Ask Hackaday: Can you steal a car with a mini tesla coil?

Last week we caught wind of a piece from the Today Show that shows very technically minded thieves stealing cars with a small device. Cops don’t know how they’re doing it, and of course the Today show (and the Hackaday comments) were full of speculation. The top three theories for how these thieves are unlocking car doors are jamming a keyless entry’s ‘lock signal’, a radio transmitter to send an ‘unlock’ code, or a small EMP device touched to the passenger side door to make it unlock.

That last theory – using a small EMP device to unlock a car’s door – got the attention of someone who builds mini EMP devices and has used them to get credits on slot machines. He emailed us under a condition of anonymity, but he says it’s highly unlikely a mini EMP device would be able to activate the solenoid on a car door.

This anonymous electromagnetic wizard would like to open up a challenge to Hackaday readers, though: demonstrate a miniature EMP device able to unlock an unmodified car door, and you’ll earn the respect of high voltage tinkerers the world over. If you’re successful you could always sell your device to a few criminal interests, but let’s keep things above board here.

Omniwheel robot build uses a bit of everything


Machinist, electronics engineer, programmer, and factory worker are all skills you can wield if you take on a project like building this omniwheel robot (translated).

The omniwheels work in this tripod orientation because they include rollers which turn perpendicular to the wheel’s axis. This avoids the differential issue cause by fixed-position wheels. When the three motors are driven correctly, as shown in the video below, this design makes for the most maneuverable of wheeled robots.

An aluminum plate serves as the chassis. [Malte] milled the plate, cutting out slots for the motor with threaded holes to receive the mounting screws. A few stand-offs hold the hunk of protoboard which makes up the electronic side of the build. The large DIP chip is an ATmega168. It drives the motors via the trio of red stepper motor driver boards which he picked up on eBay.

So far the vehicle is tethered, using a knock-off of a SixAxis style controller. But as we said before, driving the motors correctly is the hard part and he’s definitely solved that problem.

Continue reading “Omniwheel robot build uses a bit of everything”

Raspberry Pi used to build a smart television

In the title of his post [Donald Derek] calls this a Google TV you can build yourself. That’s certainly an over-reach. But the project is still a very impressive smart television built using a Raspberry Pi.

The open source project starts with the Rasbian OS, an RPi version of Debian Linux. Functionality is built up by installing Chromium to display webpages, a script to download YouTube videos, and OMXPlayer to play videos including 1080P HD content. The image above shows the smart phone controller for the system. This is provided by a Node.js configuration that manages communication between the remote and the RPi board.

On the one hand we love that this is open source. On the other, it’s not going to be able to tap into a lot of the content which makes a Google TV so valuable. For instance, you won’t be able to watch Netflix because that service doesn’t work on Linux systems. But you should be able to watch browser-based content like Hulu.

Wireless unread email counter tells you how busy you’re not


One of the marks of how busy you are – or how well your spam filters are set up – is how many unread emails you have in your inbox. [trumpkin] over on Instructables posted a great tutorial for making a wireless counter that displays the number of unread emails in your Gmail account.

[trumpkin] used a tiny and inexpensive 419 MHz transmitter and receiver combo to make this project work. On his desktop, he wired up a USB to UART bridge attached to the transmitter. For the receiver side, an ATMega328 reads the data coming off the receiver and displays the number of unread emails on two seven-segment displays.

The wireless device runs off of two AA batteries and should provide enough power to keep the email monitor running for a long time. More than enough time for your inbox to fill up and for you to become overwhelmed with the work you should be doing.

3D mapping of rooms, again


Last year we saw what may be the coolest application of a Kinect ever. It was called Kintinuous, and it’s back again, this time as Kintinuous 2.0, with new and improved features.

When we first learned of Kintinuous, we were blown away. The ability for a computer with a Kinect to map large-scale areas has applications as diverse as Google Street View, creating custom Counter-Strike maps, to archeological excavations. There was one problem with the Kintinuous 1.0, though: scanning a loop would create a disjointed map, where the beginning and end of a loop would be in a different place.

In the video for Kintinuous 2.0, you can see a huge scan over 300 meters in length with two loops automatically stitched back into a continuous scan. An amazing feat, especially considering the computer is processing seven million vertices in just a few seconds.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there will be an official distribution of Kintinuous 2.0 anytime soon. The paper for this Kintinuous is still under review, and there are ‘issues’ surrounding the software that don’t allow an answer to the if and when question of release. Once the paper is out, though, anyone is free to reimplement it, and we’ll gladly leave that as an open challenge to our readers.

Continue reading “3D mapping of rooms, again”

USB infrared receiver looks good sitting in your livingroom


The problem with building your own electronics for the living room is that the final product may not fit your decorating style. This was true with [Itay’s] prototype of a universal USB IR receiver. So after testing it out for a few weeks he decided to build a final version that started by selecting an enclosure he could be proud of.

He came across an LED flash light at the dollar store which has an aluminum body. When we read about this we envisioned a cheap version of a Mag Light from which he removed the cylinder that holds the batteries. But actually, the pod seen above is the entire flashlight (with an added base). It forced him to design a tiny surface mount PCB to fit everything inside.

It’s not too much of a stretch since IR receivers tend to be small anyway. [Itay’s] design put a PIC 18F2553 on one side of the board. The other side hosted the through hole components: an IR receiver, LED for feedback, and the connections for the USB cable that exit through the rubber button cover that used to switch the flashlight on. He had a problem with one of the resistor values which took a while to figure out. But eventually he got it working. It’s been in use now for six months.

No space in the garage? Build a Lamborghini in the basement



It took 17 years, but [Ken Imhoff] finally got the car of his dreams. This isn’t a, ‘go down to the dealership’ situation. No, [Ken] built a Lamborghini Countach by himself in his basement.

The build process started off by fabricating a wooden frame to which hand-crafted aluminum panels were attached. The frame of the car was welded out of tubular steel, and slowly, over the course of 17 years, a custom Lamborghini Countach took shape.

When the car was complete, there was one problem left to solve – how do you get a car out of a basement? Rent a backhoe and knock out a wall, of course. Replacing a few cinder blocks in a properly reinforced wall is a lot easier than cutting a Lambo chassis in half, it seems.

It’s an amazing piece of artistry that is a testament to [Ken]’s skill in metalworking, welding, and pretty much any other skill we can think of.