Building the Infinite Matrix of Tamagotchis

Tamogachi is a digital pet, living in and cared for through a key-chain size piece of hardware. The mid-90’s toy lives in pop culture, but now it lives well beyond. A limitless network of Tamagachi has been created using some amazing tricks to feed, socialize, and monitor the beast now known as the Tamagachi Singularity.

Last weekend at the Hackaday SuperConference we were graced with a talk by [Jeroen Domburg], a.k.a. [Sprite_tm]. [Sprite] is a favorite of ours and over the years his hacker cred includes everything from reverse engineering hard drive controller chips to putting video games in his keyboard.

[Sprite] is also something of an Architect, and like all Architects he only wants what is best for the system he created. In this case, it’s a Matrix of Tamagotchis. [Sprite] created a hive of Tamagotchis that are able to interact with each other in their own separate world. The best part about this Matrix? There’s no allusions to violating the laws of thermodynamics in the exposition.

Like all good hacks, a Tamagotchi Matrix wasn’t created in a vacuum. A few years ago at 29C3, [Natalie Silvanovich] dumped the ROM in the current generation of Tamagotchis. This is an incredible feat of reverse engineering, that allows anyone to use the full capabilities of the 6502-based microcontroller that controls these digital pets

After [Sprite] figured out how to read and run the code in the Tamagotchi, the next obvious step towards a world of egg-shaped pods containing an entire population of Tamagotchis is virtual Tamagotchis. [Sprite] used a hard-coded state machine that takes care of pooping, flushing, training, feeding, and turning the lights off at bedtime.

With a single Tamagotchi described as a state machine, it’s a simple matter to build another. This is where things get interesting and Matrix-ey. Tamagotchis don’t live alone; they have an IR LED and receiver that allows them to interact with each other, eat, play, marry, and have kids. Emulating a single Tamagotchi is one thing, but controlling multiples is another thing entirely; some sort of protocol was needed to breed Tamagotchis and keep them happy and well-fed.

Continue reading “Building the Infinite Matrix of Tamagotchis”

The Best Conference Badge Hacking You’ve Ever Seen

72EJpM5noCVCOQOeMV74_fmZeSQKcPxiqv70JYc9psgAs with any proper hardware con, the Hackaday Supercon needed a badge, and preferably one that was electronic. This conference centered around hardware creation, and the badge was no exception.

Designed on a tight timeline, it was possible to deliver a PCB badge for the attendees but it didn’t include microcontrollers, FPGAs, or software defined radios. This blank slate was the foundation for a completely unconstrained freestyle electronics soldering session.

The front of the badge includes a matte black solder mask with Truchet tiles of traces. Put multiple badges edge-to-edge and the pattern continues indefinitely. Inside of each curved trace is a through-hole via and those makes up a grid of holes on the back of the badge. On that back side there are also two rectangular grids that presented a nice area to which hackers soldered their components.

More than a few people took up the challenge of hacking their badge, and despite a strange pitch for the through holes (0.230″), and traces that didn’t go anywhere, there were some amazing builds. I would go so far to say that the badge hacking at the Supercon was the best I’ve ever seen, and this includes DEFCON and CCC.

Continue reading “The Best Conference Badge Hacking You’ve Ever Seen”

Water-Saving Agricultural System Wins Best Product

The 2015 Hackaday Prize included something new: a prize for the Best Product. The winner took home $100k in funding, a six-month residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, and help turning a budding product into a full-grown success. And the winner is…


vinduino-shot0007 Water is a crucial element for farming: the plants need enough, but not too much. Water is also an increasingly precious resource all over the world. In California, five times as much water is used in agriculture as is used by residential consumers. A 25% reduction in agricultural use, for instance, would entirely offset all urban water use. With this in mind, a number of California farmers are trying to voluntarily reduce their water consumption. But how?

One important development is targeted irrigation. Getting precisely the right amount of water to each plant can reduce the fraction lost to evaporation or runoff. It’s a small thing, but it’s a very big deal.

