Hackaday At MakeDC

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Last Wednesday, our Hackaday travels took us to the Washington, DC area for a visit to NOVA Labs near Dulles and a yet-to-be opened Metro stop. Also on our itinerary was a visit to MakeDC, an informal get together for people around the nation’s capitol to show off their latest projects and builds.

The highlight of the evening was a pair of talks from [Julian] and [Taylor] on a project they did for work: a social cooler, or a locked box holding cool drinks that will only open when enough people send a text to a certain number. We’ve got [Julian]‘s talk on video, but despite our fancy new camera gear for this sorta thing, [Taylor]‘s demo of what an Electric Imp can do was lost to the digital wastes.

Aside from [Julian]‘s talk on APIs and [Taylor]‘s talk on the Electric Imp, there were a few impromptu presentations from the attendees. One of the most thorough was the duo from Shiny & Jackal Cosplay, crafters of EVA foam and LEDs. Truth be told, Hackaday doesn’t see many of these ‘softer’, cosplay and prop making builds in the tip line, and that’s a shame; the amount of skill that goes into these costumes is at least as equal as a woodsmith that can build fine furniture using only hand tools.

Perhaps a little premature, but TechShop is opening a new location in Arlington, VA at the end of the month. The GM [Addam Hall] was there scoping out the hacks and letting the attendees know there’s going to be a huge, awesome shop that’s down town in Crystal City. Close enough to public transportation, anyway, because anyone who drives in DC is certifiable.

The last item of note isn’t a build yet, but it’s shaping up to be pretty cool. It’s BRWRY – pronounced, ‘brewery’ – and will be a semi-automated beer making machine. Robots and beer, what can’t you love?

We’d like to thank [Zach], [Julian], [Taylor], and all the other guys from iStrategyLabs for putting together a nice evening of hanging out, drinking beer, eating pizza, and talking about what you’ve built. We had a great time, and we’re looking forward to the next one, as well as any other similar get together in other cities.

Hackaday Video: Safe Area Operation for Components (and Helicopters)

We’re back and this time talking about Safe Operating Area also called Safe Area Operation (SAO) which is short for the combination of things that can conspire to ruin your design. We also talk about helicopters.

Why take all of this time to discuss SAO you might ask, and what is that business about helicopters? Depending on the design there may be quite a bit of tedious math involved and sometimes there is just no avoiding it. Alternatively if you can get a feel for when math is and is not critical (based on design choices), it should be easier to get your next project up and running while still obeying the rules of the road.

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Radar Imaging in your Garage: Synthetic Aperture Radar

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Learn why you were pulled over, quantify the stealthiness of your favorite model aircraft, or see what various household items look like at 10 GHz. In this post we will describe the basics of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging, beginning with a historical perspective, showing the state of the art, and describing what can be done in your garage laboratory. Lets image with microwaves!

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Remembering the Future – SciFi Novel Tech Seen at SXSW

Remember the days when the future was console cowboys running around cyberspace trying to fry each other’s brains out? MIT Media Lab remembers too. They have a class called MAS S65: Science Fiction to Science Fabrication in which students are trying to create hardware inspired by technology imagined in the works of legendary Speculative Fiction writers such as William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and many others. They happened to be at SXSW this year showing off some of the projects their students have been working on. Since we were around, we thought we should pay them a little visit. Fifteen minutes later it was clear why working at Media Lab is a dream for so many hackers/makers out there.

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Jon Ferguson from Media Lab showed us a prototype of a game called Case and Molly, inspired by scenes in Neuromancer in which Case helps Molly navigate, by observing the world through vision-enhancing lenses sealed in her eye sockets. OK, they haven’t really build surgically-attached internet-connected lenses (yet.. we’re certain[Ben Krasnow] is working on it), but they have built a very cool snap-on 3D vision mechanism that attaches to the built-in iPhone camera. Add a little bit of live video streaming, a person with Oculus Rift and a game controller and you can party like it’s 1984.

mandala1Another interesting project is called “Mandala : I am building E14″ and it uses data collected from a sensor network in MIT E14 in order to provide a view of the universe from the standpoint of a single building. It tries to address the old “what if buildings could talk?” question by visualizing the paths of people walking around the building and providing an overall sense of activity in different areas. It is also a pretty good demonstration of all the creepy things that are yet to be built using all the ‘connected devices’ coming our way.

sensory fiction1It gets better. The Sensory Fiction project is a special book that comes with a vest which enhances the reader’s experience by providing stimulation that causes the reader to experience the same kind of physiological emotions as the characters in the book. The wearable that you have to put on supports a whole bunch of outputs: light, sound, temperature, pressure and vibration that can influence your heart rate. It is very easy to imagine so many potential ‘creative’ abuses of such a device.

limbo1Another Neuromancer-inspired piece, called LIMBO (Limbs In Motion By Others) allows synchronization of hand gestures between multiple ‘users’ over a network using a special electric muscle stimulation rig. The result is a sort of ‘meat puppet’ – one person’s hand being forced to match movement of the other. Devious ideas aside, it has great potential in helping paraplegic control their muscle movement using eye tracking.

bubblesynth5Finally, a more cheerful project called BubbleSynth demonstrates an open computer vision/sound synthesis platform using physical processes as input to granular synthesis. The current installation is based on a bubble generating machine and motion tracking as a trigger for a modular synthesizer resulting in beautiful ambient sounds. The audio part of the platform is based on SuperCollider and is completely customizable. The next iteration of the project will be using movement of a species of bacteria in order to generate the music. Why struggle learning how to play an instrument?  We’ll get bacteria do all the work.

