SXSW Create: ATX Hackerspace Area

We had a wonderful time over the weekend at the 2015 SXSW Create. I was really excited to see that there was a very large area set aside for the Hackerspaces of the Austin area and they took full advantage of that. Most notably, ATX Hackerspace who had multiple tables and was drawing a huge crowd.

sxsw-atx-thereminThis table is a good example of the demonstrations on hand. Primarily It’s a collection of ultrasonic theremin. The classic theremin uses oscillator-based sound production (we’ve been running a series on that concept) with a set of antennas that uses your body’s proximity to tweak that signal. This version mimics the user interface but greatly simplifies the skillset needed to produce the instrument by swapping the antenna for an ultrasonic rangefinder and generating the audio digitally. The more astute viewer will have noticed the instrument being held. I neglected to ask about this but it sure looks like a Holophonor which is another great seed idea for your next project. Update: it’s a Hulusi.

sxsw-atx-solderingI do think it’s worth noting that ATX also set aside a lot of table-space for their members to actually work on building projects at the event. We’re big advocates of this rather than simply exhibiting finished projects. It doesn’t really matter what you’re working on; seeing a table covered with interesting parts and tools, being worked on by fun people obviously enjoy each other’s company is the core message of a Hackerspace… right?

I talk with [Gardner] about ATX in the video after the break, and make a quick loop around the display tables.

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Hackaday Prize Worldwide: SXSW

Having announced the start of the 2015 Hackaday Prize a few days ago, it’s time to take the message to the people. We’ll be evangelizing the message of grass-roots hardware development all over the world this year. The next event starts tomorrow in Austin, Texas and is free for all to attend.

Friday Mid-Day Meetup

Join the Hackaday Crew at the Hackaday South by Southwest Meetup on Friday from 11am-12pm. We’ll be discussing the bright future of small shop and grass roots hardware development. This concept ties into the 2015 Hackaday Prize which calls on you do develop solutions to some of the problems found in your community. Want to organize your own #HackadayPrize event to help get the word out? Great! Email prize -at- and we’ll help with the planning.

Friday Night at Hardware House

Find us on Friday Night at Hardware House. They are presenting several talks; notably from [Huge Fiennes] (Co-founder of Electric Imp), [Sam de Brouwer] (Co-founder of Scanadu), [Nick Yulman] (from Kickstarter), and [Jason Johnson] (Co-Founder of August). In between there will be some lightning talks and [Sophi] will be giving one on the 2015 Hackaday Prize. and we’ll be sticking around for the socializing as well. It runs from 6-9pm… don’t forget to RSVP.

Stuffing 150 sq. ft. with Hardware

The finalists from last year’s Hackaday Prize were gracious enough to lend us their prototypes to exhibit at our SXSW Create Booth which is open Friday through Sunday. These are SatNOGS, ChipWhisperer, PortableSDR, Open Science Tricorder, and RamanPi. Thank you to them all, we’ll make sure to bring some of those along to the meetup. We’re also happy to have one of [Radu Motisan’s] uRADMonitor modules on hand, one of the Mooltipass beta units which were the topic of the Developed on Hackaday series, and one of [Macetech’s] new LED glasses (which we might just be giving away to someone who stops by).

Tacos or Drinks or Hangouts, oh my

The midway is open 11-6 everyday but you can bet after that (and perhaps before) we’ll be looking to do some socializing. Hit us up on Twitter if you have any suggestions or wonder what we’re up to. Assuming the Internet is working we’ll be checking and Tweeting regularly. On site we’ll be using the following accounts: @Hackaday,, @HackadayPrize.

Hackaday Meetup at SXSW

Each year the giant South by Southwest (SXSW) festival descends on Austin, Texas. It attracts droves of music lovers, among them an ocean of our kind of tech geeks. This year the crowd will trend evermore in that direction since Hackaday has decided to be there too!

In addition to scouring the crowd for awesome tech, we have a booth and are hosting an organized Hackaday meetup on Friday 3/13 at 11:00am. It’s free to all so put it on your calendar now! Several of our Hackaday crew will be there, we’re bringing cool hardware, and of course we’ll have some swag in tow the most hardcore of hackers.