Cue Vinduino, a long-running project of “gentleman farmer” and hacker [Reinier van der Lee]. As a system, Vinduino aims to make it easy and relatively inexpensive to measure the amount of water in the soil at different depths, to log this information, and to eventually tailor the farm’s water usage to the plants and their environment. We were able to catch up with [Reinier] at the Hackaday SuperConference the day after results were announced. He shared his story of developing Vinduino and recounts how he felt when it was named Best Product:

The product that won Best Product is simple, but very well executed. It’s a hand-held soil moisture sensor reader that couples with a DIY soil probe design to create a versatile and inexpensive system. All of the 2015 Best Product Finalists were exceptional. Vinduino’s attention to detail, room for expansion, and the potential to help the world pushed this project over the top.

Continue reading “Water-Saving Agricultural System Wins Best Product”

Hackaday SuperCon Marks the Dawn of Something New

Best. Conference. Ever. And believe it or not, I don’t think this is a biased opinion.

I am of course talking about the Hackaday SuperConference – the first full-blown hardware conference we’ve ever put together. I had very high hopes going into this and was still utterly astounded by how the two-day event turned out. Let me give you three reasons why it was spectacular: The people, the people, the people.

The Presenters

[Shanni Prutchi] presenting her talk about Quantum Entanglement
[Shanni Prutchi] presenting her talk about Quantum Entanglement
Our call for proposals didn’t go out months ahead of time, instead it was mere weeks, yet we were flooded with around 160 proposals. It was a tough proposition to whittle this down to 30+ talks and workshops, but we had to because of time and space limits. Every presenter made it count. We are honored by this diverse set of people who laid down an enthralling collection of talks about hardware creation.

Just to give you a taste: the first talk, presented by Shanni Prutchi, covered the hardware used in quantum entanglement research. Quantum Entanglement Research! This highly technical subject might seem like a lot for a Saturday morning, but Shanni has a gift for explaining her work. Every person in the room was engaged throughout and stayed this way through the entire weekend.

Packed house during the talks
Packed house during the talks

SuperCon was a hardware conference that was actually about hardware. We could tell something magical was happening when we had to hunt down more chairs (borrowed from an off-site venue) to accommodate all of the people who wanted to hear the presentations. We know that the hardware community yearns for talks that go far beyond being shiny and deliver the details you need to grow your own set of engineering talents. The extra-chair anecdote proves the need for more opportunities to learn and interact with experts of hardware creation.

Don’t worry, we recorded every single one of these fantastic presentations. It will take time to edit the content but it will be freely available soon. If you’re excited about your own work and can speak about it with authority, you need to be at next year’s Hackaday SuperConference. I promise we’ll call for proposals further in advance for the next one, but start your talk prep now. You won’t want to miss it.

[Paul Stoffregen] leading his Advance Microcontroller Based Audio workshop
[Paul Stoffregen] leading his Advance Microcontroller Based Audio workshop
Conspicuously missing from our story so far are the hands-on workshops which ran concurrently with the talk track. Every workshop was sold out, and every extra chair was occupied by those who wanted to audit. Much of the workshop material is already online, and we’ll get a dedicated post out to help link you with that information.

The Attendees

Talk about the most amazing group of people to spend 30 hours with over two days. The 300 people who packed Dogpatch Studios to capacity made it impossible to have anything but a great time at the conference. These are all people with passion for hardware – I was tripping over fascinating conversations at every step.

Badge hackers hard at work as talks continue just to the left

We blocked out a few places in the schedule for lightning talks. Everyone was encouraged to sign up and participate. Since the majority of people at the conference brought hardware to show off, these blocks were as popular as the more formal presentations.

This is also how the badge hacking was presented. Conference badges were PCBs with no components. Off to the side were tables strewn with components and tools so that you could work on your badge and watch the talks at the same time. Those seats were constantly occupied. As the end of the day approached on Sunday, we had around twenty people present what they had created on this blank slate. And yes, we’ll be covering this in-depth soon so stay tuned.

The Workers

Registration did a great job of clearing this line once the doors opened
Registration did a great job of clearing this line once the doors opened

You can have talented presenters and eager attendees, but it takes a lot of hard work to keep everything running smoothly and bring the two groups together.

