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!]

Nothing’s as Vain as a Phone Taking a Selfie of Itself… with Itself

The selfie: pop culture’s most frivolous form of self-expression is also probably one of the most human acts you could find yourself doing in a day. Everyone is guilty of snapping a quick pic from time to time with the expectation that it will leave an impression on those who see it. All of the implications surrounding why we do this support our deep-seated need to sculpt an identity for ourselves using others as the hammer and chisel. So, consider how upside-down the world would feel if you caught a robot posing for a shot in the mirror? What about one whose sole function was to take selfies and post them? If this breaks your mind a little, that was the intention. This #selfie robot by artists [Radamés Ajna] and [Thiago Hersan] is the first development in a larger body of work called “memememe”, which is meant to comment on our culture’s obsession with the trending, selfing nature of social media. This specific project explores the relationship between conversation and identity in a situation where there is no second party.

selfieBOT2Hardware-wise, the #selfie bot is a Stewart platform made from six servo motors and a few pieces of carefully measured pushrod connected with swivel-ball-links. An android phone is mounted on the end effector which acts functionally as the robot’s face and eyes. To make it self-aware in a sense, [Ajna] and [Hersan] created their own recognition software with Open CV using a collection of sample images of various phones as reference points. As soon as the robot recognizes itself in the mirror as indicated by specific words flashing on its screen, it takes a picture, immediately uploading it to its own tumblr account. [Ajna] and [Hersan] have a nice description of their process on the project’s Instructable’s page which you can check out to see how they used Haar Cascades to create their custom object recognition. Additionally, if you’d fancy building your own robot to covertly place in your living room to snap pictures of other phones, you could check out their code on github.

Watch it selfie :

Continue reading “Nothing’s as Vain as a Phone Taking a Selfie of Itself… with Itself”

Ceci N’est Pas Une Clock

[Justin] tipped us about his slick custom OBD-II gauge that could easily pass for an OEM module. He was able to use the clock area of his Subaru BRZ to display a bunch of information including the oil and coolant temperatures and the battery voltage.

The forum post linked above has a good FAQ-based explanation of what he did, but so many people have told him to shut up and take their money that he created an Instructable for it. Basically, he’s got a Sparkfun OBD-II UART board communicating with a pro Trinket. The display is an Adafruit OLED, which he found to be an ideal choice for all the various and sundry light conditions inside the average car.

[Justin] was able to reuse the (H)our and (M)inute buttons and reassigned them to (H)igh to show the peak reading and (M)ode to, well, switch between modes. The (:00) now resets the peak readings. He offers suggestions for acquiring the specific CAN codes for your car to make the data more meaningful. [Justin]’s code is safe in the many tentacles of Octocat, and you can check out his demo video below.

Continue reading “Ceci N’est Pas Une Clock”

Controlling a Flip-Disc Display Using Android

There’s just something about electro-mechanical displays that enthralls most people when they see them; and while you’ll be hard pressed to find a split-flap display for cheap, you can still easily buy flip-disc displays! That’s what [Scott] did, and he’s been having a blast messing around with his and building a system to control it via his Android phone.

He picked up the display from a company called Alfa-Zeta in Poland, a company that’s been making electromagnetic displays since 1988. No mention of price, but it looks like some pretty awesome hardware. The beauty with electromagnetic displays is they don’t consume any electricity in idle state, making them far more efficient than almost any other display technology – not to mention perfect contrast in any lighting conditions!

They work by using permanent magnets, electromagnets, and a material that can retain magnetization. A short pulse to the electromagnet causes the disc to flip into the second position, which will then hold in place due to the permanent magnet — no more electromagnet needed.

The display comes with all the necessary hardware to drive the electromagnets and interface with a microcontroller. But, it uses the RS-485 standard, which isn’t natively supported by most other microcontrollers. [Scott’s] using an Arduino which does have an RS-485 shield, but he decided he wanted to challenge himself and build a circuit to drive them himself!

All the info is on his blog if you’re looking to try something similar. Once he had it interfaced with the Arduino it was just a simple matter of writing an Android app to transmit controls over Bluetooth for the display. Take a look:

Continue reading “Controlling a Flip-Disc Display Using Android”