This is one chance to talk about our passion: hardware development. We’ll be discussing the concept of focused and sustained efforts at building hardware as individuals, small teams, and a growing community. We know this is possible… we saw a lot of it with The Hackaday Prize and had a great look at one type of distributed development process through Developed on Hackaday which followed the Mooltipass project. Of course it’s not a lecture so bring your own ideas while we all chew the fat of what the future needs to look like.

As we mentioned, we have a booth at SXSW Create. Entry is again free to all and runs 11am-6pm for three days — find us in one of the four corner stalls. There we will be exhibiting the hardware from SatNOGS, ChipWhisperer, PortableSDR, Open Science Tricorder, and RamanPi. Don’t know what’s notable about these projects? They all won big for sharing the details of their future tech designs.

So, find us there! Give a shout on Twitter if you wonder what’s going on (we’re always looking for a good impromptu beer meetup or taco crawl). @hackaday@hackadayio@hackadayprize

Midwest RepRap Festival, March 20-22nd

Right now there are two emails in my inbox inviting me to 3D printer conventions. If you’re not familiar with how these cons go, here’s a quick recap: a bunch of 3D printer manufacturers set up their booths the day before, put a printer behind an acrylic enclosure, start a very complex print, and come back the next day. This printer finally completes the print sometime Sunday afternoon, a bunch of people walk by the booths, and the entire venue is filled with enough morose faces as to be comparable to one of the higher circles of hell.

The Midwest RepRap Festival is not this con. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the only 3D printing convention that isn’t a trade show. It’s a blast, it’s March 20th through the 22nd, and we’re going to be there.

This will be our second expedition to the MRRF. Last year we saw 3D printed resin molds, and a strange Core XZ printer from [Nicholas Seward], the mind that brought you the odd Reprap Wally and Simpson. The most interesting man in the universe was there with a Smoothieboard. There were talks on 3D Bioprinting by [Jordan Miller] from Rice University, and everyone ate 3D printed waffles. If you’re looking for the possibilities 3D printing offers, this is the con to go to. If you’re looking for people to sell you stuff, look elsewhere.

This event is organized by the folks at SeeMeCNC, and it will be held on their home turf of Goshen, Indiana. Yes, you will be passing Amish buggies on the way to the event. Even though the MRRF is being held in the middle of nowhere, it was absolutely shocking how many people turned up last year and how good the con was. To put this in perspective, I’m driving nine hours to MRRF, and going to Maker Faire NYC takes me four hours. If I had to choose one 3D printing event to go to, this would be the one. That’s not just because I’m told there will be a t-shirt cannon at MRRF.

The event is free and open to everybody. You can just show up, although it would be a good idea to register. You’ll see the World’s Largest 3D Printed Trash Can. Yes, I’m serious. Call Guinness.

Face Recognition For Your Next Con

[jwcrawley] is busy planning for the Makevention coming up in Bloomington, Indiana in late August. One problem when working any con is manning the door; it’s a good idea to know how many people are there, and you can’t double count people. Previously, the volunteers used dead trees to estimate how many people have turned up. This year they might go with a more technological solution: face recognition and tracking.

The project is called uWho, and it uses the faceRecognizer class in OpenCV. The purpose of the entire project is to identify who someone is from previous frames. If your face is unknown to the program, your likeness – rather, a few points of data – are added to the database of faces. It’s simple, and according to [jwcrawley], it works.

While this is technically the best way to count how many unique people show up to Makevention, there will be some discussions to see if this solution is appropriate. The program only saves unique data from a face locally, and does nothing online. It’s less evil than whatever Facebook does, but there are obvious privacy implications here.

Link to the Makevention.

Celebrating the Omnibus Launch

On Thursday night Hackaday hosted an event in San Francisco to commemorate the launch of the 2014 Hackaday Omnibus. Our first print edition, compiled to commemorate some of the finest original content which we published last year should begin shipping as early as today. To celebrate the occasion, we were graced by a full house of amazing guests. Is it lame to say some of the people I respect most in the world were there?

Lightning Talks

Whenever you get a lot of people together, a good rule of thumb is to seize the opportunity to have them speak about what they’re doing. It’s not a big “ask” either; 8-minutes on what you’re passionate about is pretty simple.