We had an army of volunteers and a gaggle of staff who worked together like a high-functioning machine. Registration was quick and efficient and transitions between workshops were smooth and calm. The WiFi worked (conferences are notorious for not having connectivity) and the speakers had the A/V resources they needed. There were plenty of beverages, snacks, and meals. The workers of the SuperCon — all of them hardware-lovers too — had a personal stake in pulling this off. Mission accomplished. You all rock!

We Are a Community

The SuperConference felt like home. New acquaintances treated each other like life-long friends. Everyone brought their hardware passion and treated one another as equals. And as has been proven time and again, Hackaday is a community and great things happen when we all get together with purpose. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made this possible.

Eyedrivomatic Wins the 2015 Hackaday Prize

Update: We’ve published an in-depth article about The Gaze-Controlled Wheelchair that Won the Hackaday Prize.

Eyedriveomatic are the Grand Prize winners of the 2015 Hackaday Prize. The winners were just announced on stage at the Hackaday Superconference, and awarded by the prize Judges. Eyedriveomatic is a non-invasive method of adding eye-control to powered wheelchairs. Many times these wheelchairs are rented and permanent alterations cannot be made. This inexpensive and easily adaptable hardware has the power to improve life for those who need more options for controlling powered wheelchairs.

We will be publishing more information about this year’s winners in the coming week. The full standings are listed below. Please check out all of the 2015 Hackaday Prize Finalist and the Best Product Finalists.

Continue reading “Eyedrivomatic Wins the 2015 Hackaday Prize”

Seeking Distinct Hardware Passion

This is it, the Hackaday SuperConference blasts into existence tomorrow. You should be there.

Hardware is passion. Hardware is art. Hardware is creation. Hardware is life. This is your mantra and this weekend is your one chance to connect in person with your community. At this very moment the people presenting 30+ spectacular hardware talks and hands-on workshops are headed to San Francisco to make it happen. They are joined by hundreds of Hackers, Designers, Engineers, Artists, and other Bohemians that make up something unique: a hardware conference that is actually about hardware creation.

You need to be a part of the SuperCon. It runs Saturday and Sunday at Dogpatch Studios. If you can’t make it for both days, block out your Saturday night for the Hackaday Prize Party. Starting at 5:30pm you can catch [Sprite_TM’s] talk, join a fireside chat with MythBusters veteran [Grant Imahara], be there live for the 2015 Hackaday Prize and Best Product award announcements, and then enjoy dinner and the celebration afterward. There is no charge to attend the Prize Party.

There is no better way to spend time than by exercising your passion. Don’t let the Hackaday SuperCon pass you by.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hackaday Prize Party this Saturday at the SuperConference

Last year marked the first-ever Hackaday Prize, where we challenged you to build a connected device so compelling that we’d send you to space. We awarded the Prize at a party following a day-long, multi-track hackathon in Munich, Germany. A great time was had by all.

This year, the Hackaday Prize itself is even bigger, the challenge even more ambitious, and the festivities are going to be even grander. So come join us in San Francisco this coming Saturday as we award the 2015 Hackaday Prize and throw a (free) prize party to celebrate!

The awards will be part of the first-ever Hackaday SuperConference. We’re bringing together the best minds in hardware hacking and there’s a place for you. The conference will be packed with hardware workshops, talks, food, and fun. (Don’t delay — you have three more days to buy a SuperConference ticket before prices double.) The super-charged scheduled of events have just been published.

judges-at-hackaday-prize-partyDirectly after the SuperConference, we’re opening the doors to everyone at 5:30pm — whether you’re attending the conference or not — for the presentation ceremony followed by the Hackaday Prize Party.  Many of our judges will be on hand to present the prizes and to socialize afterward: Elecia White, Lenore Edman, Windell Oskay, Ben Krasnow and Peter Dokter. Get your free Awards Ceremony ticket now!

As you know, the grand prize is a Trip to Space for the project most likely to help solve some of our hardest  challenges. Come cheer for your favorite!

Because we had so many polished projects last year, we’ve also expanded the Hackaday Prize in 2015 to include a Best Product award. Seven of the ten finalists will be on hand to find out who will go away with $100,000 in cash and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena. It’s going to be an exciting night.

Dinner is included with this free event, there will be a cash bar, and the music and festivities will carry on until 10:30pm. Please RSVP to help us plan the dinner arrangements. See you on Saturday!


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: