CES: Meetups, Augmented Reality, and Robots

Hackaday started off Thursday of the Consumer Electronics Show with an impromptu breakfast meetup. This turns out to be a wonderful thing as it lets you ease into a 16 hour day of standing, walking, talking, and getting lost trying to find your way from conference hall to conference hall. We had a great turnout and many brought their hacks and demos to show off. A big thanks to the Sambalatte staff who are awesome people and top tier baristas.

CastAR

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Before leaving for CES I was talking to [Ben Krasnow] about what we should try to see and he suggested looking for private showings that are given in the suites of the hotels at the conference. Turns out our friends at Technical Illusions are doing just that. [Jeri] and [Rick] were showing off CastAR in a suite during the week and were nice enough to make room in their booked schedule for a private Demo.

What you see above are the guts of the version they are currently shipping as part of their Kickstarter fulfillment. I also got a look at a rev2 prototype and will write a follow-up post with more information on the whole experience when I have more time.

Eureka, Startups!

There is a loop of aisles in the Sands that has startup booths and most of the interesting things I saw on Wednesday and Thursday are there. Here we have a jamming gripper robot arm. It’s designed for things like moving oddly shaped goods on a manufacturing line. Empire Robotics hit a homerun with their demo for the booth, a take on beer-bong: robot versus human. The scoreboard showed the robot winning an order of magnitude more than the humans.

[Todd] was at was at the Tinkerines booth showing off 3D printers aimed to augmented the STEM curriculum. We couldn’t help but notice his TIE fighter right and inquired about it. He modeled the design himself, send it off to be cast in silver, and inlaid the stone when the ring came back from the casting service. Sweet!

LVBots

[Sarah Petkus] clued me in and gave me a ride to the Pololu CES open house. The night coincided with the LVBots meetup which they support by providing space for the meetings. There were lots of cool robots being shown off. What you see here was just the pre-meeting warmup of line-followers and sumo robots. I shot some video of the show-and-tell which we’ll post once we’ve had a chance to edit the content.

Closing out CES

wpid-wp-1420824368323.jpegToday is the last day of the conference. I stopped by the Voltera PCB printer booth yesterday but they were nowhere to be found. Turns out they were being handed a $50k check by TechCrunch for winning the Battleground. I suppose we’ll give them a pass for not being at the table during that!

I’ll be headed over this afternoon to catch up with them. I’m also hoping to get a look at the Voxel8 printer. If you have any other “can’t-miss” suggestions let me know in the comments and I’ll try to add them to my CES dance card.

CES: Building Booths and Simulating Reality

My first day on the ground at CES started with a somewhat amusing wait at the Taxi Stand of the McCarran International Airport. Actually I’m getting ahead of myself… it started with a surprisingly efficient badge-pickup booth in the baggage claim of the airport. Wait in line for about three minutes, and show them the QR code emailed to you from online registration and you’re ready to move to the 1/4 mile-long, six-switchback deep line for cabs. Yeah, there’s a lot of people here for this conference.

It’s striking just how huge this thing is. Every hotel on the strip is crawling with badge-wearing CES attendees. Many of the conference halls in the hotels are filled with booths, meaning the thing is spread out over a huge geographic area. We bought three-day monorail passes and headed to the convention center to get started.

Building the Booths

[Sophi] knows [Ben Unsworth] who put his heart and soul into this year’s IEEE booth. His company, Globacore, builds booths for conferences and this one sounds like it was an exceptional amount of fun to work on. He was part of a tiny team that built a mind-controlled drag strip based on Emotive Insight brainwave measuring hardware shipped directly from the first factory production run. This ties in with the display screens above the track to form a leader board. We’ll have a keen eye out for hacks this week, but the story behind building these booths may be the best hack to be found.

Oculus

[Ben] told us hands-down the thing to see is the new Oculus hardware called Crescent Bay. He emphatically mentioned The Holodeck which is a comparison we don’t throw around lightly. Seems like a lot of people feel that way because the line to try it out is wicked long. We downloaded their app which allows you to schedule a demo but all appointments are already taken. Hopefully our Twitter plea will be seen by their crew.

In the meantime we tried out the Oculus Gear VR. It uses a Galaxy Note 4 as the screen along with lenses and a variety of motion tracking and user controls. The demo was a Zelda-like game where you view the scene from overhead. This used a handheld controller to command the in-game character with the headset’s motion tracking used to look around the playing area. It was a neat demo, I’m not quite sold on long gaming sessions with the hardware but maybe I just need to get used full-immersion first.

Window to another Dimension

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The midways close at six o’clock and we made our way to the Occipital booth just as they were winding done. I’ve been 3D scanned a few times before but those systems used turntables and depth cameras on motorized tracks to do the work. This uses a depth-camera add-on for an iPad which they call Structure Sensor.

It is striking how quickly the rig can capture a model. This high-speed performance is parlayed into other uses, like creating a virtual world inside the iPad which the user navigates by using the screen as if it were a magic window into another dimension. Their demo was something along the lines of the game Portal and has us thinking that the Wii U controller has the right idea for entertainment, but it needs the performance that Occipital offers. I liked this experience more than the Oculus demo because you are not shut off from the real world as you make your way through the virtual.

We shot some video of the hardware and plan to post more about it as soon as we get the time to edit the footage.

Find Us or Follow Us

josh-can-hardwareWe’re wearing our Hackaday shirts and that stopped [Josh] in his tracks. He’s here on business with his company Evermind, but like any good hacker he is carrying around one of his passion projects in his pocket. What he’s showing off are a couple of prototypes for a CANbus sniffer and interface device that he’s build.

We’ll be at CES all week. You can follow our progress through the following Twitter accounts: @Hackaday, @HackadayPrize, @Szczys, and @SophiKravitz. If you’re here in person you can Tweet us to find where we are. We’re also planning a 9am Thursday Breakfast meetup at SambaLatte in the Monte Carlo. We hope you’ll stop by and say hi. Don’t forget to bring your own hardware!

 

Trinket EDC Contest – The Deadline Approaches

We’ve got just under 2 days left in the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest. With 79 entries, and t-shirts going to the top 50 entrants, you’ve got pretty darn good odds of getting a shirt out of all of this! The design is great too, [Joe Kim] really did a great job with it!

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The idea is simple: Build small, pocketable projects which are useful everyday.

We explained everything in our announcement post, and the full rules are available on the contest page. But just as a reminder, the main requirements are

  • The project Must use a Pro Trinket, or a board based on the open source Pro Trinket design.
  • The project must have at least 3 project logs
  • The project must have at least one video
  • The Hackaday.io project must include enough documentation to allow an average hobbyist to replicate the project

There are already some awesome entries vying for the top prize, but who knows – someone may come out of nowhere and walk away with a sweet Rigol ds1054z oscilloscope!

 

The contest deadline is January 3rd, at 12:00 am PDT. The clock is ticking, so stop waiting, and go build something awesome! Good luck to everyone who enters!

Hacking Education; Project-Based Learning Trumps the Ivory Tower

Project-based learning, hackathons, and final projects for college courses are fulfilling a demand for hands-on technical learning that had previously fallen by the wayside during the internet/multi-media computer euphoria of the late 90’s. By getting back to building actual hardware yourself, Hackers are influencing the direction of education. In this post we will review some of this progress and seek your input for where we go next.

Continue reading “Hacking Education; Project-Based Learning Trumps the Ivory Tower”

[Sophi Kravitz] Joins the Hackaday Crew

Please join us in welcoming [Sophi Kravitz] to the Hackaday crew. She is coming on board to crank on the 2015 Hackaday Prize. You may remember a post from a few weeks ago when we were in search of a person with a skill set that could only be described as mythical. [Sophi] jumped at the chance and it is immediately clear that she belongs here.

[Sophi] walks the walk, and talks the talk. She’s an EE and has worked with art installations, built props and FX for movies, and tackled jobs that some might consider ‘more serious’ engineering challenges. Her passion for electronics has led her to evangelize education on the subject by working with student programs, and she recently served as a Hacker in Residence with Sparkfun. Her love of the hardware community already has her promoting hacking by immersing herself in Hackerspace culture and organizing events like the Bring a Hack meetup at Maker Faire New York.

We have big plans for the 2015 Hackaday Prize which will be announced soon. In the meantime, anyone attending the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week can meet up with [Sophi] and find out about the plans we’ve made so far. She will be at CES to represent Hackaday along with [Mike Szczys] and [Sarah Petkus]. We’re planning an impromptu meetup for anyone interested. Reply to this Tweet to tell us you’ll be there and we’ll make sure to get you the details when we have them. And of course, if you want to get your hands on some Hackaday stickers track us down during the conference. Check out our CES Twitter list to make more connections.

Trinket EDC Contest Entry: Shorty

Sometimes finding a short-circuit is easy, especially after the magic smoke has escaped. Finding a short on a newly etched or milled board though, can be a maddening task. Many of us have been there – wrestling with multimeter probes under a magnifier trying to find the offending bit of copper that is the source of all our problems. [Jaromir] designed Shorty to make this task a little bit easier.

Shorty is a short-circuit finder – but it’s not exactly like the one you would find on a typical multimeter.  [Jaromir] used MCP6041 Op-Amp to detect resistances down to the order of tens of milliohms. Determining an exact resistance measurement at these levels would require a heck of a lot of calibration. When looking for a short though, [Jaromir] is only concerned with the relative value – is he getting closer to or further away from the short. He determines this by sound. The Op-Amp output is sent to the Pro Trinket’s ADC input. The trinket drives a speaker with lower or higher tones based upon the ADC voltage. Much like the childhood game of “hot and cold”, Shorty will direct you right to your short!

There’s still time to enter the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest. The main contest runs until January 2, but we’re having random drawings every week! Don’t forget to write a project log before the next drawing at 9pm EST on Tuesday, December 30th. You and all of the other entrants have a chance to win a Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store!

Trinket EDC Contest Entry: Can I Borrow a Feeling?

We got a case of the Mondays just reading about [Sascha]’s work environment. Get this: every morning, first thing, the whole team gets together to check in and share how they’re all feeling. And they can’t even be candid about it—there’s actually an approved list of feeling descriptors, both good and bad. It’s an admittedly big list that includes, interestingly enough, both ‘tortured’ and ‘embarrassed’. Yeah. We think something like group t’ai chi on the roof each morning sounds a lot more relaxing. Since [Sascha] is between a rock and a hard place on this one, it was time to let chance take over. He raised his HaD-imprinted Trinket skyward and Can I Borrow a Feeling? was born.

The gist is simple: [Sascha] abstracts his disposition out to either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and pushes the corresponding button. The Trinket accesses an array and returns a randomly selected feeling to the LCD. Since the official list of feelings is about 300 words long, [Sascha] has to push the data into PROGMEM. He used good old Excel to split the list in twain, and her formulas came in very handy for centering the result on the LCD. Once [Sascha] knew how it would all fit together, he designed a cool enclosure in CorelDRAW and turned on the laser cutter. See the Spreadsheet of Acceptable Words for yourself on GitHub, and pick up the code and enclosure file while you’re there.

There’s still time to enter the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest.  The main contest runs until January 2, but we’re having random drawings every week! Don’t forget to write a project log before the next drawing at 9pm EST on Tuesday, December 30th. You and all of the other entrants have a chance to win a Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store!