[Jonathan Foote] gave a talk on generating RGBY colors from Hue. The project is ongoing but explores the concept of mixing colors of light with one additional source added to traditional red, green, and blue. [Priya Kuber] recently moved to San Francisco. She recently concluded more than a year of standing up the Arduino office in India (relevant but unrelated video). Her talk covered the emerging maker/hacker hardware scene in India which is showing amazing growth. [Chris McCoy] demonstrated his Raver Rings which began a Kickstarter on the same day. [Elecia White] of spoke about the educational opportunities that podcasts and other delivery medium provide and the responsibility we all have to guide our continued learning. [Emile Petrone] talked about an upcoming feature for his site Tindie which will add manufacturer information and ratings to the mix. And rounding things out [Dave Grossman] gave a talk on his Virtual Carl project which used video footage of his grandfather, combined with a Raspberry Pi and peripherals to create a remembrance of the man in virtual form.


[Ben Krasnow] shows off the chamber containing supercritical carbon dioxide.
During the rest of the evening there were a few spectacular demos going on. First, [Ben Krasnow] who is well known for his Applied Science series (among a million other accolades), brought at least two demos with him. The first was a pressure chamber made out of two massively thick discs of acrylic separated by a metal ring. Inside the void he had pumped and pressurized CO2. When the chamber is heated it, the contents become Supercritical Carbon Dioxide and the visual transition between liquid and gas disappears.

He also showed off a lens that can be focused electronically. This is not mechanical, there are zero moving parts. Instead a droplet of oil floating in water is the lens. A 75V, AC power supply pulls on the droplet, altering the meniscus to focus the lens. He didn’t fabricate the device from scratch, but the concept is completely new to us and quite interesting.

[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
Othermill is located in the SF area. They produce a desktop milling machine which is spectacular at routing PCBs. The little wonder isn’t limited to that though. Above you can see [Brian] holding up a milled wooden plaque which has milled mother-of-pearl inlays. The table is also strewn with other examples in wax, metal, wood, and more.

Cocktail Hour

The rest of the evening was devoted to conversation on all topics. Get enough hardware geeks in one room and they’ll solve the world’s problems, right? That’s a conversation for another post.

Couldn’t make it to this one but still in the San Francisco area at least occasionally? We held this at the Supplyframe office. They host a ton of great events like the Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic.

[Thanks to Richard Hogben for the photos!]

Audience Pong and RC Trash bins: An intro to TEI

This past weekend, I had the chance to visit this year’s Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction Conference (TEI) and catch up with a number of designers in the human-computer-interaction space. The conference brings together a unique collection of artists, computer scientists, industrial designers, and grad students to discuss computer interactivity in today’s world. Over the span of five days (two for workshops, and three for paper presentations), not only did I witness a number of today’s current models for computer interactivity (haptics, physical computing with sensors), I also witnessed a number of excellent projects: some developed just to prove a concept, others, to present a well-refined system or workflow. It’s hard to believe, but our computer mouse has sat beneath our fingertips since 1963; this conference is the first place I would start looking to find new ways of “mousing” with tomorrow’s technology.

Over the next few days, I’ll be shedding more light on a few projects from TEI. (Some have already seen the light of day.) For this first post, though, I decided to highlight two projects tied directly to the conference culture itself.

Before each lunch break, the audience was invited to take part in an audience-driven interactive game of “Collective” Pong. With some image processing running in the background, players held up pink cards to increase the height of their respective paddle–albeit by a miniscule amount. The audience member’s corresponding paddle weight was mapped to their respective marker location on the screen (left or right). It turns out that this trick is a respectful nod back to its original performance by [Loren Carpenter] at Siggraph in 1991. With each audience member performing their own visual servoing to bring the paddle to the right height, we were able to give the ball a good whack for 15 minutes while lunch was being prepared.


Next off, the conference’s interactivity spread far beyond the main conference room. During our lunch breaks we had the pleasure of discarding our scraps in a remotely operated trash bin. Happily accepting our refuse, this bin did a quick jiggle when users placed items inside. Upon closer inspection, a Roomba and Logitech camera gave it’s master a way of navigating the environment from inside some remote secret lair.

Overall, the conference was an excellent opportunity to explore the design space of tinkerers constantly re-imagining the idea of how we interact with today’s computers and data. Stay tuned for more upcoming projects on their way. If you’re curious for more details on the papers presented or layout of the conference, have a look at this year’s website.

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