Hackit: Researchers wait 69-years to see tar move

69-year-science-experiement

This experiment was started at Trinity College Dublin way back in 1944. Its purpose is to prove that tar flows, and indeed it does let go of a drop about every ten years. The thing is that nobody has ever seen that happen, bringing up the “if a tree falls in the forest” scenario. The Nature article on this event even mentions another experiment whose last drop was missed because the camera monitoring it was offline. This time around they did get some footage of the (un)momentous event which you can see below.

So here’s the challenge for clever hackers: What’s the easiest rig you can think of that won’t just continuously film the experiment but can also ensure that you get the goods on tape when a drop does fall? We see all kinds of high-speed shutter triggers — here’s one of the latest. But we don’t remember seeing an extremely slow version of the same. Let us know your idea by leaving a comment.

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HackIt: Sony invites you to hack its SmartWatch firmware

sony-smartwatch-hacking

This is Sony’s smart watch, which has been around for a while now. It’s designed for use with your Android phone, and has always included an SDK that allows app developers to interact with it. But now Sony is taking it one big step further. They’ve published everything you need to know to hack your own firmware for the SmartWatch.

The navigation scheme for that articles includes five menu items at the bottom which you’ll want to dig through. The most interesting to us was the one labeled “SmartWatch hacker guide”. It lays bare the hardware used in the watch and how it’s peripheral component connect to each other. This starts with the STM32 (ARM) microcontroller that drives the watch. It goes on to document how the screen is addressed (SPI1) including the pin to turn it on and off. The same goes for the Bluetooth, accelerometer, buzzer, and touch sensors.

Firmware is updated via USB using Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) mode. We don’t don’t see any way to connect an on-chip debugger. We searched to see if there is a JTAG port on the circuit board and it sounds like getting the watch apart without breaking it is pretty tough.

Now that you don’t need to stick to what Sony had planned for the device, what do you want to do with your strapless wristwatch?

[Thanks Brian]

Hacking the AR Drone: Intro

Ever since we played with the original AR drone back at CES a few years ago, we’ve been keeping an eye on them. While we all agree there are better quadcopters out there, the price point for a ready-to-fly quadcopter of this size is really great with these.

When the fake video from FPS Russia of the weaponized drone made the rounds earlier this year, we were surprised at how people reacted. Anyone who has messed with quadcopters recognized it as fake right off the bat (not to mention the overly cliche fake russian character).

We won’t be adding a full fledged firearm to this. Mainly because it simply can’t lift the weight (There are ones that can, but we couldn’t justify the cost just for that). We do have some ideas though.

Lets go over the specs of the AR Drone 2.0 first.

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Making the Arduino sleep the long sleep

Earlier this week, I showed you [Naim Busek's] kickstarter for his turn signal helmet. In that article I explained that, while the helmet is a neat idea, I was really interested in what [Naim] had told me about his power consumption.  To put it the shortest way, he has made his arduino sleep so efficiently, it can be waiting for input longer than the battery’s optimum shelf life.

After that article, [Naim] wrote in to give me the details on what he did to achieve such an efficient system. You can read his entire explanation, un altered here.

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Hackit: Leap Motions new motion sensor

The big news circulating this morning is of the Leap Motion sensor that will be hitting the market soon. They claim that their sensor is ~100 more accurate than anything else on the market right now. Check out the video to see what they mean (there’s another at the link). This is pretty impressive.  You can see the accuracy as they use a stylus to write things. If you’ve played with the Kinect, you know that it is nowhere near this tight. Of course, the Kinect is scanning a massive space compared to the work area that this new sensor works in.  The response time looks very impressive as well, motions seem to be perfectly in sync with the input. We’re excited to play with one when we get a chance.

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Cruncher: A robotic toy dinosaur dissection

When my children got these interesting and very obnoxious toy dinosaurs last year, I could barely contain my excitement. I knew that one day, they would be on my work bench giving up their secrets. Cruncher is a fairly recent addition to the robotic animal trend that we’ve been seeing the past few years. Imbued with a personality that is a mixture of T-Rex, beagle, and loudmouth jerk, he’s every kids idea of a perfect pet.

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