The Hoverboard You Can Build At Home

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Press embargoes lifted today, heralding the announcement of the world’s first hoverboard. Yes, the hovering skateboard from Back to the Future. It’s called the Hendo hoverboard, it’s apparently real, and you can buy one for $10,000. If that’s too rich for your blood, you can spend $900 for a ‘technology demonstrator’ – a remote-controlled hovering box powered by the same technology.

Of course the world’s first hoverboard is announced to the world as a crowd funding campaign, so before we get to how this thing is supposed to work, we’ll have to do our due diligence. The company behind this campaign, Arx Pax Labs, Inc, exists, as does the founder. All the relevant business registration, biographical information, and experience of the founder and employees of Arx Pax check out to my satisfaction. In fact, at least one employee has work experience with the innards of electric motors. At first glance, the company itself is actually legit.

The campaign is for a BttF-style hoverboard, but this is really only a marketing strategy for Arx Pax; the hoverboards themselves are admittedly loss leaders even at $10,000 – the main goal of this Kickstarter is simply to get media attention to the magnetic levitation technology found in the hoverboard. All of this was carefully orchestrated, with a ‘huge event’ to be held exactly one year from today demonstrating a real, working hoverboard. What’s so special about demoing a hoverboard on October 21, 2015?

next year

I defy anyone to come up with a better marketing campaign than this.

The meat of the story comes from what has until now been a scientific curiosity. Everyone reading this has no doubt seen superconductors levitated off a bed of magnets, and demonstrations of eddy currents are really just something cool you can do with a rare earth magnet and a copper pipe. What [Greg Henderson] and Arx Pax have done is take these phenomena and turned them into a platform for magnetic levitation.

According to the patent, the magnetic levitation system found in the Hendo hoverboard works like this:

  • One or more electric motors spin a series of rotors consisting of an arrangement of strong permanent magnets.
  • The magnets are arranged in a Halbach array that enhances the magnetic field on one side of the array, and cancels it on the other.
  • By placing the rotors over a conductive, non-ferrous surface – a sheet of copper or aluminum, for example – eddy currents are induced in the conductive surface.
  • These eddy currents create a magnetic field that opposes the magnetic field that created it, causing the entire device to levitate.

That’s it. That’s how you create a real, working hoverboard. Arx Pax has also developed a method to control a vehicle equipped with a few of these hover disks; the $900 ‘Whitebox’ technology demonstrator includes a smart phone app as a remote control.

If you’re still sitting in a steaming pile of incredulity concerning this invention, you’re in good company. It’s a fine line between being blinded by brilliance and baffled by bullshit, so we’re leaving this one up to you: build one of these devices, put it up on hackaday.io, and we’ll make it worth your while. We’re giving away some gift cards to the Hackaday store for the first person to build one of these hoverboards, preferably with a cool body kit. The Star Wars landspeeder has already been done, but the snowspeeder hasn’t. Surprise us.

Hackaday Munich Speaker: Sprite_TM

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Plans for Hackaday Munich are coming along quite nicely. Today we’re happy to announce that [Sprite_TM] will be speaking at the event. Click that link above and make sure you get your tickets for November 13th. You can do some hands-on hacking at the Embedded Hardware Workshop, hear the talks, find out which of the five finalists will be the grand prize winner, and enjoy The Hackaday Prize Party along with the Hackaday crew.

You may also know [Sprite_TM] as [Jeroen Domburg], one of the judges for The Hackaday Prize. That’s him on the left in the image above (we love a good avatar!). If you follow Hackaday, you should already be thrilled about meeting him and hearing his talk. The last talk we remember reading about was an epic hard drive controller hack. Just last month we saw a well-executed clock radio overhaul from him. While we’re on the topic, his micro-bots were a spectacular project.

