in the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest.  Lazydoro is designed to get him up off his backside, and walking around. Recent medical research has determined that sitting too long is a bad thing. In fact,  Dr. David Agus has been quoted by Nike as saying that sitting for several hours is as bad as smoking (wayback machine link). While we’re not exactly up on the latest medical trends, we can definitely see that getting up and walking around a bit never hurt anyone. Lazydoro will alert [Vasilis] once every 20 minutes or so to get up and stretch his legs a bit.

[Vasilis] plans to pair a Pro Trinket with an accelerometer module, specifically an ADXL377 from Analog Devices. The accelerometer will allow Lazydoro to determine if [Vasilis] has moved around. If 20 or 30 minutes go by without major movement, Lazydoro will nudge him to get up and take a walk.

Since shipping to Greece takes awhile, [Vasilis] is developing with an Arduino Uno and a ADXL345 while he waits for his parts to arrive. He’s hacked this into a wrist mounted device for testing. One thing  [Vasilis]  hasn’t figured out yet is how to alert the user to move around. A small vibrating motor would probably work – but we’d suggest electric shocks. A good zap always puts the spring in our step!

There is still plenty of time to enter the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest.  The main contest runs until January 2, but we’re having random drawings every week! Don’t forget to write a project log before the next drawing at 9pm EDT on Tuesday, December 23. You and all of the other entrants have a chance to win a Cordwood Puzzle from The Hackaday Store!