OK Google, Open Sesame

There are a myriad of modern ways to lock and unlock doors. Keypads, Fingerprint scanners, smart card readers, to name just a few. Quite often, adding any of these methods to an old door may require replacing the existing locking mechanism. Donning his Bollé sunglasses allowed [Dheera] to come up with a slightly novel idea to unlock doors without having to change his door latch. Using simple, off the shelf hardware, a Smartwatch, some code crunching and a Google Now app, he was able to yell “OK Google, Open Sesame” at his Android Wear smartwatch to get his apartment  door to open up.

The hardware, in his own words, is trivial. An Arduino, an HC-05 bluetooth module and a servo. The servo is attached to his door latch using simple hardware that looks sourced from the closest hardware store. The code is split in to two parts. The HC-05 listens for a trigger signal, and informs the Arduino over serial. The Arduino in turn activates the servo to open the door. The other part is the Google Now app. Do note that the code, as he clearly points out, is “barebones”. If you really want to implement this technique, it would be wise to add in authentication to prevent all and sundry from opening up your apartment door and stealing your precious funky Sunglasses. Watch a video of how he put it all together after the break. And if you’re interested, here are a few other door lock hacks we’ve featured in the past.

Continue reading “OK Google, Open Sesame”

An Adventure into Android Makes the VIC-20 Speak

History and [Bil Herd] teaches us that Commodore begged, borrowed, or stole the engineers responsible for the Speak & Spell to add voice synthesis to a few of the computers that came after the C64. This didn’t quite work out in practice, but speech synthesis was something that was part of the Commodore scene for a long time. The Votrax Type ‘n Talk was a stand-alone speech synthesizer that plugged into the expansion port of the VIC-20. It was expensive, rare, but a few games supported it. [Jan] realized the state of speech synthesis has improved tremendously over the last 30 years, and decided to give his VIC a voice with the help of a cheap Android phone.

A few VIC-20 games, including [Scott Adams] adventure games, worked with the Votrax speech synthesizer by sending phonemes as text over the expansion port. From there, the Votrax would take care of assembling everything into something intelligible, requiring no overhead on the VIC-20. [Jan] realized since the VIC is just spitting out characters for each phoneme, he could redirect those words to a better, more modern voice synthesizer.

A small Bluetooth module was wired up to the user port on the VIC, and this module was paired with a cheap Android smartphone. The smartphone receives the serial stream from an adventure game, and speaks the descriptions of all the scenes in these classic adventure games.

It’s a unique experience judging from the video, but the same hardware and software can also be added to any program that will run on the VIC-20, C64, and C128. Video below.

Continue reading “An Adventure into Android Makes the VIC-20 Speak”

Prefix Your Phone Alarm with a Desk Lamp

If you are like [Gbola], then you have a hard time waking up during the winter months. Something about the fact that it’s still dark outside just makes it that much more difficult to get out of bed. [Gbola] decided to build his own solution to this problem, by gradually waking himself up with an electric light. He was able to do this using all off-the-shelf components and a bit of playing around with the Tasker Android application.

[Gbola] started out with a standard desk lamp. He replaced the light bulb with a larger bulb that simulates the color temperature of natural daylight. He then switched the lamp on and plugged it into a WeMo power switch module. A WeMo is a commercial product that attempts to make home automation accessible for consumers. This particular module allows [Gbola] to control the power to his desk lamp using his smart phone.

[Gbola] mentions that the official WeMo Android application is slow and includes no integration with Tasker. He instead decided to use the third-party WeMoWay application, which does include Tasker support. Tasker is a separate Android application that allows you to configure your device to perform a set task or series of tasks based on a context. For example you might turn your phone to silent mode when your GPS signal shows you are at work. WeMoWay allows [Gbola] to interact with his WeMo device based on any parameter he configures.

On top of all of that, [Gbola] also had to install three Tasker plugins. These were AutoAlarm, Taskkill, and WiFi Connect. He then got to work with Tasker. He configured a custom task to identify when the next alarm was configured on the phone. It then sets two custom variables, one for 20 minutes before the alarm (turn on the lamp) and one for 10 minutes after (turn it off).

[Gbola] then built a second task to actually control the lamp. This task first disconnects and reconnects to the WiFi network. [Gbola] found that the WeMoWay application is buggy and this “WiFi reset” helps to make it more reliable. It then kills the WeMoWay app and restarts it. Finally, it executes the command to toggle the state of the lamp. The project page has detailed instructions in case anyone wants to duplicate this. It seems like a relatively painless way to build your own solution for less than the cost of a specialized alarm clock lamp.

Teardown: The Android-powered iPhone Case

Cellphones! Cellphone cases! Now that Radio Shack is kaput we need to pick up the slack!

A company named Oaxis has been making cell phone cases for a while now, and they’ve recently rolled out something rather interesting – a cell phone case with an e-ink screen. It’s an interesting idea and [Anton] did a teardown on two new releases. The first one just sends an image to an e-ink screen, and on paper, that’s all the second one does as well. There’s something special hidden under the hood, though: a low-end Android system. What an age to live in.

Something interesting happened when [Anton] was futzing with the battery for the e-ink iPhone case. Somehow, the device booted into recovery mode. Android recovery mode. Yes, iPhone cases now run Android.

Inside the e-ink iPhone case, [Anton] found a board with a Rockchip RK2818 SoC. This is the same chip that can be found in cheap Android cell phones. There’s only one button on the cell phone case, and connectivity is only provided by Bluetooth LE, but the possibilities for modding a cell phone case are extremely interesting.

Automated Tea Maker

[Pariprohus] wanted to make an interesting gift for his girlfriend. Knowing how daunting it can be to make your own tea, he decided to build a little robot to help out. His automated tea maker is quite simple, but effective.

The device runs off of an Arduino Nano. The Nano is hooked up to a servo, a piezo speaker, an LED, and a switch. When the switch is turned to the off position, the servo rotates into the “folded” position. This moves the steeping arm into a position that makes the device easier to store and transport.

When the device is turned on to the “ready” position, the arm will extend outward and stay still. This gives you time to attach the tea bag to the arm and place the mug of hot water underneath. Finally the switch can be placed into “brew” mode. In this mode, the bag is lowered into the hot water and held for approximately five minutes. Each minute the bag is raised and lowered to stir the water around.

Once the cycle completes, the Nano plays a musical tune from the piezo speaker to remind you to drink your freshly made tea. All of the parameters including the music can be modified in the Nano’s source code. All of the components are housed in a small wooden box painted white. Check out the video below to see it in action. Continue reading “Automated Tea Maker”

Adding WiFi and SMS to an Alarm System

[Don] wanted to bring his alarm system into the modern age. He figured that making it more connected would do the trick. Specifically, he wanted his alarm system to send him an SMS message whenever the alarm was tripped.

[Don] first had to figure out a way to trigger an event when the alarm sounds. He found a screw terminal that lead to the siren. When the alarm is tripped, this screw terminal outputs 12V to enable the siren. This would be a good place to monitor for an alarm trip.

[Don] is using an Arduino nano to monitor the alarm signal. This meant that the 12V signal needed to be stepped down. He ran it through a resistor and a Zener diode to lower the voltage to something the Arduino can handle. Once the Arduino detects a signal, it uses an ESP8266 WiFi module to send an email. The address [Don] used is the email-to-SMS address which results in a text message hitting his phone over the cell network.

The Arduino also needed power. [Don] found a screw terminal on the alarm system circuit board that provided a regulated 12V output. He ran this to another power regulator board to lower the voltage to a steady 5V. This provides just the amount of juice the Arduino needs to run, and it doesn’t rely on batteries. [Don] provides a good explanation of the system in the video below. Continue reading “Adding WiFi and SMS to an Alarm System”

iRobot Releases Hackable Roomba — Without The Vacuum

We love forward thinking companies that take a risk and do something different. iRobot, the company behind the iconic Roomba, just released the newest version of their Roomba Create — a programmable Roomba (minus the vacuum) that can be hacked and programmed to do all sorts of things.

The company developed the Create with STEM students in mind — a robotics learning platform. It came out originally back in 2007, and we’ve covered many hacks that have made use of it. Many. Like, a lot. One of our favorites has got to be this data center monitoring robot that makes use of the platform!

Anyway, the newest version of the Create features the typical hardware upgrades you’d expect, and with some special emphasis on 3D printing. In fact, the CEO of iRobot [Colin Angle] thinks that 3D printing is going to make a big difference in a few years:

“Your Roomba could be a software file that you print at home,” he says. He says the Create’s new features are a way for the company to get ready for that day, while also providing a platform that educators and hobbyists can use to tinker.

Kudos to you guys, iRobot! We just wish people would stop giving Roomba’s knives…

[Thanks PSUbj21!]