[Sprite_TM] has also offered to help out with the reverse engineering workshop. We’re hard at work making sure everything is in place for those afternoon hacking events. As we solidify details we’ll be adding workshop pages (and emailing those already registered for Hackaday Munich) to let everyone know what to expect. We can report that we have shipped [Sprite_TM] a Bus Pirate so that he can be familiar with it. This will be the primary tool provided for this particular workshop.

The entire Hackaday crew is looking forward to it. See you there!

Think Before You Measure – Old Test Gear and Why It Is Awesome

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Good, workable test gear is key to enabling our hobby. In this post we will discuss where to procure it at rock-bottom prices, what to look for, how to fix it, and how to tailor your laboratory practices around gear that may not be reliable.

We are lucky to be living in an era with plentiful high-quality test gear. Since the Second World War, surplus test gear has been in abundance at low costs enabling hobbyists, innovators, and academics to experiment and build great things. If you are willing to think before you measure you can save serious amounts of money and have a professional laboratory in your home.

Where to buy
The obvious answer is eBay, but the deals on test equipment are at the hamfests. Don’t be fooled by the name. Hamfests sell much more than amateur radio equipment. Hamfests are swap meets where hobbyists trade electronics of all kinds. Check out the ARRL hamfest calendar to find the next local one near you! I suggest you arrive early, however. The culture of hamfests tends to favor showing up as soon as the doors open and leaving about two hours before the official end. The early bird gets the worm!

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Hackaday Munich — Get Your Ticket Now!

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If you’re anywhere remotely near Munich in November you’re not going to want to miss this. Hackaday is throwing our first European event! The fun runs from 12:30-23:30 on Thursday, November 13th, 2014.

Take the afternoon off of work

Tell your boss this is professional development, then grab all your hacking gear and head on down to Technikum at the Munich Kultfabrik.

Our set of workshops will test your embedded skills whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran. These include controlling small robots, working with audio processing from a Moog synth, reverse engineering some mystery hardware, and trying your hand at machine vision.

Try win the afternoon’s challenges. Implement the fastest and most reliable robot brain, design the best Moog synth add-on circuit. Or prove your logic skills by coding a perfect Computer Vision game solver. We’ll bring some prizes for those that show the most clever and impressive skill.

Take in the talks and learn the winner of The Hackaday Prize

Beginning at 19:00 we present a couple of talks about embedded hardware sure to impress the most discerning of hackers. Immediately following we will announce the Grand Prize winner of the 2014 Hackaday Prize. This Open Hardware build is the project that made it through more than 800 entries to secure a trip into space and eternal recognition from the Hackaday community.

Finish the day with a party

Finally, we’ll dim the lights and turn up the music for The Hackaday Prize Party. Enjoy some food and beverages, get yourself 3D scanned, try your hand at some vintage video games, and enjoy the company of the Hackaday Community. In attendance will be [Mike Szczys], [Brian Benchoff], [Aleksandar Bradic], [Jasmine Brackett], and [Ben Delarre].

We’ll see you there!

Announcing the Five Finalists for The Hackaday Prize

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Six months ago we challenged you to realize the future of open, connected devices. Today we see the five finalists vying for The Hackaday Prize.

These five were chosen by our panel of Launch Judges from a pool of fifty semifinalists. All of them are tools which leverage Open Design in order to break down the barriers of entry for a wide range of interests. They will have a few more weeks to polish and refine their devices before [Chris Anderson] joins the judging panel to name the winner.

Starting on the top left and moving clockwise:

ChipWhisperer, an embedded hardware security research device goes deep into the world of hardware penetration testing. The versatile tool occupies an area in which all-in-one, wide-ranging test gear had been previously non-existant or was prohibitively expensive to small-shop hardware development which is so common today.

SatNOGS, a global network of satellite ground stations. The design demonstrates an affordable node which can be built and linked into a public network to leverage the benefits of satellites (even amateur ones) to a greater extent and for a wider portion of humanity.

PortableSDR, is a compact Software Defined Radio module that was originally designed for Ham Radio operators. The very nature of SDR makes this project a universal solution for long-range communications and data transfer especially where more ubiquitous forms of connectivity (Cell or WiFi) are not available.

ramanPi, a 3D printed Raman Spectrometer built around a RaspberryPi with some 3D printed and some off-the-shelf parts. The design even manages to account for variances in the type of optics used by anyone building their own version.

Open Source Science Tricorder, a realization of science fiction technology made possible by today’s electronics hardware advances. The handheld is a collection of sensor modules paired with a full-featured user interface all in one handheld package.

From Many, Five

The nature of a contest like the Hackaday Prize means narrowing down a set of entries to just a few, and finally to one. But this is a function of the contest and not of the initiative itself.

The Hackaday Prize stands for Open Design, a virtue that runs far and deep in the Hackaday community. The 50 semifinalists, and over 800 quarterfinalists shared their work openly and by doing so provide a learning platform, an idea engine, and are indeed the giants on whose shoulders the next evolution of hackers, designers, and engineers will stand.

Whether you submitted an entry or not, make your designs open source, interact with the growing community of hardware engineers and enthusiasts, and help spread the idea and benefits of Open Design.

Hackaday 10th Anniversary: Wrap-up

A little more than a month ago we saw the 10 year anniversary of the first Hackaday post ever, and last week we had a little get together in Pasadena to celebrate the occasion. Everyone had a great time, building tiny line-following robots and LiPo chargers, listening to some great talks, and in the evening we all had a lot of fun emptying some kegs. We couldn’t ask for a better crowd, and we thank everyone who came (and those of you who watched everything on the livestream) for participating.

As far as specific people go, we need to thank [charliex], [arko] and everyone else from Null Space Labs for helping out with the weird rotary encoder two-player version of Duck Hunt. The folks from Crashspace were also there, helping out and lending a steady hand and hot soldering iron during the workshops. Shoutouts also go to [datagram] and [jon king] for running the lockpicking workshop, and [Todd Black] deserves a mention for his lithium battery charger workshop. All the speakers deserve to be mentioned again, and you can check out a playlist of their talks below:

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Hackaday 10th Anniversary: Jon McPhalen and the Propeller

[Jon] came out to our 10th anniversary mini-con to talk about the Propeller, and judging from his short introduction, his hacker cred is through the roof. He has a page on IMDb, and his first computer was a COSMAC. Around 1993, he heard of a small company introducing the BASIC Stamp, and like us with most new technology was incredulous this device could perform as advertised. He tried it, though, and for a few years after that, he was programming the BASIC Stamp every single day.

Having a lot of blinky light project under his belt, [Jon] was always struggling with interrupts, figuring out a way to blink an LED exactly when he wanted it to blink. A lot has changed over at Parallax since 1993, and now they’re spending time with the Propeller, an 8-core microcontroller where interrupts are a thing of the past. He showed off a huge, 10-foot tall bear from League of Legends, all controlled with a single Propeller, using 1000 LEDs to look like fire and flames.

[Jon] shared the architecture of the Propeller, and the inside of this tiny plastic-encapsulated piece of silicon is wild; it’s eight 32-bit microcontrollers, all sharing some ROM and RAM, controlled by something called a Cog that gives each micro access to the address, data, and IO pins.

When the Propeller was first released, there were a few questions of how the chip would be programmed. C isn’t great for multicore work, so Parallax came up with a language called Spin. It’s written for multicore microcontrollers, and from [Jon]‘s little session in demo hell, it’s not that much harder to pick up than Python. Remember that hour or two where you learned the syntax of Python? Yeah, learning Spin isn’t a huge time investment.

Even though you can program the Propeller in C and C++, there’s a reason for Spin being the official language of the Propeller. It isn’t even that hard, and if you want to dip your toes in multicore microcontroller programming, the Propeller is the way to do it. It’s an open source chip as well so you can give it a try with an FPGA board.

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