Feel like building something similar? Hackaday’s current Sci-Fi contest is a perfect excuse. Need inspiration? Check out the syllabus for the MIT SciFi2SciFab class!

Midwest RepRap Festival: 3D Printed Waffles

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Hackaday is settling in with the action at the Midwest RepRap Festival in Goshen, Indiana. Already it’s turning out to be a great weekend; an hour after the doors opened at 6:00 pm on Friday, with a freight train blocking traffic for half the town, there were more than 100 people through the doors. I have since stopped counting.

As far as who’s here, Lulzbot, the guy behind the Smoothieboard, Ultimaker, [Josh] from MakerJuice, [Jo Prusa], [Nicholas Seward], creator of the RepRap Wally, Gus, and Simpson, and the folks from MakerHive and Maker’s Tool Works.

Everybody is having tons of fun and I’m currently giving away Hackaday T-shirts in return for a contribution to the beer fund. The real show starts Saturday morning with a waffle breakfast, talks from famous reprappers, and hours and hours of fun.

Pics of some cool stuff below, here are two live streams, videos of awesome stuff up tomorrow.

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Staff Update

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Has it really been three months since our last Staff Update? Even though you’ve been enjoying posts from these guys for quite some time now a proper introduction is in order. From left to right, please join me in welcoming [Bil Herd], [Rich Bremer], [Nick Conn], and [Abe Connelly] to the team.

[Bil] started out with a guest post on the C128 which I absolutely loved. We got to talking and he mentioned an interest in putting out some video content. His first offering for Hackaday was the segment on calculating component heat. He has a few more in the pipeline and I’m sure he’d love to hear your ideas for the subjects of future videos.

I like to choose contributors who have a wide range of interests: [Rich] has a mechanical engineering background. Nick, who is working on his Ph.D., has quite a bit of experience with medical devices. This is not to be confused with the type of bio-medical hacking which [Abe] is interested in. Learn more about all of their backgrounds over on the Hackaday Staff page.

All of the people who have joined us over the last six months came form a pool of applications received after a September hiring announcement. I posted another one last week and have received numerous applications. I’m still reviewing them so don’t worry if you haven’t heard from me, you will soon!

 

The Future Doesn’t Need Another Internet-Connected Teddybear – Hackaday at SXSW Create

Hackaday happened to be at South by Southwest this year and visited SXSW Create – part of the festival dedicated to hackers, makers and DIY scene. While modest in size, this event serves as a great contrast to the internet-hype machine omnipresent everywhere else in the city during this time. So we thought we should drop by and show them some love.

sxsw-launchpad-croppedTrey German showed us a couple of great real-time power control demos using his C2000 Launch Pad as well as his Bluetooth Cooler which, for whatever reason, decided to fail on him just in time for the big show. The demo we have been looking forward to the most was a thermocouple-controlled barbecue using Energia framework but were disappointed to learn that The Man has banned grilling hotdogs in the tent. The universe was telling us we’re not here to party.

atx_hackerspace_TARDISATX Hackerspace had a large booth featuring the full-size replica of Doctor Who’s TARDIS (who wouldn’t like to have a picture taken in one ?) and a fully-functional 1930-es vacuum tube radio with a mandatory iPad dock. We have also learned that a massive collection of working vintage vacuum tubes has been donated to the hackerspace, so if you’re in need you know who to call.

The event has also featured a long list of industry participants. The product launch we were most impressed with was Easel by Inventables, an in-browser app that enables easy control of their Shapeoko CNC milling machine and definitely has the potential of bringing the joys of design and fabrication to much larger masses.

e_coli_ut_austin_experiment1However, the most interesting things we saw were the ones a bit outside of the current tech mainstream. [Dennis] from UT Austin iGEM team showed some of the crazy work the synthetic biologists are doing out there. They have engineered Escherichia coli so that it is addicted to caffeine, used cell growth as a measure of caffeine content in particular drinks, and used that to rank local Austin coffee shops! We have also talked with several guys working on automated gardens and soil sensors who were educating attendees about the huge potential that increased environmental data aggregation can have on the ways we grow food.

To quote the Growerbot guys : “We definitely have enough Internet-connected teddy bears. We need more Internet-connected tomato plants”.

Stick with us after the jump to see a gallery with all our adventures at 2014 SXSW.

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