In the surest sign that hardware hacking is the new hotness, Motorola and Farnell/Element 14 have developed an add-on board and SDK that will let you connect virtually anything to your mobile phone. Motorola is calling it the “Moto Mods” system, and it looks like its going to be a dedicated microcontroller that interfaces with the computer inside the phone and provides everything from GPIOs to DSI (video). Naturally, I2C, I2S, SPI, UART, even two flavors of USB are in the mix.
The official SDK, ahem Mods Development Kit (MDK), is based on the open Greybus protocol stack (part of Google’s Project Ara open phone project) and it’s running on an ARM Cortex-M4F chip. It’s likely to be itself fairly hackable, and even if the suggested US $125 price is probably worth it for the convenience, we suspect that it’ll be replicable with just a few dollars in parts and the right firmware. (Yes, that’s a challenge.)
The initial four adapter boards range from a simple breadboard to a Raspberry-Pi-hat adapter (hence the title). It’s no secret that cell phones now rival the supercomputers of a bygone era, but they’ve always lacked peripheral interfaces. We wish that all of the old smartphones in our junk box had similar capabilities. What do you say? What would you build with a cellphone if you could break out all sorts of useful comms?
The idea is that phones are increasingly complex and potentially vulnerable to all kinds of digital surveillance. Even airplane mode is insufficient for knowing that your phone isn’t somehow transmitting information. The paper looks at the various radios on the iPhone, going so far as opening up the device and reading signals at each of the chips for cell, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC to determine whether the chip itself is doing anything, regardless of what the screen says. This introspection can then be used to be confident that the phone is not communicating when it shouldn’t be.
The paper goes on to propose a device that they will prototype in the coming year which uses an FPC that goes into the phone through the SIM card port. It would contain a battery, display, buttons, multiple SIM cards, and an FPGA to monitor the various buses and chips and report on activity.
Significant hacking of an iPhone will still be required, but the idea is to increase transparency and be certain that your device is only doing what you want it to.
Pokemon Go has done a great service to the world health. Or would’ve done, if we wouldn’t hack it all the time. The game suggests, you breed Pokemon eggs by walking them around, but [DannyMcMurray] has a better idea: Strapping your smartphone to the propeller of a fan and taking them for spin that way.
The launch of Pokemon Go has unleashed the franchise upon the world once again but this time it’s encouraging users to get active and socialize in the great outdoors. To show off their dedication to the cause, [Npoole] 3D printed a Pokédex external battery and case to combat the game’s already legendary drain on their Galaxy S4’s resources.
Mimicking the first-generation Kanto design, [Npoole] 3D printed it in red ABS and added a small circuit with a red, yellow and green LED to complete the effect. Inside, a 18650 lithium cell provides the much-needed backup power via a micro B plug and is boosted to 5V with a LiPo charger/booster board. Despite a switch on the circuit, the battery slowly drains so that’s something to be corrected in a future version.
As you can see, there is still some room left over in the external bat–I mean–Pokédex, and [Npoole] intends to add another battery and a cooling fan to further improve the design. The result is a little bulky, but for new and diehard fans alike, a working Pokédex definitely worth it.
If you’ve watched the tech news these last few months, you probably have noticed the rumors that Apple is expected to dump the headphone jack on the upcoming iPhone 7. They’re not alone either. On the Android side, Motorola has announced the Moto Z will not have a jack. Chinese manufacturer LeEco has introduced several new phones sans phone jack. So what does this mean for all of us?
This isn’t the first time a cell phone company has tried to design out the headphone jack. Anyone remember HTC’s extUSB, which was used on the Android G1? Nokia tried it with their POP Port. Sony Ericsson’s attempt was the FastPort. Samsung tried a dizzying array of multi-pin connectors. HP/Palm used a magnetic adapter on their Veer. Apple themselves tried to reinvent the headphone jack by recessing it in the original iPhone, breaking compatibility with most of the offerings on the market. All of these manufacturers eventually went with the tried and true ⅛” headphone jack. Many of these connectors were switched over during an odd time in history where Bluetooth was overtaking wired “hands-free kits”, and phones were gaining the ability to play mp3 files.
We have our eyes on the horizon for an epic GPS spoof to catch some legendaries in Pokemon Go, but until that hack shows up, we really like [Brian McEvoy’s] hack for the perfect Poke Ball throw.
[Brian] started out thinking that a mechanical build would be the best way (we know he’s got the servo motors and controllers to drive them from this tea steeping robot he built last year). But the mechanics of that are just too complicated for what you get in return (less wasted Poke Balls).
He came to the realization that your finger is the best machine, it just needs some augmentation. Most of his Poke Ball throws missed to one side or another, so he turned to papercraft to guide his way. He made a tray from some paperboard packaging, then used two small stacks of Post-it notes to create a channel where your finger slides. Simply hold the phone and the paper with one hand, and use your other to follow the paper channel to a successful capture. The paperboard doesn’t affect the screen’s ability to sense your finger.
This is one we’re definitely going to try out. But visions of hardware hacks for the game that has rocked the world still dance through our heads. Are you working on anything? If so, we’d love to hear about (so send in a tip!). Those still in the idea phase can ring in below. We are weighing the feasibility of doing a man-in-the-middle between a phone and its GPS chip to spoof location. That feels like a pretty tall mountain to climb.
[Sergey Mironov] sent in his SelfieBot project. His company, Endurance Robots, sells a commercial version of the bot, which leads us to believe that in a strange and maybe brilliant move he decided to just sell the prototype stage of the product development as a kit. Since he also gave away the firmware, STLs, BOM, and made a guide so anyone can build it, we’re not complaining.
The bot is simple enough. Nicely housed hobby servos in a 3D printed case take care of the pan and tilt of the camera. The base of the bot encloses the electronics, which are an Arduino nano, a Bluetooth module, and the support electronics for power and motor driving.
To perform the face tracking, the build assumes you have a second phone. This is silly, but isn’t so unreasonable. Most people who’ve had a smart phone for a few years have a spare one living in a drawer as back-up. One phone runs the face tracking software and points the bot, via Bluetooth, towards the user. The other phone records the video.
The bot is pretty jumpy in the example video, but this can be taken care of with better motors. For a proof-of-concept, it works. A video of it in action after the break.