DIY Metal Detector

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Looking for a light project to teach young hackers some very basic electronics? Here’s a quick and easy weekend project, a simple metal detector!

We all know 555 timers are very useful and pop up in a wide range of projects, but did you know a metal detector is one of them? [vonPongrac] stumbled upon this handy guide, a free eBook on 50 555 Circuits, which contains many cool project ideas, including a simple metal detector circuit. It’s a very basic concept that uses a coil of copper wire as a home-made choke — when metal or a magnet comes near the coil, it varies the output frequency, and the 555 timer in turn, varies the output sound, alerting you of the presence of something metal nearby.

After the break there’s a video of it during its testing phases. If you don’t have a 555 on hand (tisk tisk) but still want to have some treasure hunting fun you can also build one based on an Arduino.

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Classic PDA finds second life as a network touch screen display

pocketviewer

[Tomas Janco] had an old Casio Pocket Viewer PDA collecting dust. Rather than throw it away, He decided to re-purpose it as a display for time, weather, and the current status of his garage door.

The Casio Pocket Viewer was a competitor to the Palm Pilot. The two systems even shared the same LCD resolution – 160×160 monochrome. [Tomas’] particular model is an S660, sporting 6 megabytes of ram and an NEC V30MZ (Intel 8086 compatible) processor. Similar to Palm, Casio made an SDK freely available.

The SDK is still available from Casio, and [Tomas] was able to get it running on his PC. Development wasn’t without pitfalls though. The Pocket Viewer SDK was last updated in April of 2001. Software is written in C, but the then new C99 standard is not supported. The SDK does include a simulator and debugger, but it too is not as polished as todays systems – every simulator startup begins with setting the clock and calibrating the touch screen. Keep reading after the jump to learn about the rest of the hurdles he overcame to pull this one off.

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Prototyping a low-resolution handheld gaming rig

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[Jason] has been hard at work on this Arduino-based low-res gaming platform. He even had a fab house deliver circuit boards to pull everything together. It’s a little small in his hands, and the graphics are limited to the 8×8 pixels provided by the display. But it still looks like a lot of fun and the code was written to make adding new games quite painless.

The board hosts an ATmega328 which drives the bi-color LED display using a pair of TPIC6B595 shift registers. Control is provided by a collection of buttons to either side of the display. The unit is powered by three AAA batteries held in a pack soldered to the back side of the PCB.

The image above shows [Jason] giving a Space Invaders game a try. The clip after the break shows respectable action, sound from a piezo buzzer, and it even scrolls your score at the end of the game. But you’re not limited to just one title. Adding new games is as easy as implementing a class in a new header file. You can get a feel for how this is set up by viewing the source code repo.

This reminds us of the Pixel Bros low-res system.

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Tamagotchi hacking, in depth

In this strangely fascinating talk, you can follow along as [Natalie Silvanovich] reverse engineers some tomogotchi. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in tomogotchi, you’ll probably pick up a trick or two by listening to how she went about taking over the toy. She can now push her own images to the screen, and evolve her tomogatchi at will.

Listening to her story you might be able to pick up a few tricks as she takes almost every angle possible. She uncovers the black blobs, she attempts to socially engineer her way into datasheets, decaps chips, she dumps and breaks down code. It is also worth noting that, in the beginning, internet electronics enthusiasts were adamant that it just had a PIC processor inside and they were wrong. Having an internet full of experts is a wonderful thing, except when it isn’t.

Then again, having that internet full of experts might be her savior in the end, she’s missing a piece of software and asking if anyone has it available.

[via Adafruit]

A pair of N64 portables

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Casemodding has moved far beyond the old portabalized Ataris and NESes of only a few years ago. Now, the new hotness is more modern consoles including the GameCube, Dreamcast, and the venerable N64. Two N64 case mods rolled into our tip line over the past few days, and we can’t think of a better display of case fabrication and console modification than these two.

First up is [Travis]‘s N64 handheld. The case was constructed out of a sheet of ABS plastic with Bondo used to make everything sleek and smooth. There’s a 7″ display in this handheld as well as two LiIon batteries able to provide up to three hours of play time. The fit and finish on this build is spectacular, a testament to [Travis]‘ patience and Bondo skills.

Next up is a very very tiny build claiming to be the smallest N64 portable. It’s the work of [bud] and is barely larger than an N64 cartridge. Inside is a 3.5 inch screen and enough LiPos to provide about 2 hours of gaming time. Unlike other (larger) builds, [bud] put the cartridge slot on the outside of the case allowing the cartridge to stick out at a 90 degree angle.

Both very awesome builds that really show off what can be done with a lot of sanding and body filler. You can check out the videos for each casemod after the break.

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Fantastic programming makes this Arduino gaming device something special

The hardware that went into this Arduino gaming console is just fine. But the coding that produced this game called Twisted SNAKE is beyond compare. [Rodot] has programmed several games for the hardware, which uses an Arduino, 160×168 TFT screen, a 3 axis accelerometer, and two input buttons. If you’re interested, there is a forum thread in which he talks a bit more about the hardware design. But you’re not going to want to pass up either of the two videos embedded after the break.

The first clip shows off a bouncing-ball platforming game. The accelerometer moves the ball back and forth, and the top scrolling level brings more ledges into play. This in itself is a great game. But the Twisted SNAKE game shown off in the second video makes our own ARM-based Snake game look like a 3-year-old programmed it. [Rodot] filled up all of the program memory of the ATmega328 chip to  make this happen. There’s a menu system which allows for color themes and difficulty selection. The game play itself lets the snake travel anywhere it wishes with the tail following behind in graceful curves. Wow!

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Adding voice labels to real life objects for the visually impaired

[Matt Oppenheim] wrote in to share his work with us. He has been modifying the interfaces of electronics for the visually impaired. It started off with cassette decks. As [Matt] points out, many people who are visually impaired use cassettes for their audio books and newspapers. [Matt] added some touch sensors to the buttons so that he could have something announce what each button was as the user felt them. This allowed them to quickly learn the layout of the device.

After finding that the simple interface on the cassette player was learned very quickly, thereby making his addition no longer needed, he decided to go after something a little more complex. [Matt] set out to modify a digital radio with many more buttons that are less touch friendly. As you can see in the video after the break, he was able to pull this off quite nicely.

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